Don't Suffer for Your Art

by Michael Eddy

Welcome to the September issue of Stage Directions. This month we continue to have interesting and informative conversations with theater artists in all realms of production. I want to thank all of the designers, SMs/PMs, technicians, stagehands, craftspeople, manufacturers, and shops that continually take time to share their experience, knowledge, and advice with Stage Directions and our readers. To me, this is what being part of the theater community is all about; sharing ideas, learning techniques, discovering resources, and spreading the word to our fellow theater-creators. I am particularly pleased that at Stage Directions we make a concerted effort to cover all the roles involved in the production aspect of theater. If it is seen, sat on, picked up, flown, worn, heard, lit, painted, taped, miked, or any of the millions of details that create a single production we want to hear about and cover the talented people behind it. Please be sure to let me know if there is a solution, resource, or a fellow colleague that you think SD should know about to consider for coverage.

How Noise-Induced Hearing Loss Happens

The human sense of hearing is downright amazing. A person with healthy hearing can hear sounds as quiet as 0db and withstand short-term exposure to sound as loud as 85db without sustaining permanent hearing damage. The frequency range at which we can detect sound is also wide, ranging from about 20Hz to 20kHz. Most of us take our hearing for granted, that is until it’s gone or damaged.

It is Always Tech Week for Flying Director Johnny O. Pickett

by Michael Eddy
in Flying
Pickett during flying rehearsal of Trey Mcintyre’s Peter Pan Ballet in Brisbane, Australia.
Pickett during flying rehearsal of Trey Mcintyre’s Peter Pan Ballet in Brisbane, Australia.

Johnny O. Pickett is a senior flying director with Flying by Foy, where he’s worked since 1999 becoming a full-time flying director in 2003. Prior to Foy, Pickett worked as a carpenter on Siegfried and Roy, coming from years teaching technical theater and working professionally at theaters across the U.S. He has an MFA in design and technology from UNC Greensboro and a BA in theater from East Tennessee State University. When you think flying, certainly Peter Pan comes to mind, and indeed to date, Pickett has done 127 different productions of Peter Pan, but there is no shortage of shows in which actors take flight. Pickett’s overseen flying in productions at numerous regional and university theaters across the U.S. as well as creating flying effects for Monty Python’s Spamalot on Broadway; Wicked in Tokyo; Babes in Toyland and Sha-Kon-O-Hey! for Dollywood theme park.

Let's Talk

by Jay Duckworth
Q2Q Comic #438 Written & Drawn by Steve Younkins
Q2Q Comic #438 Written & Drawn by Steve Younkins

…and the Irishman asked, “Are you Dunn?” The guy in the outhouse said, “Yes.” The Irishman replied, “Good! Write your mother!”

Early in the process, I love to sneak a casual joke in with my director, especially if we have never worked together before. Something short and funny. I then ask them for their favorite joke. We laugh, we bond; good times. But to me it’s not the joke that matters, what I’m doing is seeing how well they can tell a story. Is there a clear foundation, middle, and twist at the end? Do they stumble for the words? Is all the information clear? All those things matter to me, so I can have an idea of what my team and I can prepare for over the next few weeks. 

Moving Altercations - Rick Sordelet and Paul Rubin take teamwork to another level

by Michael Eddy

Fighting and flying are two theatrical disciplines that require expertise to accomplish on a stage in a safe manner; and to effectively serve the narrative of any piece. While impactful individually, when fighting and flying are combined they can bring a whole wonderful dimension to a range of productions. Fight director Rick Sordelet and aerial/flying choreographer Paul Rubin, arguably two of the best in the industry, have partnered often in their careers to take fighting and flying to new heights in creating wonderfully evocative sequences. 

Sordelet and Rubin first teamed up to combine their skill sets for Dance of the Vampires. They have worked together on a number of productions over the years creating memorable mid-air altercations. Recently SD was able to catch up with both of them, unarmed and on the deck, for a conversation on this topic. 

