Friday, December 7, 2007

Episode II: More Later is More Now

Written, again, last Thursday evening. I promise I'll start getting current. Be patient, dammit.

"Low tech is the best tech."

These words were first uttered to me by one my mentors, David Kriebs, during one of my last tech classes but in the day whilst attending Tawes Theatre at the U of MD. Words to live by as a technical director. Why spend time money and effort rigging the scenery to fly and move and dance when a stagehand can just as easily do the scenery moving and dancing and dipping? Why pneumatically rig a drop made of china silk to vanish "smoke-like" up into a six inch PVC pipe as an actor makes a pulling motion with his arms when the actor can just make that pulling motion whilst holding onto the damned china silk.

Why indeed.

Sometimes there are wonderful artistic reasons for complex scenery and special effects and when they support the art (ALWAYS support the art) they can work and they can be some of the most satisfying efforts put into a production. Those earth-shatteringly technophile moments aside, "Low tech is the best tech."

"Simplify, simplify" is another saying that strikingly comes to mind. This one uttered by someone perhaps not as all-knowing as David Kriebs but probably just as cranky. Thoreau, I think.

Still, despite the wisdom that abounds in those words, there does come a point where simplifying becomes closer to criminal and "low tech" becomes almost "no tech." We must ask ourselves at what moment does the work we do cease to be "The show must go on!" and become, "This is stupid, I'm going home,"??

I ask these supposed hypothetical questions to preface the remainder of this week's blog entry in order to properly prepare your mind for what lay ahead.

I hate my table saw.

Let me truly begin by stating some positives. I actually like the great majority of those I am working with up here in sunny, shiny scintillating Bristol, PA (those of you close to north of mason Dixon line will note that for the past four days it has been nothing but rainy and cold here; despite this, I refuse to take the weather as any kind of sign or hint of things to come – the Saturday I arrived here there were fireworks; these fireworks had nothing to do with me, per se, but neither does the rain, really – unless you count that I have to walk to work in it . . .).

The vast majority of BRT's staff (such as it may be called for lack of a better term to describe the mish-mash of fulltimers, part-timers, contract employees, interns and other volunteers) have the right attitude about gorilla theatre if somewhat lacking in other realms relating to theatre as any kind of business. I fully support this outlook. We do Art. That's Art with a capital A and some of it's schmaltzy and some of it's riveting and some of it will plain flat-out suck shave-ed balls. But it's Art and Art is only accomplished through a communal effort. Insert sappy cliché` here (ones about chains being only as strong as their weakest links and the theatre that mops the floors together profit-share together may be best fitting).

BRT is a small enough theatre company (in terms of size, not span; I am heading their twenty-first season, after all) that they have still managed to not lose sight of their larger goal: Theatre for Art's sake. That may sound somewhat sappy but it is truly one of central reasons I accepted the position and moved all the fuck way up here; theatre for money's sake was satisfying more for the bank account and the other schlumps on the same ladder rung as me than for a feeling that I created or helped create a piece of something that made a difference in someone's life.

I don't know that I'll do that here. Still, the idea feels prevalent in people's minds here and that ideal and outlook on what you do on a daily basis does impact those around you. At the end of the day that can sometimes make all the difference in the world. Especially if that day constituted swimming through endless odd-shaped "stock" platforms covered in dust three inches thick in a room supposedly used to build scenery. I mean, who keeps a 2'6"x3'8" platform and believes it to be a good idea? I mean, really.

So: People? People, check. People go a long way in making a job worth while. Just think of that asshole down the hall from you who blares his John Tesh at volumes usually reserved for aircraft landings and you'll know what I mean.

The town? Bristol's peaceful, I'll give it that. That peace knows only a thin silk veil protecting it from being just another Anywhere White Trash-ville, USA but the trees are actually quite lovely. I live on Radcliffe street which any Google Maps will tell you is right on the Delaware River. Yeah, the same river that blessedly keeps Pennsylvania and New Jersey from ever actually touching. And I don't mean "on the Delaware River" like saying, "I live near the White House," means living in Petsworth (that's a DC joke, some may not get it; I can't help that, look at Google Maps again and it may make more sense though I usually find a joke that requires that much effort is rarely all that funny oh nevermind . . .); I mean ON THE FUCKING DELAWARE RIVER. I walk outside my front door in the morning to walk the six blocks to work and there's the fucking river. I must admit, it's quite a view. Pretty, even. I can't help but wonder what zen-related peace I may discover staring at the ever-moving body of water. I hope it's more than, "damn the river stinks today," cause that would suck.

Bristol, Pennsylvania can be very quiet. Quaint. Quasi-peaceful, even (that last one's cheating I know but I just wanted the alliteration). At the same time, it suffers as any small town will suffer when constantly compared in the mind of a city boy to the city he just left behind. Quiet, it seems, has its price. There's not much to do. Now, that opinion suffers (as I suffer) from the fact that I've only been here a little under a week. A week where I have been without a car. Now, in Silver Spring no car was no problem. In Bristol, as in many a place in my homestate, this is very much a problem. The car situation is being sorted out but not being much help by the DOT, which sucks. More on that later.

The job? Ah, now the heart of it. Holy shyte, a page and a half. More later, I promise.

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