Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA
Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

Friday, September 29, 2017

Deer, Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

My yard has a hockey rink sized shallow pond in the middle of it. I was eating lunch looking out from inside the sunroom and these three, a mom and two young-uns, let me sit and watch for almost ten minutes as they ate, drank, romped, cavorted, jumped as if they had not a care in the world - just living in the moment. They have never before allowed me to sit and watch. They always run away on sight. Not this time. What changed? Maybe since they were on home turf - it's their home too, just like me - perhaps somehow they "get" that concept - although more likely, I am anthropomorphising. They looked at me many times as I cautiously moved about inside the glass room.

(Click on an image to view a higher resolution version if your device supports that action).

When I first saw them, I did not have a camera at hand. Based on past experience, I knew when I stood up to go to another room to get a camera they would spook and run - at least that is what has happened many times in the past. But not this time - I grabbed Amy's Canon 6D, put on the 70-300mm lens, walked back in, sat down, and proceeded to get this series of images looking through double-paned glass windows.

I don't know much about deer but, mama's ribs being so visible suggests she is not getting enough to eat - even though they eat our bushes and flowers regularly.

An amazing ten minutes. How lucky was I that this mid afternoon summer light dappling the play area rivaled that of other famous places of light - Paris, Provence, Tuscany, Venice, - and now, add Manomet to this list.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Inside the Control Room, Priscilla Beach Theatre, Priscilla Beach, Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

Regulars to this blog know that I love to go on and on and on sometimes about the wonders of Priscilla Beach Theatre (PBT).  This post is no different - except, it's about the "tech team" behind the scenes - arguably the most important element in a production - these people I am going to introduce you to are the ones who make it all happen seamlessly for the audience.

Actors come and go every few weeks over the performance season as the shows change but, the "tech team" is here all the time - planning and executing, before, during, and after each and every performance. Don't get me wrong, the performers are important, after all, that's who we go to see and hear but, the "tech team" is critical - without them, there is no show.  If a performer can't go on, usually another cast member or understudy can fill the gap - not so with the tech folks. They are the unsung heroes of the theatre - the heart and brain of a production.

The above image is Joshua Patino, Production Manager at (PBT) and the "star" of this blog post show. With decades of theatre experience, Josh can perform roles in acting, directing, teaching, managing, you name it, all things theatre. You may not have seen the rest of his "tech team" but, you probably know and have seen him - and I promise that Josh has seen you - Josh sees all - he is in the parking lot helping you arrive, he's designing and building sets, he's backstage helping the performers, he's upstairs helping solve technical issues, he's in the theatre helping the audience, sometimes he's onstage acting, dancing, and/or singing, he's in the office planning future shows and logistics - Josh is everywhere, at all times, doing everything - I'll just leave it at that. Everyone should either be a Josh or have a Josh.

He and his team make PBT the operational success it has become today.

Many theatre-goers probably never even think about the glass-walled narrow booth nestled in the farthest reaches of the mezzanine up against the rafters. It's not a fancy sky box at a sports venue.  It is the beating heart and pulsing brain of every production at PBT. Crammed with high-tech equipment, the people who work in this room manage almost every aspect of a show, working quietly in the subdued blue light that fills their space.

Note: In an illustration of forced theatrical irony, the following images are darkly exposed and presented - I wanted to try to portray the lighting of the control room in which they work during the shows.

Above is Ross Magnant, Stage Manager. He is also an actor in his own right. He is in his second season at PBT stage managing the big shows on the Barn Stage. Simply put in my layman's terms, his role is to assist the director during rehearsals and then he executes each performance of the show after it opens. Ross is the person sitting in the booth that directs all phases of a performance.  He instructs his team and calls the cues for all light, music, sound, and actions in accordance with the script and director's goals. I spent thirty years in a high-pressure work world and considering the amount of time I now spend at PBT,  I get to see, recognize, and honor the great leadership skills that Ross brings to his position. He leads with knowledge, experience, and calm authority (and a good sense of humor).

The "tech team," which includes the production manager, stage manager, assistant stage manager (located backstage), lighting board operator, spot operator(s), sound operator/mixer, and music director are all connected during a show by headsets through which Ross keeps the smooth flow of the show moving along, calling and executing cues, resolving any bumps along the way, or dealing with dynamic unexpected situations. (Whew, sorry for the run-on sentence).

The performers also help out onstage/backstage with moving props, assisting each other during quick costume changes - each person whether onstage, backstage, or in the booth plays his/her scripted part in this many-person team effort. Even in their relative youth, they carry years of study, execution, and training in the performing arts - often both in performance and technical stage functions. They are not your neighbor kids with cardboard boxes pointing flashlights (though they probably started out that way when they were five years old).  They are well-trained, educated, passionate, and highly disciplined professionals.

Above is Ellie Rogers, Lighting Designer and lightboard operator, also an actress in her own right having trained in both stage performance and lighting technology.

The PBT lighting system combines the best of long-proven incandescent technology with an increasing reliance on and transition to LED fixtures. The entire system is managed through a digital control board with two associated touch screens.