Ready, SET, Rent!

by Lisa Mulcahy
Gateway Playhouse's Set for Beauty and The Beast
Gateway Playhouse's Set for Beauty and The Beast

The Gateway Playhouse in Bellport, NY has a long, rich history of producing artistically and technically excellent theater. Dating back to 1950, it all started when Harry C. Pomeran bought a 70-acre farm in Bellport, NY to open a hotel in 1941. His children subsequently started to entertain the hotel’s guests by performing skits, music and puppet shows. Due to popular demand, in 1950, the Pomerans used their barn to stage a production of The Taming Of The Shrew; local audiences flocked to the production, and the playhouse was officially open for business. Over the decades The Gateway grew into a well-respected non-profit regional theater and today, the Gateway Playhouse and its acting school form the core of the Performing Arts Center of Suffolk County in Bellport, NY. 

In addition to its peerless reputation for producing great shows, The Gateway Playhouse is now also known for offering high-quality, complete sets for rental to theaters all across the continental US. At Stage Directions, we thought we would delve further into how your theater can utilize the Gateway’s set inventory for your space, and learn more details about the features and advantages these set packages provide. 

Safe Practices - Lawyer & Safety Advocate Steven A. Adelman

by Michael Eddy
in Safety

At the USITT 2018 Conference and Stage Expo, we had the opportunity to speak with a wide array of theater artists and technicians, attendees, speakers, and participants. Among those who came by the USITT Stage Directions Studio was Steven A. Adelman, head of Adelman Law Group and vice president of the Event Safety Alliance. He’s been a lawyer since 1994, and Adelman Law Group, PLLC focuses on risk management, litigation, and standard of care expert testimony regarding premises liability, crowd management, and event safety and security. He shared how he got interested in safety, how he advocates for safe practices, and how to think about keeping artists and audiences safe in our theaters.

Taking Chances

by Cary Gillett & Jay Sheehan

Both of us love the thought of making art. Be it theater, special events, opera, or dance, the fact that we can both make a living doing a job that helps create art is a blessing. So, what binds the two of us, and makes us so similar in our successes and our failures? 

Both of us are risk takers. There is no doubt that we have taken chances and not been successful. We have made mistakes, some corrected in time with no harm, no foul. Other times our errors may have cost us resources due to our lack of attention to one matter over the other during the production process. The fact is, we have taken chances all our lives, and continue to take chances now, even at this point of our careers. The second factor that binds us is that we both come at a risk with the approach of ‘It never hurts to ask; all they can say is no.’ 

The Right Material for the Job... Unless you are a Prop Builder

by Michelle A. Bisbee
Q2Q Comic #210 Written & Drawn by Steve Younkins
Q2Q Comic #210 Written & Drawn by Steve Younkins

Props people are the MacGyvers of the theater and movie industry. Hopefully many, if not all of you, have seen the amazing Q2Q Comics #210 The Hardware Store. What makes this one so painfully funny is how truthful it is. I know I am preaching to the choir when I say this, though there are many items that can be easily purchased, it is how we use these items and thus how they need to be constructed that differs from the ordinary person… that and an individual’s budget for a single item compared to that same dollar amount for an entire show as Jay Duckworth recently discussed in the Answer Box article Order Up! A Working Ziosk Prop in the August issue of Stage Directions.

To quote poet Arthur O’Shaughnessy: We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams. Our number one weapon in our arsenal is our imagination. We look at things in a different way—we look at elements, overall shape, texture, and potential. In class, whether teaching model making or props, I ask students to push and surpass the limits of their imagination. 

Writing The Production Manager's Toolkit

by Cary Gillett and Jay Sheehan

"If you think you have nothing to lose then the risk will always be worth it.  If you want something, ask for it.  All they can say is no. This type of mindset is entirely responsible for how The Production Manager’s Toolkit became a reality." - Cary Gillett & Jay Sheehan

[In the September 2018 SD issue Cary Gillett and Jay Sheehan wrote a wonderful piece about Taking Chances for their Production Manager's Corner column. In it they noted that the common denominator that gave them the chance to take risks and dream endlessly was the understanding that they had nothing to lose. This thinking is what ultimately led to them writing the insightful and invaluable The Production Manager's Toolkit, a wonderful resource for students and mid-career professionals. Here they tell us how the book was the result of taking a chance. -Ed.Note]