Friday, December 7, 2007

Episode VI: Return of the TD !!!

I believe I've stated how I've wanted to make Episode VI of this blog somewhat monumental. Return of the Jedi is, by far and wide, my favorite movie ever. I don't care about bad acting or cheesy lover confrontations on Ewok rope bridges ("Could you tell Luke? Is that who you could tell?!" "I . . . ! ! !"), the film appeals to my Knight in Shining Armor complex yet also inspires in me a kind of resigned heroic comfort; that no matter how far you fall, redemption is always attainable. All you have to do is see it, take it and then throw your master down a energy shaft. Simple, yet complex in its details. The hero shall always arrive to fight for what and for who he holds to be most dear: His friends, his family, his freedoms. And he shall do it with grace, dignity and with a green fucking lightsabre. Evil, in all of its many forms (be it that of a old and enrob-ed master of dark arts, a fat, gelatinous mob boss or a lilywhite pansy princess like Boba Fett), cannot withstand his onslaught, well-intentioned and mighty in its fervor.

And so I need, if only for myself, to make this entry something more than the other five and a half before it. It is by simple coincidence that it also happens to fall just after the opening of the Largest and Most Catastrophic of Productions Ever.

Yet as I sit down to finally write said entry, somehow I find myself unable to focus properly. Either there are too many thoughts floating around in my head, or not nearly enough to coherently form something akin to a sentence; much less many. I suspect it is a little bit of both. There are hundreds of half-formed thoughts floating around up there; most of which can be boiled down to either, "Please," or "Fuck you." Mamet would be proud.

I don't know where to begin, that's obvious. I truly don't. I made a conscious effort not to write this directly after the opening of Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge; mostly because it would have looked like:


Or something like that. And yet, as I sit here listening to Trent croon/yell/scream/beg/oddly harmonize with himself, it seems almost a lifetime away. Strange how something as innocent as vast amounts of sleep can help erase things like mental anguish and pain (okay, the drinking helped, too; I'm not as strong as I used to be). When I close my eyes and go back to those four hellacious weeks, those sensations and feelings come racing back like Ani shooting past Sebulba on the third and final approach to the finish line. Every time that happens a small part of my soul dies as purely reflex action. That scares me, but it's true. I don't think I was suicidal these past four weeks, but there were certainly times when I thought, "If that truck hit me, I could sleep."

Despite the fear the swells at thoughts like that, I can't help but feel I owe my friends and family who have all been asking, "Why haven't we seen or heard hide or hair of you, Jake?" an answer.

Forcefully, therefore my dearest readers, I soldier on.

I do feel that if lack of focus gets the better of me tonight, I'll be plagued with carrying the weight of this whole experience around with me forever. To begin the Purging then, let me first pose to you this: Something as catastrophic as Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge MUST have been planned by some malevolent and evil-hearted overlord of theatrical arts. It is surely impossible that so many negative factors could unite to so wholly and superbly destroy the wills of an entire production staff so perfectly. I do not wholly subscribe to theories such as Manifest Destiny or Intelligent Design or the like but the sheer weight that something so altogether colossally wrong like this production could come about by absolute coincidence staggers not only my imagination but my faith in Art and in my ability to combat the daemons Chaos and Anarchy.

I say the force that brought about such terror and pain upon us must be malevolent and evil purely on the assumption that even innocence has its limits. Surely, even the simplest of minds can eventually grasp upon a certain point that a precipice has been reached? Ye, can not even a child, as pure and as undefiled as an infant can be, not accidentally step upon the cat only so many times before realizing it is causing harm? No, it was the depraved and immoral mind that dropped the Bomb on Hiroshima, hence must it be the same wickedness that devised the circumstances upon which my second show at Bristol Riverside Theatre was built and produced.

To illustrate, allow me to outline, exactly, the timeline that is so wholly and completely opposed to Freedom: Somewhere in the ether it was decided and agreed upon by the Powers That Be that a show with something like sixteen actors (seven of which are kids) should also be the show that has no less than six moving wagons and set pieces (all of which are free-roaming on tri-swivel casters and can therefore go ANYWHERE, including off the front of the stage should they be pushed that far . . .) and that all of the non-eq actors should also be the run crew.

On top of that, it was also decided that this same show should have a week LESS time to rehearse, to build, to install, and to prep. Thanksgiving, apparently, holds a bitter rivalry with BRT not unlike the Joker V the Batman, Lex Luther V Superman or even regular V decaf. Constantly throughout its twenty-one year history, BRT and Thanksgiving have battled, if only in vain, to conquer one another. Alas, neither can be called the victor. Whilst those of us on the sidelines merely ask, "Why not merely schedule Opening a week AFTER Thanksgiving?" those here at BRT know that such simplicity cannot hope to overcome the dastardly wickedness of that holiday which celebrates turkey. Pure Evil it is and the only hope of victory is constant vigilance and a constant blood sacrifice of BRT staff.

But wait, there's more. Beyond even that, the design for this show was enormous. On such a scale that this theatre company simply wasn't in a place to produce in five weeks. Let's ignore for the moment that it was a hopelessly over-budget endeavor. Six moving wagons, four headers flying in & out, a portal that OPENS (what is it with hard scenery that needs to open and move around here? It's not like we couldn't rig a fucking act curtain for Cripes' sake . . .), and then ALL of it covered Christmas lights. Chasing. Christmas lights.

