Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

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

Friday, August 31, 2018

Heron Wisdom, Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

Normally, this heron-like statue is the only one around for me to look at.

But this time, on this day, straight through the window and across the pond, a real Great Blue Heron sat quietly on a fallen tree branch.  He stood there almost motionless for the better part of an hour. Even as I moved inside the house beside the window to try to make a picture, he stayed put. Then, he spread those huge majestic wings and flew away.

He reminded me that sometimes in life, it is best to simply be quiet and still, watch and listen, and enjoy the wonder of it all.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Painfully Green, Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

With a soft background of early morning fog, this tiny patch of grass beside the pond took on a surreal intensity of green. No amount of coaxing or waiting though, would bring back the colorful cardinals and goldfinches that had been at the feeder in the foreground. They just don't trust me this close - vegan or not.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Behind the Scenes, Priscilla Beach Theatre (PBT), Priscilla Beach, Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

At the highest point above the audience in the Priscilla Beach Theatre (PBT) barn, behind the last row of seats in the balcony, a glass-walled room stretches almost the full width of the theatre. It is not a luxury sky box for the glitterati.

A soft blue light washes over the room and its occupants - it is where the Stage Manager (at left), the Lighting Designer/Engineer (at center) and the Sound Designer/Engineer (at right) do their magic. It is the heart and brain of this living performance venue that is PBT's Barn Stage.  The soft blue light is punctuated with accents of the reds and yellows and oranges and greens on the hi-tech control panels and keyboards and computer screens and communication devices that these specialists utilize.

It is from here that each and every performance is managed in real-time - it is the "Tech Booth."

The above image was captured during the final performance of the "Bye, Bye, Birdie" run at PBT; what you see is the "behind-the-scenes-what's-happening-in-the-glass-walled-tech-booth-during-a-show" perspective.

But before this, many other events had to occur.......

In the early afternoon, it is still quiet at the Barn but, not for long..........

Soon, in the performer's dressing room beneath the stage, the actors and actresses will arrive to begin their preparation - body microphones, costumes, make-up, vocal warm-ups, physical warm-ups, and yes, rehearsal - again - of critical action or dance sequences that require split-second timing to execute safely and successfully. These performers may be mostly young folks but, their standards are high, their backgrounds already extensive, their talents clearly nurtured, their skills firmly established, and they do all the preparation a professional must do to ensure the finest audience experience possible.

And yes, beneath the make-up counter, those are parts of the original barn stone foundation dating from 1875. They were retained during the 2014-15 complete renovation and restoration of PBT (which you can see at this link to my earlier blog posts).  There are other footnotes to history elsewhere in the theatre - like the teeth marks on the ceiling beams on the ground floor that were chewed on by barn animals from the 1800's. This is a facility that almost vibrates with the excitement of its 140+ year lifespan.

If you attend the theatre chances are, you don't think very much about what it takes to produce the show.  That is, after all, part of the charm of theatre - to transcend reality, to be drawn into an imaginary world for a few hours, a world of talented performers, musicians, singers, dancers, creative performing artists - and the technical folks who make it all happen.

Who are these people behind the scenes who make it all happen?  They are the people who put on the show that allows the performers to put on their show for the patrons.  It's a show within a show - a play within a play. A drama all its own. Like the performers, these technical wizards must hit their marks, respond to their cues, ensure functioning sets and location and availability of props, keep the sound system and lighting system functioning properly, and on and on. They must do all this in real time without error to ensure a seamless, smooth, and efficient patron experience for us sitting in the audience. A performer can ad lib a flubbed line but, a light that doesn't go on when it should or a microphone that doesn't transmit as necessary can't be disguised - the audience knows immediately. The expectation for perfection is high.

Note: The "Tech Team," does not include the musicians who perform live during a production. My blog posts about Music Director Christopher Ricci  and his band of musicians can be accessed at this link.

Let me introduce the "Tech Team" to you........

Production Manager Joshua Patino. 

It takes a tremendous amount of time and effort by many to bring a successful theatre operation to life and then keep it there, alive and thriving. Second only to Owners, Guardians, and Producers Bob and Sandy Malone, is the Production Manager Joshua Patino ("Josh").  He is often the "go-to" person at PBT. Josh and his technical associates carry out many of the day to day tasks to prepare for and execute each show.

