Friday, December 7, 2007

Episode IV: The Milk Sours

It's been too long, hasn't it?

Updating my blog upon the brink of the weekend after my first Opening Night here in Bristol seems the most logical time to do so. It is, however, not the best of ideas as I'm not in the best of places right now. But as a wiser man than I once said, "What better place than Here? What better time than Now?" . . . I cannot, for the life of me, remember who actually said that but I am sure they were a wiser man than I.

Working to support the Arts. Seems so noble, doesn't it? We work hard. We work long. We work for monetary rewards drastically below that which we know ourselves to be worth. We do it all willingly; simply to feed some deep-seated need in ourselves to be a part of something bigger, more vibrant than ourselves. I could be working privately; in construction, in renovation, in a private cabinet or wood shop. I could. And I could be making more money than I'd know what to do with, too. But I've consciously made choices placing me here. In the Arts. In theatre. In Bristol. Sometimes the work I do feels like I'm trying to shove a square peg in a round hole. Sometimes it's easy ("Hey, we've cut the square pegs in Act 2. Just circular pegs will be used, thanks."), sometimes I need to pull out the sledge hammer, the sawz-all and a combination square then roll up my sleeves in the hopes nothing breaks and the end result is flush. . . . I'm losing you on this analogy, aren't I? I'll start again. Take the time you need to catch up.

Ready? With me again? Okay.

Nothing we do is without the potential to fail. . . . To work long hours for little pay to make something magical happen can be (and most often is) a great reward in and of itself. When it works. To do the same and utterly fail can often make me feel like throwing myself in the river tied to my table saw. It is convenient and probably no coincidence that such a river rests not a stone's throw from here. It's also convenient that my table saw, although worthless in its primary function, still manages to weigh a fucking ton.

I'll spare you details, mostly because I'm tired of thinking about them, but suffice it to say that the big reveal in the opening of my first show here, I Do I Do, will not be happening the way it was supposed to. That is to say, magically with a heavy dose of the "Ooo" factor followed by a sprinkling of the "Aaa"s.

And it's my fault. Yay me.

Now I could rant. I could rave. I could look for scapegoats and probably find quite a few worthy and defendable ones, at that. I could tell you of the concept of a show touring and the reality of a show being built and actually tourable becoming too complicated for its own good. I could tell you how the scope of my budget simply wouldn't allow us to pull off magic of this magnitude ("Jake will have that show built, we've got to give him more time!"). I could (and have, now that I think about it) talk of how the size and equipment of my scene shop are totally insufficient. I could talk of how a new production team who's never worked together before being assembled after a design is approved and put onto paper . . . I could talk of not having the right and rated hardware for the applications, . . .

I could talk of and detail all of these things and probably be pretty accurate about most of them. I could. But I'm not. Ultimately, isn't the captain of a ship responsible for the sinking or sailing of his ship? Alright, yes. I am being rather self-deprecating right now. So what? Suck it. My blog, my thoughts.

I could talk about how my crew bought and installed hardware we all knew wasn't sufficient to do the job but we did it anyways. We did it because I didn't stop them. Nor did I provide an acceptable alternative solution. I could talk of all of these things (and in my oh-so subtle way, I have!) but what good would that do? In the end, it was me who allowed massively insufficient hardware to be used on a set that ended up being heavier than any of us could predict. It was me who didn't do the math to figure out how heavy the fucker was going to be in the first place! Me who doesn't know enough about rigging horizontal pulley systems to open duel-hinging flats; and rather than look up the right way of doing it, I just let anybody with an idea take time and money and resources to try them. And when they fail, look around for the next person with an idea.

Every idea I've had on this show has, at some point or another, failed to work; the work, the time and the energy notwithstanding. And in every instance it didn't have to, given I had taken the time beforehand to figure it out. I had a chance to shine here. I had a chance to walk in the door, make magic this theatre company had never really done before and walk back out looking like some sort of tech god. I say had because that chance is gone. Now I'll spend the next seven months playing catch up whilst I try to convince my superiors that I can do this job in the first place without putting such dismal failures on their stage.

. . . Ah. Now that that's out of my system . . .

In truth, all's well that ends well, I suppose. The house that was supposed to act as a show curtain did in fact end up opening. Partly due to me, partly due to my production manager, my volunteer rigging genius, a master carpenter who still managed to crack jokes at two in the morning, a stage manager and two actors who were as patient as Job during tech weekend and a director who wouldn't take, "I don't know what else to do," as an answer. There was support in place here. Lots of it. And not all for me, but for what we were trying to do. There were compromises, there were victories and loses, there was midnight rigging sessions and temper-tantrums about alcohol. In the end, on Opening Night, the damned thing swung open and people even applauded, myself included. Looking back, I might even laugh at it all. Shake my head and say, "Yeah, we really pulled that one out of our asses." I might even look back rather fondly at a moment when Art was made truly as it is meant to be made: By any means necessary. And I truly hope I do. While I'm at it, I hope I can manage to shake these horrible clich├ęs and the sheer mountain of schmultz I manage to put into this damn blog.

Maybe even, I will.

But the past week and a half has left a bad taste in my mouth. Like someone shot-gunned curdled-milk-dipped cigar ash in my mouth after they had eaten mounds of olives and bad cheese. Something vaguely like that. . . . A bad taste and I'm having trouble washing it out. I'd better do it quick, if I'm gonna at all because Cratchett starts now and I've no time to cry in my V/T. Frying Pan into the fire. No rest for the weary. Running away from five stormtroopers into a barrack or twelve (or thirty, depending on which version you're watching . . .). Call it whatever you like. "Man up!" as some would tell me. And I will, but not without whining a little about it first.

I've gotten the show up and running but I hate how I did it. I'm completely unsatisfied with the process. I put a lot of the blame of that on myself. There are those who live by mottos like, "Done is beautiful," but those people are not me. If it's worth doing once, it's worth doing right, dammit. ("Marcus Aurielius had a dream that was Bristol, Proximo! This is not it! This is not it!!!"). I was lucky on this one. I don't plan on counting on just my luck anymore ("In my experience, there's no such thing as luck.").

Dammit, I just want to do my job well.

That is all. Good night. And good luck.

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