Reality Check

So I’ve started work on a new show. Right now we’re getting all the gear together at the sound shop during the day. Daytime I’m in the shop, and at night I mix my old show. If I felt ineffective and absent as a parent before, it’s nothing compared to how I feel now, and I’m only three days in.

I take Sundays off from mixing the old show so I can have a day off. I know myself. If I don’t do that when it’s possible, life sucks. I need a day off. Sue me.

We’ve got some budding athletes in our family. It’s a genuine treat (rare and enjoyable) when we can get to one of their games/meets/matches. Because of the extra work right now it’s nearly impossible to get to one. My guilt is directly proportional to my availability.

I started my day today by getting more than five hours of sleep. I followed that with not having to drive over the George Washington Bridge. Made a last minute appointment to get some PT on my shoulder. Hung out with kids and puppies. Ran errands. Went to Bikram Yoga with #1, which was way cool (and she didn’t even make me go on the opposite side of the room from her). Came home and started getting dinner together and pondered the rest of the day. My list of must-do’s was far longer than the hours remaining.

#3 had a basketball game tonight. She’s on the middle school travel team. While I was cooking dinner heating up food she asked me if could come to her game.

Me: I don’t think so, sweetie.

#3: Awww. Pleeeese?

Me: I really don’t mean to blow you off, but I’m working two jobs right now. This is my only day off and I’m trying to do the things I need to do to be okay. There aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything, you know? You know how I can get.

#3: (with a knowing nod and a sigh) Yeah, I do.

Me: I’m trying not to get like that.

#5: You mean fat?

******************

For the record, I sacked my must-do list and we watched Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone while having popcorn and milkshakes, thereby negating my one and only workout this week. It was totally worth it.

Full-Assed Friday: quite possibly the only television post I’ll ever write that isn’t about the X-Files

Hello and welcome to another edition of Full-Assed Friday, where I write about something that’s awesome, funny, or just plain different- hopefully something that is a little bit outside the normal realm of what you experience every day.

Both of my readers whom I do not work with and am also not related to have suggested that I could do a Full-Assed Friday post about my job. Being that I haven’t put one of these up in like two months I thought, hey, what the hell. Plus we did something kind of cool a few weeks ago.

I do sound for musical theater. The producers of Broadway shows tend to keep a pretty tight rein on publicity and image, with good reason. I don’t go into show-specific details on my blog because I don’t want to violate that. Or get in trouble. These people are paying me, for god’s sake.

I decided that for this post we needed aliases. In the form of photo manipulation. Of course I immediately turned to the blogger with the hottest photoshopping chops I’ve ever seen, Julie of Go Guilty Pleasures.

Okay, so here’s the deal. My musical did an appearance on one of those national early morning news/talk television shows. The kind of TV show that most people have on in the background every morning as they’re getting ready for work or getting the kids off to school.

The kind of show I never, ever watch, because they’re on early; plus, I live under a rock and also my family doesn’t ever let me have the remote.

Consider for a moment how early the people on the shows need to be there for a show that begins broadcasting at 7am. To prep, to get dressed and get into hair and makeup, to review, to rehearse.

It’s early. Damn early, we, the guests, think. But the TV show’s hosts get there earlier than the guests. And guess who gets there before the hosts?

The TV crew usually starts around 2am. I see 2am frequently, but usually I see 2am and think, “Crap, I got sucked into watching heavy metal documentaries and I have to make lunches in five hours. Again. And where the hell was I when Anthrax did that tour with Public Enemy? Dammit!”

I did not have to be in at 2am because in this case, I wasn’t the real crew. I also didn’t have to find my own way in, for the same reason. A car came for me at 4:30am.

Forty-five minutes later (half the time of my normal commute) I was at the studio.

Waiting.

Then the boys got there.

What? Aliases through photo manipulation. I think they look perfectly natural.

The best part about my early call is that I don’t have to sing at that hour. These guys do. They’re singing live (yes, actually singing, no pitch correction, and they can’t suck, because “fix it in the mix” is a lie). They all did a show the night mere hours before, and we have two shows scheduled this day, after the TV appearance. I can’t adequately express how frickin’ good these guys have to be to pull this off the way they do.

As for me, I’m completely at the mercy of the guy in the broadcast booth. He will either be good, or he won’t. He will either care what I have to say, or not. I’ve been on gigs where they won’t let me anywhere near the broadcast booth, and I’ve been on gigs where they actually let me mix the broadcast feed. I’ve dealt with assholes and complete sweethearts. You just never know.

Ahead of time, I make contact. Days before we get there, I let them know what our requirements are: what mics we need, the details of our monitor mixes.

At the studio I make contact with the TV crew face to face. I’ve been here before, maybe five years ago. There’s only one new guy on the whole crew. I try to not be a jerk, but also not a weenie. We set for rehearsal and I tell our guys to let me know how they feel after we run it. I stand back.

The single most important thing is that our guys- the talent, the entire reason that we’re here- are comfortable. If they’re comfortable enough (I say “enough” because it’s not like they’re going to be, you know relaxed, exactly, in a situation like this), odds are they’ll sound good.

What? I know, you can’t really tell where the photo edits are, can you? She’s that good.

At this point everybody else jumps in.

Our production supervisor:

The TV show’s stage manager, the segment producer. Our choreographer. Our wardrobe; the TV show’s hair and makeup.

We run through the numbers. I ask how their monitor mixes are; they ask for changes and I pass them along. The choreographer works them; the stage managers talk about how the shots look and make adjustments to where they stand, where they look. I tell the guy who keeps dancing away from his microphone to get a little closer to it.