As the Production Manager, Josh is a stable, full time, and solid presence on campus who is responsible for overseeing the successful technical execution of every show. His is a voice of knowledge and reason and experience for the  hundreds of transient performers who pass through PBT over the course of a season. (Josh isn't just a master of stagecraft and technical requirements.  Among his many talents, he is also a trained performer himself holding a degree from the University of Texas in Theatre Performance. In his decades of theatrical life, he has directed, acted, danced, sang, taught and done pretty much anything else one can do on or having to do with a stage).

If you've ever been to PBT chances are real good you have seen or met him on campus. As the Production Manager, Josh oversees much of the daily activity. He has a passion for everything theatre related and he works tirelessly with the shifting demands of the summer performance season juggling rehearsals in the mornings for the Children's Workshop series, afternoons of rehearsals for the upcoming next main show on the Barn Stage, and evenings overseeing the current ongoing production being performed on the Barn Stage for the public. The myriad of details to be managed and the necessary actions to be taken, problems to be solved, and futures to be chosen, keeps Josh a very busy man during the performance season. Josh's workday usually starts early and runs long. Sometimes he will still be here after everyone else is gone, turning off the last light and locking the last door. It is not easy to create live theatre at a high professional level and make it all smooth and powerful for the audience.

Josh, and Owner and Guardian Sandy Malone, are on campus full time daily, managing what needs to be done in real-time and assisting the performers in their temporary campus life at PBT. Owner and Guardian Bob Malone when not in Boston working at his full time job there, can also be found working hard on campus, setting an example of leadership and involvement, never hesitant to get involved helping out with whatever needs to be done. (Plus, Bob got to drive his own tractor during the campus renovation for which I will be forever envious but, I digress - that's a different story.)

In the above image, Josh is doing some construction and assembly work preparing the light-boxes that were used in "Bye, Bye, Birdie."

Josh takes everything that comes his way in stride and accepts responsibility to do it patiently even though he already has a lot to do. But somehow, he does it all - he is Josh. As PBT Owner and Guardian Bob Malone has said on occasion in his pre-performance welcome speech to audiences, "Josh is the glue that holds it all together."

Stage Manager Heather Radovich

When a show opens on stage to the public, the responsibility for performance execution passes from the Director to the Stage Manager. Heather Radovich is the Stage Manager for this performance season. She performs the oversight and management position in real time - to execute and achieve the Director's vision each and every performance for consecutive nights and weeks. She wears a headset and is connected to the other tech team members both to relay cues and to resolve any dynamic issues that may occur. And a show involves many people, things, and actions and stuff happens. That's life.

She and her team remind me of my former long career in the United States air traffic control service. They are the air traffic controllers of the theater - they're the ones that sit in a darkened room and actually execute critical tasks and make things happen, issuing commands, pushing buttons, moving switches, turning knobs, doing all the talking and all the behind-the-scenes work necessary to successfully execute the show for the audience. They achieve this stage management function all connected to each other with headsets, communicating and working together as a team.

Heather is a professional stage manager and theatre educator from the San Francisco Bay area. She holds both a BA and MFA in technical theatre and stage management respectively. She has also worked as a production manager and marketing assistant for theatre companies. This is her first season at PBT.

Assistant Stage Manager Tara Brennan

During each performance, Tara Brennan, as the Assistant Stage Manager, will be on headset on stage left. She serves as the eyes and ears backstage for the Stage Manager positioned upstairs in the "Tech Booth." Tara is responsible for responding to cues, overseeing the backstage area, managing props, moving curtains, and generally supporting the actors and actresses in the wings.

Tara at her workstation on the stage left wing.

(Yes, Tara, that's me behind you still making pictures).

She has a prime up-close perspective that few of us will ever see or experience.

Tara (2nd from left) ensures that the backstage environment is managed successfully during the actual performance - helping the performers with any dynamic challenges that may come up, moving set pieces, keeping the props organized and maintaining radio communication with the Stage Manager up in the booth. Tara works full time elsewhere and carries out this role at PBT in the summer performance season, and at a nearby college in the winter school year performance season.

I like this image as a visual definition of "waiting in the wings." The three performers on this side are awaiting their cues, there is another actor on the far side awaiting his cue, at center stage in the dark suit an actor is performing, and just beyond him you can see part of the audience and barn walls. Props are stacked on the rolling cart in the foreground.

