The Week Ahead, and Looking Back

I’m in Los Angeles to participate in the United States Institute for Theatre Technology conference.   I used to attend USITT almost annually, and it seemed like it used to be in Long Beach at least every other year.    It has been a few years (three?) since I was able to attend.  The Long Beach location provided to big points of cost savings:   I could drive there, and I have friends in the area who are letting me sleep in their spare room.

Previous USITTs have been about (for me) job hunting,  product research, connecting with old friends, net working, and occasionally actually working the convention at a booth or table.    This time, while I am doing some product research, and I hope to see old friends, I have two main goals.   One is the classes, workshops, and sessions I am attending to become better at my job, and two is to talk to publishers (or a specific publisher), about the book I’m writing.   

To that end, I brought mostly nice cloths with me.  I remember running around past USITTs in ripped jeans, and old show T-shirts.  Not this time.  I have a suit, I have several kilt/dress shirt/vest ensembles.   

And because of hoping to do the book, I’m really nervous.   I wasn’t this nervous when I was at USITT to interview for jobs.  I wasn’t this nervous when I was representing an organization.

I always thought that once I reached my thirties, going to conventions and trade shows would be no big deal.  I would be cool and nonchalant.   Maybe that never changes.  I aslo figured I wouldn’t be nervous on opening night (or when presenting my design concepts for the first time).  I still am.  

So here I am getting ready for tomorrow.   My workshop/class thing tomorrow starts at 7 am — we were warned to be there, ready to go no later than 6:45.   I can’t get any information on if the convention center parking will be open then.  It had better be.  Tomorrow will also be my first day driving there.  I’m planning to arrive no later than 6:30 (and if google is right, i’ll arrive at 6:03).

I have lots I want to learn this week, and lots I want to do.   What it will be, who knows?   But I hope it will at the very least be a wonderful experience of learning.

And to that note, I may (if I’m awake enough), do daily blog posts about what I have learned that day, or a big wrap up at the end.

Reflection on “Almost, Maine”

Well, I haven’t written in a while, which typically translates to, I’ve been doin’ a show.  In this case, the show was “Almost, Maine” by John Cariani, directed by Janine Christl for Fresno City College.   I designed the lighting and scenery, Deb Shapazian did the fun costumes, and Jeff Barrett the moving sound design.    

Here is what Donald Munro said of my work in his review:

“Christopher R. Boltz’s scenic and lighting design is wonderful. Three tall dark screens, each depicting spindly trees painted in white, can slide from side to side, opening up spaces for scenery to fit in. Whether they’re interiors (a living room, a bar table) or exteriors (an inviting front porch, a field covered with snow), these set pieces offer a unified sense of texture and proportion that gently and effectively insinuates the audience into the look and feel of this small town.The Northern Lights themselves pop up now and then to glorious effect, and Boltz’s lighting design subtly picks up on the image, often bathing a scene from the side with a mild, comforting green glow.”

Well Yippee for me.   I think the set was nice, and I was rather proud of some of my lighting.  This review, however, is much longer, and includes more praise than I typically get from Mr. Munro.   I am certainly not complaining — it is nice to read nice things of oneself.    However nice my work on this show is, it is not better (in my opinion) than many other shows I have done.   (In fact the concept was sort of stolen from two of my other shows.)   

Why did I steal?   Well the original set idea was cool, but too expensive and heavy.   At a production meeting, I developed a new concept, sketched it, and then overnight drafted it.  It was functional. It was pretty.  And it was far from perfect.  Sitting in the audience at the closing performance, I saw at least three things I should have done — each of which would have made the scene changes more elegant, faster, and saved money.

What I think I am most proud of on “Almost, Maine” is my crew.    They had a tough job.   There was a fair amount of set, and a a large amount of props, and oh yes, it snowed.   There was a lot to do durring the show.   The crew stepped up their game.   The worked together, and with very little leadership from the faculty.  The organized additional rehearsals of the scene changes.   The worked out better traffic patterns back stage.   AND if the show had run another 2 weeks, would have made the scene changes truly art.   I would have liked the changes to go smoother and quicker, but what I liked more was that several of my students stepped up and became leaders.    Students that I thought (or feared) were just in the production class to earn 3 units really cared about the show.   They promoted the show, they talked about the show, they took their work on the show very seriously.  And that, in many ways, is what college theatre ought to be about:  How much learning and growth happened within the students, regardless of what any reviewer says.

I’m also proud of the cast.   Janine, our wonderful director, took a large cast (19!) and made a town come to life.    Many of the cast were in their first college show, and had a lot to learn, bad habits to break, performance skills to master.   They did.   Some grew more than others, and maybe some had farther to go than others.   The most amazing thing I saw was the incredible growth I saw between the first run I watched, and final dress.  AND THEN, to my amazement, there was growth between final dress, and the final performance of the show, eight days later.

“Almost, Maine” is a production of which I am hugely proud.   It may be one of the most educational shows we have done since I have been at City College.   And this great work, is work that is hard for an audience to perceive.    Audiences see the finished product (and in this case, the finished product was pretty good), but they can’t (nor should they) see what went into it.   But in educational theatre, what went into is the most important thing.