Ellie has a great time realizing her's and the director's creative vision utilizing this state-of-the art technology. It looks like a fun job to me - a real life "Wizard of OZ" kind of power -  controlling the visual experience of a production through the manipulation and management of light.

Above is Chris Conti, Sound Designer and soundboard operator. Chris is back at PBT for his third season in the current era - nostalgic in that his first paying job way back in 1980 was right here on this campus! Now the owner of  Clear Line Audio, his company engineers sound for professional performances, local acts, schools, and community groups.

Back in 1980, all the speakers were home built, and the amplifier system was a modified home stereo. For the "new" PBT, Chris did a full redesign of the audio system including digital mixing, additional wireless microphones, and redundant capabilities to avoid failures. PBT contains more wireless capability than many larger venues by having up to 30 wearable microphones for the performers, additional handheld wireless mics, many wired systems, and a full band capability with digital piano and drums allowing for better control and sound balance throughout each entire performance.

Above is Rosa D'Ambrosio, Assistant Stage Manager, a local high school student active in theatre and music programs and is in her second year at PBT working behind the scenes. She is stationed backstage during performances to assist the performers with costumes and props and other needed actions.

Ever notice the cast during curtain call bows will usually point to the sky towards the back of theatre? They are paying respect and homage to the "tech team" in the booth for making it all happen.

These people comprise the lifeblood of the show, all connected in realtime by headset, communicating the hundreds of cues and any other information or coordination to ensure the performers and audience have a wonderful, complete, and joyous theatre experience at PBT.

The following images were made during the heat of the battle - during the actual realtime production of the next to last show of, "All Shook Up."   The team knew I was there (even agreed to it in a moment of weakness) but, they had work to do and they were busy. You may not see them much but,  - their work is key to your audience experience - and if they make a major mistake - you know it quickly. It is not a job for the faint of heart.

Note for photographers: I carried and used three cameras for this event, a Canon 6D with a 24-105mm/f4.0 lens, full frame sensor; a Leica X, fixed 35mm lens, f1.7, APS-C sensor; and my trustee pocket-sized point and shoot Sony RX100 M2, 28-100mm lens, f1.8, 1 inch sensor. Most of these images were with the Sony or the Leica. Turns out the Canon was too physically noisy to suit me and the f4.0 lens couldn't give me a fast enough shutter speed to be useful.

(Click on an image for a higher resolution version if your device supports that action).

Last but certainly not least - I extend a special thanks to Bob and Sandy Malone, Owners and Guardians of the magical Priscilla Beach Theatre. They permitted me access for this post (and all the others over the past few years including the blow by blow description of the renovation in 2014/15 at this link).  They make ALL this possible for our community to benefit from having a performing arts venue of this quality in our midst. Show your support - season tickets go on sale in December - buy some! Here's the lineup for 2018:

"The Last Five Years" in May,
"The Drowsy Chaperone" in June,
"Guys and Dolls" in July,
"Bye, Bye, Birdie" in August,
"Damn Yankees" in September,
"Dames at Sea" in October.

A final thanks to the "tech team" for their indulgence as I lurked in their workspace pointing cameras at them for two hours. I hope I have done them proud. Special thanks to Chris and Ellie for helping me articulate the technical details I included above. The entire team has always been kind and helpful to the retired "old man" wandering around with a camera.

There's still one more production this year, "Little Shop of Horrors," in October. Contact PBT online or by phone at 508-224-4888 for tickets.

Monday, September 18, 2017

"A Walk on the Waterfront," Plymouth Harbor, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

A car isn't always just a car - sometimes, it's so much more.

The youngest of six daughters, the driver/owner sitting at the wheel of this 1962 Corvette, as a little girl would hand her daddy tools while he lovingly restored an identical Corvette. Decades have passed, she's grown up, raised her own family, and today, I met her sitting on the waterfront enjoying a spectacular late summer day in "America's Hometown." She is sitting in the exact model car she helped her daddy build all those years ago. It may seem like she is sitting alone but she's not - her daddy is with her sharing the memory.

Our things and possessions aren't always just things - sometimes, they are infused with life and the wonderful memories of days gone by - like maybe helping daddy build a car........

It's mostly quiet on the waterfront today - the kids are back in school, vacationing families are back at home, and slowly we residents assert our domain again to enjoy the almost 400-year-old settlement of Plymouth.

Some nautical types use a taxi service to get around and/or in the harbor........

....others use dingys or other water craft.

Soon, the boats will start to disappear from the harbor buoys, either sailed to warmer climes or, hauled away to back yards or storage yards, many shrink-wrapped in plastic - getting ready for another brutal New England winter ahead.

It is a pretty spot - Plymouth - the Pilgrims chose wisely all those years ago (and were very lucky, too, their survival critically dependent on receiving help from the Native Americans that lived here then).

One of the 29 different and individual lobster art displays around "America's Hometown" - Plymouth. A nice place to be - always.