Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

News from around Brighton Beach

Last week was a big week of openings and closings.  For the past two weeks I’ve had five shows running in San Diego, which is pretty unusual for a stage manager.  This uncommon event happened because I worked on two repertory productions in a row.  I handed off the backstage track at the opening of the Shakespeare Festival and then started rehearsal for the Simon Plays.

This week we held understudy rehearsal for Brighton Beach Memoirs and next week, we’ll rehearse Broadway Bound. After spending eight hours a day with this cast for nearly two months, hearing someone else say their lines is a little bizarre. Our set is a beautiful dollhouse. The plays take place 12 years apart, so a lot of the furniture is the same, but most of the dressing and all of the hand props are different. Half of the time our understudies are rehearsing on the “wrong” set.  The crew is able to do a partial changeover, creating a funny hybrid of the two shows.  We also have a couple of understudies covering two roles, which makes for an entertaining run-through when an actress has a scene with herself!

We had a really wacky performance of Brighton Beach Memoirs on Friday night. Truly great energy, with some unusual line hiccups from most of the cast (and actual hiccups from one actor).  My stage manager blamed the quirky performance on the peanut butter & jelly cookies I made that day!

The pumpkin spice cookies I made on a whim at the start of rehearsals got such a positive response and went so quickly that I’ve been inspired to bake more often. It’s been fun making old favorites and trying new recipes, like this week’s PB&J cookies.  I grew up baking dozens of cookies with my mom every Christmas. Now, I enjoy turning on the radio and mixing the batter.  I get into a routine once they start going in the oven. It’s a good way to unwind. And it has the obvious bonus of getting to share the homemade cookies with my hard-working cast and fabulous roommates, who often say I’m spoiling them.  I’ve always liked baking cookies more than I like eating them.  You’ve got to have people to enjoy them; otherwise it’s just a waste!

On Saturday, two of our crew guys celebrated birthdays, which gave me the excuse to walk through Balboa Park with a dozen colorful helium balloons!  And during Sunday’s matinee, I learned some new and interesting things: The amount of water in a cloud can be measured in elephants. “Assume an elephant weighs about six tons, …that would mean that water inside a typical cumulous cloud would weigh about one hundred elephants.” (Peggy LeMone, National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado).  I also learned (during a discussion about making our fake prop bananas look a bit more realistic) that bananas continue to ripen while in a bunch.  To slow the ripening process, separate them from their bunch.

Just another weekend in the backstage world of Brighton Beach. 🙂

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At tonight’s performance, the role of Isabel will be played by Erin

Isabel had to go out of town suddenly for work and will not be able to post for the next three weeks. Fortunately, we have guest blogger Erin to fill in until she returns! Thanks, Erin! Enjoy!

Hi everyone, I’m Erin!  I’m currently living in San Diego and stage managing at The Old Globe Theatre.

A brief personal history: I grew up in State College, PA with Mom, Dad and my younger sister (who is getting married next month!) I went to Penn State with most of these other lovely ladies. I majored in Human Development and Family Studies, which is not my current area of focus, but it sure has helped me navigate the many colors of crazy that one finds in the theatre.  After college I lived in New York City for two years.  I used the time and the city’s vast opportunities to discover where I really wanted to focus my energy.  I stage managed a few fun and quirky Off-off Broadway shows and met some really great people.  I decided to pursue stage management as a career instead of an avocation. So, I moved to the West Coast to get my MFA in stage management at UC San Diego.  I fell in love with the city (oh, the weather!) and these top-notch regional theatres.  For the past couple of years I have been working on some great shows at the La Jolla Playhouse and The Old Globe, and actually making a living doing something I really love.

We’re opening Neil Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs and Broadway Bound in Rep this week at The Globe. I have such an attachment to these shows.  It’s been an incredible process and the shows themselves are so beautiful. This particular cast is a talented, professional, accepting and appreciative. My favorite kind – and they like to go out together after a show! I think especially for audiences who see the full arc of the two plays in one day, it’s going to be a very moving theatrical experience.  It’s for shows like these that I work in live theatre.

I love the energy on the stage before a performance.  I’m sitting in the theatre now just before the half hour call of our third preview of Broadway Bound. My preset check is complete and the actors have started to filter onto the set for their warm-ups.  We’re all sharing the space and doing various pre-show rituals. Reacquainting ourselves with the space, stretching, breathing, checking their props (the silly house-key works beautifully until he’s onstage in the moment), and my favorite: listening to the totally absurd articulation warm-ups (“What a to do to die today at a minute or two to two”).

At this point in the process of a production (the week before opening), when I’m awake, I’m at the theatre.  Which is why this post has become so much about this play – because that’s the world I’m in right now.

Thanks for the opportunity to guest blog!  How exciting!

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