Sometimes the performers make calm individual entrances.........

......and sometimes they enter in a gaggle with others waiting close behind. It is quite a logistical challenge sometimes in the confined and darkened off-stage spaces.

Lighting Designer/Engineer Olivia LoVerde

In the weeks leading up to opening night, Lighting Designer/Engineer Olivia LoVerde will have worked with the Director, Stage Manager, and Production Manager to envision and design the lighting scheme. She will climb up and down a ladder more times than you could count getting everything ready.

One of those many trips up and down a ladder to adjust lights.

Aiming one of the state of the art LED stage lights.

Olivia at her workstation in the "Tech Booth."

Olivia is in the foreground and Stage Manager Heather in the background.

Lighting managed by Olivia on the left and sound by Kyle on the right.

During the actual performances, Olivia will execute hundreds and hundreds of lighting cues in the course of a typical show from her operating position in the "Tech Booth." This may be an old barn but, the owners supplied state of the art lighting and sound equipment as part of the complete renovation in 2014/15.

Lighting is a powerful tool in the world of theatre........

......that enhances and complements the performer's movements on stage and helps to create the magical environment of live theatre for the audience.

Olivia is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University. This is her first season at PBT.

Sound Designer/Engineer(s) Dave Grossman and Kyle Robinson

Sound Designer/Engineer Dave Grossman, is at his operating position in the image above.  When he's not doing sound at the theatre, he works full time as a vocal music teacher at a local high school. A musician himself, both instrument and vocal, his interest in sound was apparent early in life and grew into this.

Dave refers to his script book to review an upcoming sound cue.

Kyle Robinson was once a student of Dave's in high school and is here at Dave's recommendation to fulfill the sound engineer/mixer/board operator role for some of the shows which Dave can't attend. Kyle is back to being a college student in New York when the semester begins this fall.

I think he has the best working position.  In order to experience the sound as does the audience, Dave and Kyle keep the glass window in front of their control panel open throughout the show. The last row of the balcony is almost within arm's reach.

But I've gotten ahead of myself......

In addition to operating the audio mixing board during the actual shows, the sound engineers must prepare the wireless microphones for the performers. That includes having all the batteries charged and ready for each performance. As many as 30 body mics might be needed for performers and additional hand held mics and other mics for musical instruments.

In the upstage dressing room, literally a few feet behind the stage performance area, each wireless microphone is assigned specifically and by number to each performer so each can be controlled from the "Tech Booth" upstairs. Order and control is critical.

As an audience member, you may see these microphones on the performer either at their hairline or over an ear/cheek as the most common mounting points. (Thanks to actress Andrea Marie Bush for permitting me to photograph this sequence of her getting ready. She is one of the lead performers in "Bye, Bye, Birdie" playing the role of character Rose Alvarez).

Wireless only pertains to a freedom for the performer to move around without encumbrance - there are still wires to connect the microphone to the battery/transmitter pack which may be worn in a variety of ways including a belt strap as shown here or attached to another costume element elsewhere on the performer's body.

Ready to go!!

All Together Now

If you have ever wondered why the cast points toward the sky during their bows, there is good reason. The performers are offering a salute to the tech team high above the stage in the "Tech Booth." It is not a perfunctory gesture - the cast recognizes and acknowledges the critical role the tech team members must execute in contributing to making the show a success.

The view from backstage.

And as the audience files out, the tech team can breathe a sign of relief - until tomorrow night when they get to do it all again!

Final Thoughts

As a patron, you've likely noticed this 1937 red Chevrolet truck (nick-named "Franklin") parked outside the theatre. The owners purchased it to commemorate the 1937 founding of PBT by Dr. Franklin Trask. I think Dr. Trask would be proud and amazed to see what wonders current Owners and Guardians Bob and Sandy Malone have wrought. They have rejuvenated his campus and vision and given it the wings to fly into a wondrous future.

Come out and support PBT with your attendance - you'll be glad you did! And if you don't live nearby, support the performing arts in your community wherever in the world that might be.

If someday, the electricity and batteries all fail, the computers all go dark, the internet games stop, and the electronics all cease to function, there will still be men and women, young and old, all over the world as there have been for thousands of years of human history, who possess a drive and passion and ability to perform live - human to human - with word and song and heartfelt emotion.

