Sunday, September 13, 2015

Dreamgirls II

This would normally be the time when I'd make a speaker plot, channel plot, and mic plot, meet with the director, and start creating sound cues. It is also the time when we'd have a Designer's Run-Through; a full-length rehearsal specifically so designers can get a sense of the whole flow of the show (really, really important for the Lighting Designer).

Not this show. It is more like a concert than a show, being practically through-composed. There may be one sound effect. A little vinyl record sound. Feh. I'll dial that up in Vinyl.vst during rehearsal if it turns out to be needed.

And there was no Designer Run. Heck...Sitzprobe isn't happening until the start of Tech Week (and we don't even get the drummer then(?!)) So there's not a lot the designer can see/hear before we are actually in tech. There was one Production Meeting but I managed to miss it. So I'm pretty much approaching this like it was a music performance; set out the mics in a day, and dial them in over sound check.

So of course the producer called me this morning demanding to know why I wasn't in the space "getting ready" today. Well, it could be because we're renting the gear and it doesn't show up until next weekend. But the deeper answer is that physical set-up is a very small part of my task.

Sure, I would get a lot out of being in rehearsal every day, learning the songs as well as the cast knows them, learning all the faces of the cast, and for that matter learning who sings where (I have a scene breakdown, but it doesn't say a single word about who is actually singing in each scene -- particularly a critical omission in terms of off-stage singers and vocal announcements). But that's a whole lot of hours, especially with a two hour commute each way. So I'm even less ashamed than usual to not be doing that.

(That too, and the last company I worked at, when you added up time doing plots and paperwork, time spent creating cues, time spent loading in and in repairs, and time spent during the actual run, my effective pay dropped down under $8 an hour. Adding tens of hours of rehearsal to that would be financial suicide).

I'm not saying I'm doing nothing. I am listening to the Broadway cast recording over and over, I am re-reading the script, I am roughing out a mic plot, and I am reading manuals on the unfamiliar gear I'll be working with. And doing a lot of emails and phone calls working out consumables, security, schedules, inventory, etc.

I'd say about 50% of this job happens before opening night, with the rest of the significant labor being nightly prepping, ongoing repairs, and the actual struggle to mix the show.  But of that 50%, only 10% is actually in the space. Pushing gear around is easy (or should be -- I have almost never had "helpers" competent enough to run cable to a mic). The tough part and the time consuming part is brainstorming it all out, problem-solving the audio issues and figuring out how to stretch channels and other inventory, and crawling through lots of poor documentation from rehearsals to try to figure out what will actually be happening on stage (most of which, they'll change during Tech Week anyhow).

Like a lot of this business, the visible work is the smaller part of it. And that causes other people to get wildly wrong understandings about just what it takes.

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