Backstage Blog

Lights! Sound! Pancakes!

It’s Saturday morning and we are getting ready to begin technical rehearsals for Mauritius.  Technical rehearsals can be exhilarating, because you finally get to see all of the elements start coming together.  The lights and sound are added. The finishing touches are put on the costumes and the set.  And while the twenty or so hours can make for a grueling couple of days of “hurry up and wait,” it is always amazing to come out of it on the other side and see the huge leaps the production has taken towards being a final product.

At Cygnet, tech means it’s time for a couple of traditions.  The oldest being the magic of watching Eric Lotze work his wizardry on the light board.  Eric has been designing lights for Cygnet since the very beginning, and I’ve never seen any designer who can manipulate the lights as fast as he can.  With his eyes darting across the ceiling from one light to the next, his fingers fly across the light board’s buttons.  It always reminds me of those accountants in old movies with their sleeves rolled up, visor pulled down, a stogie firmly planted firmly in one corner of their mouth, their right hand a blur producing a steady and rapid clicking from the keys.  I swear I’m always waiting for his left hand to reach out and pull the lever.  There’s no doubt why he has won several awards.  His designs always add another level of dimension to the production.

Matt Lescault-Wood, is doing the sound design.  Matt has done several designs for Cygnet this season, including the fantastic collection of 80′s music that was on display during The History Boys, but this will be my first experience watching him work.  What I’ve heard of the sound design so far, it is going to be jazzy, hip and cool. It’s always great fun to hear a musical representation of your character and I’m looking forward to hearing what he has for my sadistic stamp collector.

The other tradition, which just began this season, is a pancake breakfast to kick off the technical rehearsals.  It’s really nice to have a few moments before we delve into the work for the designers, cast and crew to come together like a family and share a meal.  Plus feeding theatre folk is always a good idea.  Of course the success of this breakfast may rest on my culinary skills.  Somehow I was designated the flapjack flipper for this production.  Oh, the pressure.  I hope I don’t burn them.

Love Song actor shares hidden talent

The History Boys

We’ve always been blessed with using fantastic photographers at Cygnet.  Josh Zimmerman took beautiful setup shots for Yellowman and Love Song.  Chelsea Whitmore caught some great images during Desire Under the Elms.

Our favorite photographer, Randy Rovang, has been providing us with incredible production shots since our very first show, Hedwig and the Angry Inch.  Randy served as our Resident Photographer for the last year or so, shooting all of our productions, documenting the remodeling of Old Town, and providing candid shots during our Opening Night festivities.  Unfortunately for us, Randy decided to retire from photography earlier this year so that he could focus on other things.  And while we’ll miss his images, we wish him the best.  He has been a huge asset to Cygnet.

Randy’s retirement meant that we had to find another photographer for our upcoming production of The History Boys. Sean Murray had been approached by somebody regarding taking photos, but unfortunately, he couldn’t remember who that somebody was.  I can’t really blame him since he was in the middle of rehearsals for The History Boys, trying to finalize casting for Bed and Sofa, and planning our next season.

Luckily, my wife remembers everything.  When I mentioned to her that I was looking for a photographer she said, “Why don’t you ask Daren Scott?”  My immediate response was, of course, “Daren’s a photographer?”  After she sThe History Boysteered me to Daren’s Facebook page so that I could review some of his work, I decided to ask Daren if he would like to shoot our upcoming show.

For those of you who don’t know Daren Scott, and I hope that’s a very small number, he has appeared on the Cygnet stage in Las Meninas, The Invention of Love, Biedermann and The Firebugs, and most recently as Harry in Love Song.

When Daren accepted my invitation to take some photos for The History Boys, he was excited and nervous.  He had never shot a theatre production before, and especially not one in the Old Town Theatre where the stage can be wide and the lighting a bit difficult.  The photos he took, however, turned out beautiful.  So much so, that I’ve already invited him to take pictures for our next production, Mauritius.  Hopefully we can make that scheduling work.  Here’s to hidden talents!

By the way, the name of that person that Sean Murray was trying to remember: Daren Scott.  I love my wife.

The History Boys

Thoughts on The History Boys (as we go into previews)

It’s my day off. It’s raining outside. I feel cozy and happy and really excited for the week ahead– we’ve just finished teching The History Boys and I don’t think any of us could be happier with it.

Generally the whole rehearsal period seems now to have gone by so quickly… There was so much to learn and discover and figure out, and of course there still is, but as I look back on everything, I’ve been having so much fun I completely forgot how much work has gone into it. Through the French and the History of WWI and the songs and dances and subtext and blocking it really did all feel like playing… Playing with building blocks or clay and kinda just creating something along the way. I know that’s a very general way to describe a rehearsal process but it doesn’t always feel like that. This one did.

As for me, I love Posner. This isn’t a comment on my performance– there’s still so much to discover and figure out, and I’m incapable of observing myself like that even if I wanted to. No, I just love the words I’m given to say and the actions I’m given to do. Who else gets to sing Edith Piaf, quote Shakespeare, define words AND be utterly in love, all in the same play? And within moments of each other? And being in love in this play is incredibly easy. With this cast, you’re constantly surrounded with vitality and good energy, and you know you can’t fail because they’re all there to catch you, and you’re there to catch them. There really is a lot of love on that stage. Every time we run the show I feel us becoming more and more cohesive, and also more and more confident in our individuality. It’s awesome. This weekend especially we’ve gotten to a point where I find myself onstage so completely drawn in to what’s going on that I forget there’s any lines or acting involved. The actions and words just tumble out naturally. And I know the others would agree. This is an incredible ensemble Sean Murray has put together. I feel so lucky to be part of it.

Best of all, it’s FUN. This is a fun, fun, fun show to be in. Every moment is a treat. I don’t think there’s a single person in the ensemble who doesn’t enjoy every single moment they have on stage.

I think that, whatever happens, we have something very special in the works here.

Teching History Boys

I am full of anticipation today. We begin tech tonight for our upcoming production of The History Boys. It’s one of my favorite times in rehearsal: when the show that is being put together in a rehearsal room begins to actually look like a play! This is where the production begins to develop it’s “look” in the lighting and sound designs. I always love working with Eric Lotze and can’t wait to see what we come up with.

Matt Lescault-Wood is designing the sound for the show. Full of atmospheric environments that will help create the school grounds of these boys. Shirley Pierson, one of our SDSU Lipinkski Fellowship Designers, is creating the 1980′s school wear. Bonnie Durben our props. And Andy Hull, also a SDSU Lipinski Fellowship Designer, has created a sort of deconstructed school, not really literal, but definitely evokes that environment. With Stanley Cohen as my stage manager, rather the captain of the show, I am so happy to be working with all of them.

Oh, and those boys…there’s a lot of talent up there and a lot of energy. Go get ‘em guys.

Bon Voyage, History Boys!

An update:

We’ve finished teching the show and had the great luxury of doing a run thru on Sunday. I couldn’t be happier or more proud of the work that the boys and their faculty are doing. It’s just such a treat to get to work with them. They are dedicated, fun, energetic (o God, are they energetic!) and thoroughly talented.