You just can't beat that feeling sitting in the audience, when the entire ensemble of performers are lined up on stage across the proscenium, thundering out a veritable wall of song of such power and beauty and harmony and intensity that your body feels chills, tears well up in your eyes, your heart sings too, and you feel the richness of being alive to experience theatre like this. You just can't get that on a screen.

At least that's what it's like for me - and I hope for you, too. Yes, it's true, I'm very partial to PBT.............

2018 PBT Barn Stage Productions - Adult cast series

"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.

2019 PBT Barn Stage Productions - Adult cast series

"Life Could Be A Dream" in May,
"Heathers the Musical" in June,
"Hairspray" in July,
"Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" in August, 
"[Title of Show]" in September,
"Young Frankenstein" in October.

2018 PBT Barn Stage Productions - Children's Workshop series

"Honk Jr" in June
"Kamp Kaos" in July
"Twinderella" in July"
"The Snow White Variety Show" in August
"Annie Jr" in August
"Shrek Jr" in October

2019 PBT Barn Stage Productions - Children's Workshop series

to be announced

(Note 1: This post has run much longer than my normal style - but it's almost over. Lastly but most importantly, I extend my thanks to PBT Owners and Guardians Bob and Sandy Malone and the entire crew and cast of "Bye, Bye, Birdie," for permitting me to be up close to observe and capture these images of them in their work environments. I know I was a distraction.)

Above image: Owners, Guardians, and Producers Bob and Sandy Malone.

(Note 2: Information for photographers. I carried a mirror-less point and shoot Sony (1" sensor), a mirrored Leica (APS-C sensor), and a mirrored Canon (full frame sensor) for this effort but, it turned out I only used the Sony. The traditional mirrored camera shutter noise bothers me in a quiet setting and the trade-off between quality and quiet was worth it to me - probably to the crew also.)

(Note 3: Here is a link to previous blog posts about this production, "Bye, Bye, Birdie.")

Friday, August 24, 2018

A Summer Storm, Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

It was hot and humid - it felt like Florida - the tide was out and so were the bugs flying around my face and head.

A few miles to the north, this massive thunderstorm passed by dumping untold quantities of rain on the already verdant lands of New England.

And all that rain left the swan and his favorite watermelon float sparkling clean. Life is especially good in summertime in New England.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Cast Celebration, Priscilla Beach Theatre, Priscilla Beach, Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

It's that time of the year again - to celebrate a successful season of the performing arts at Priscilla Beach Theatre (PBT). This marks the fourth season on the renovated, rejuvenated, and inspired campus since Bob and Sandy Malone became the Owners and Guardians of this landmark venue and breathed new life and resources into it.

PBT Owners and Guardians Bob and Sandy Malone - this extraordinarily hard-working couple are the ones that make all these magical performances happen (with help from their team, of course).

Getting these folks all looking into the camera at the same time was easier than you might expect.....they are, after all, theatre folks who are used to the limelight. In this case, it was many folks from the casts of "Annie Jr."; "Guys and Dolls"; "Bye, Bye, Birdie"; and the PBT tech and management team.

A close-up of part of the group. My eye especially liked Ron holding Leo standing next to Josh holding Desmond - a cute juxtaposition.

A close-up of the Malones - and a few others.

A more horizontal version of the lead image; perhaps a candidate for next year's calendar?

Or maybe "jazz hands" will make it to the calendar?

Regardless of which or whether any image makes it to our fridge door as a calendar, another season of remarkable performances has graced the stage at PBT. It's a special place - if you haven't been, plan to do so! There are two more main adult Barn Stage shows this year, "Damn Yankees" in September, and "Dames at Sea" in October. The Children's Workshop series fall production is "Shrek, Jr." and will show in late October.

The 2019 Season major productions on the Barn Stage have been officially announced and will include:

"Life Could Be A Dream" in May,
"Heathers the Musical" in June,
"Hairspray" in July,
"Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" in August,
"[Title of Show]" in September,
"Young Frankenstein" in October.

Tickets will go on sale on December 1, 2018.

The Barn Stage, a 240-seat venue, is in its 81st season and is cited as the oldest summer stock barn theatre still operating in America. The original barn was built in 1875 and much of that structure remains in place today.

You can contact Priscilla Beach Theatre by phone at 508-224-4888 or online for tickets!  You'll be glad you did. It is extraordinary that we have such a wonderful and magical venue right here in Manomet - your support and attendance are important.