Then there’s more waiting.

We are but one small part of a two (three?) hour show. We’re like, I don’t know, six or seven minutes? And that’s a lot, in TV time. But there are a lot of other parts of the show, so there’s a lot of waiting.

There are donuts and fruit in the green room; coffee, tea, and water. And TV’s (tuned to the show, of course). There is no wi-fi.

They let me in the booth. There’s a moment when I’m afraid they won’t, but my persistence pays off and I’m in.

Every time I enter a television broadcast booth I’m blown away by the complete and utter chaos that ensues, and I’m shocked- seriously, totally shocked- by the fact that most live broadcasts come off without massive audio errors (pre-2011 Tony broadcasts excluded).

A biscuit is what we call an intercom speaker. In a TV booth there are at least five or six going- speakers that each carry one voice: director, stage manager, studio guy, monitor guy, and someone in each location they’ll be broadcasting from, whether that is downstairs or in another city entirely.

All these biscuits squawking.

Everybody talking at the same time.

Plus there’s a second guy in the booth, patching these sound and intercom feeds and previewing them. Both guys answer the biscuits, sometimes even ask questions.

Oh, and meanwhile, they are broadcasting the show RIGHT NOW. To millions of televisions across the country. And they’re rehearsing stuff and previewing videos. During the commercials. Many of which also have audio going through this same console. Somehow the sound guy keeps track of what his broadcast feed sounds like. It’s completely insane. I’ve never been in a broadcast booth where the sound guy isn’t sweating.

So I sit there in awe of the flurry of activity going on around me, we do our first number and the guy in the booth is good. Somehow over all the biscuits squawking he listens to me and makes the adjustments I ask for. I would melt down if I tried to do his job. We do another number and the host comes over and does a live interview with the guys and I just think, wow. Actors sometimes get a bad rap about how easy their jobs are, but not a single goddamn thing about this is easy.

To show up after not enough sleep and look good and hit the notes and make the moves and then come off intelligent and charismatic in a spontaneous interview, and then go do two shows- where they also have to look good and hit the notes and make the moves and be charismatic and all of that. Not many people can pull that off. I’m very fortunate to work with so many people who can.

We wrap, and I walk back to the theater because there are two and a half hours before my call time for the matinee, which isn’t enough to go home and back. I will not watch the recordings of the broadcast.

Some of our producers have delivered Christmas popcorn cones with chocolate peppermint drizzle. I’m hungry enough that I eat one and it’s the best damn thing I’ve ever had. Only the fact that I’m too tired to move keeps me from prowling around trying to find extras to swipe. Then I fall asleep in my chair for two hours.

(Yes, that was just about as comfortable as it sounds. And you wonder why I have to do yoga.)

Oh, there you are!

CC mentioned to me on our way in to work the other day that I needed to put a post up explaining myself and my absence. As if somehow I were unaware that I haven’t posted on this blog, Facebook and Twitter for like three weeks now.

He said I needed to let the people who follow my blog know what’s going on. Apparently both of you are worried about me.

So here’s a story:

I go in to the city early one day to hit a yoga class before work. I drop my bags at my work area and go into the bathroom. Remember that I work in a theater.

The bathroom is in the basement and is, as my sister would call it, a one-butt bathroom. I d0 what I need to do, wash up and go to leave. I grab the doorknob, pop the lock and turn.

The doorknob spins in my hand. Loosely. Ineffectively. I would go so far as to call it impotent and flaccid, even though it’s a doorknob. The doorknob isn’t doing a goddamn thing. The door is still closed, and, somehow, still locked, even with a freely spinning doorknob.

Okay, I think, no biggie. I’ve been locked in far worse bathrooms than this. Plus, I’m a stagehand. Oh, wait. All my tools are at my work area. Not in here with me. As is my cell phone. Crap.

So I dig around the bathroom and find. . . a roll of paper towels. That’s it. No pipe wrench. No random screwdriver. Not even a goddamn plunger.

I start yelling and banging on the door to try to get someone’s attention, because people are actually in the building even though it’s the middle of the afternoon. The only thing is that I’m in the basement. They’re on stage, rehearsing. Far, far away.

I may as well be on the moon.

And suddenly I’m pissed, you know? I get dinner made early, I arrange a babysitter early, I pay extra for early parking all to come in early and take this goddamn yoga class and now I’m stuck in the frickin’ bathroom? Are you kidding me?

I’ll be damned if some doorknob is going to steal my peace.

So I start kicking the crap out of the doorknob. It takes a little while, but eventually the doorframe bends, the knob breaks off and I am free and I have exactly five minutes to haul ass down 8th avenue to get to my yoga class.

I drop the pieces of the doorknob off at the stage door on my way out and tell our doorman, Gus, what happened, apologizing as sincerely and as fast as I can.

I make my yoga class.

When I come back I have to endure a rash of crap from lots of people for breaking the bathroom door and leaving.

House Head Carpenter: I don’t get it. I don’t understand how you were locked in. The doorknob still works.

Me: But it came off! Completely! That’s how I got out.

House Head Carpenter: The door’s bent now where you kicked it, but nothing’s wrong with the doorknob. Even though it broke off.

Me: Dude. I don’t know what to tell you. I was locked the hell in. For like twenty minutes. 

House Head Carpenter: I’ll replace it, I’m just saying it still works. Don’t kick me.

 

None of this has anything to do with my absence from all things social media. But it does explain these:

What it used to be like
What it's like now

The old doorknob is still on the door and sometimes I forget and try to lock it instead of using the latch.

Don’t let anybody steal your peace.