Throw in the fact that this design is four weeks past its deadline. Oh yeah! I said it! FOUR FUCKING WEEKS LATE. And incomplete, on top of being so unacceptably late. Greg Mitchell, . . . you fuck.

All of this could have been avoided had I brought it up at the concept meeting; ONLY THERE WASN'T ONE!!! Or the pre-build production meetings; ONLY THERE WEREN'T ANY!!! Or the budget meetings; ONLY THERE WEREN'T ANY OF THOSE EITHER!!! But that was okay. Most of our questions were answered once we saw the model . . . Oh wait, THERE WASN'T ONE!!! And the paint elevations solved a lot of mysteries NOPETHOSEWERELATEANDIMCOMPLETETOO!!!!!! . . . But I told myself it was cool. I could deal with it. Whew, was I off.

I suppose I cannot wholly blame the designer. If I was designing for a theatre that made absolutely no moves to curtail my inhibitions, why wouldn't I shoot the moon? The whole concept of pre-production seems alien to the good old-fashioned folk here in Bristol. A mistake I don't mean to duplicate again. As much as I detest meetings, some of them actually do serve a purpose and I would be all for muscling through two hours worth of boredom for the sake of hashing out how to build something of this scale on the budget I was almost actually handed by my PM. Apparently, everyone thought someone else was having those meetings. Who knew?

Look, I know I've made some mistakes on this show. I could have built some things stronger, some things cheaper, some things easier. I could have worked harder to have stronger daily plans and I could have kicked some more ass to stick to them. I know I didn't nearly come close to being without sin on this one; but damn. My master carpenter threatened to end my life with a turnbuckle because of this show and I'd like to think she and I normally get along.

Each and every one of us on here broke down into tears at least once because of this devil that is Cratchit. Few shows can claim such trophies. After two separate 36 hour days, I know I myself dropped to my knees center stage screaming, "KILL ME! DO IT!! I'M HERE!!!" on at least one occasion ("Get to the CHOPPAH!").

When the smoke finally clears and all is said and done; when the wounds have been bandaged and all the minor issues have been tallied and dismissed; really, it all came down to one problem: Enforce your fucking deadlines. There is simply no excuse for a designer handing in an incomplete design four weeks late. Simply none. Except that you let it happen. From this one mistake, did snowball every other heartache therein. Every. Single. One.

Susan Atkinson, the theatre's producing director, on numerous occasions pulled me aside during this whole fiasco and assured me that my experiences with these first two shows hasn't been BRT typical. . . . Bet me, Buckwheat. Forgive me, but the evidence proves otherwise.

BRT has three shows left in this season. Three shows left to prove to me that this place isn't the haven of Chaos which gorges itself on the souls and blood of its staff. They fail to prove that it's not, come the end of my contract, I'm out. I'm already fairly certain my scenic's irretrievable. I have doubts now about my master carpenter, too. Just when it seemed our working relationship was getting to a sweet spot, it all comes crashing down around me. Thanks, BRT. Next time just kick me in balls and push me in the river.

Despite all this, however, my will is not completely slain ("I'm not quite dead yet!"). In fact, if nothing else, what remains is only the strongest and most pure of my resolve. That which does not kill you makes you bitter and cynical. Or something. I've seen those who work beside me cry one too many fucking times to go through this again.

And I simply won't.

Reform here won't be easy, but neither has anything else up til now. I tried to do my job your way; well now it is my turn, asshole. Teaching some of the people here that, "Yes, you DO need to have a concept meeting or at the very fucking least a budget meeting," may very well be akin to teaching an old cripple dog to pogo stick across a tight rope; but given the alternative, I'm game for just about anything.

I came into this job trying to be polite and professional and courteous. All I've really gotten for my troubles was asked to build the impossible; without so much as an apology from my designer. If this is what being nice gets me and my crew, then the gloves are off. If I fail, at some point, to do my job the right way: Tell me; it's the only way I'll get better at it. If you're not pulling your own weight from hereon in, you better hear me now and believe me later that I will rain Truth down on you so hard you'll wish for the calm, soft kiss of hail. The gloves are off. Go ahead, push us. Give me ONE plate incomplete. Lemme see you try to hand over a digitally colored, pixilated piece of shyte paint elevation to Stef. I FUCKING DARE YOU. Try us again and we shall bring the Quickness.

"The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the [TD] when I lay my vengeance upon thee!"

If it means I'm called an asshole (to my backside or to my face), if it means some people won't like to work with me, hell – even if it means I'm ultimately fired: So be it.

Life is too short to take the kind of crap we were given on this show and seeing as those I trusted to protect us from it failed to do so, though neither did they themselves emerge completely whole, it just means the Weak need to step up and take the Earth instead of waiting for the inheritance to kick in. Form Blazing Sword, motherfuckers. You feel like slacking off around here? Great. Best bring your ottoman and a coffin; cause my painter's a feisty, mean little bitch when you piss her off and whatever filter kept Anna quiet and reserved before has long been obliterated by this place. The next time I won't be holding them back. And once they're done tenderizing you, it'll be my turn. Oh, we won't hurt you. Too bad. When we're done, I promise you'll never take for granted an over-worked, under-paid, PISSED OFF production staff again.

"We here don't take too kindly to those that don't take too kindly . . . "

That's word.

Good night. And good luck.

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