Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Yen and Yang of  TTAO
The logistics of doing a theatrical show like "The Two and Only" (TTAO) are much more complicated than just doing my club act somewhere. There is the small set, the lighting cues, the sound, the props and all of it has to come together at the same time to make it happen.  To hamper this feat is the fact that the production can only afford to hire John Ivy and me to do it, so we must use a local theatre crew that is as different as the theatres we perform in. 
It is always a compromise since no two theatres have exactly the same equipment or experience level.  The locals come into the whole thing clueless about our show, so there is a lot of time spent figuring out how to motivate them or in some cases how to deal with them. Usually, we know what we are getting into, but sometimes we don't.  
The contract rider is supposed to alert the crew and theatre about what we need in the way of equipment to produce the show long before we arrive.  That includes things like the right number and right kind of lights hung in the correct plot. It also included the number of channels and the minimum size lighting and sound boards to make it happen.  If we know ahead of time that they do not have exactly what we need we can adjust pretty well. John Ivy is a master at making a silk purse out of a sows ear.  He and I both come from "poor theatre" where you have to make magic with what you have. The alternative is to travel with a semi truck of all the stuff we need, and that is just not economically feasible with this show. Besides 90% of the time we would be duplicating what the theatre already has anyway. 
Sometimes the person John speaks to in advance is not straight forward on what they have or don't and we get surprised when we arrive.  That does not make for an easy set up and rehearsal.  Although contractually they are supposed to have or rent exactly what we need, that is rarely the case when we arrive.  It sometimes seems that tech directors don't want to be honest before hand figuring once we are there we will have to make it work with what they've got.  On this last run one of the theaters did not have the correct microphone so I could hide it in my hair. Fortunately in my prop case I had a mic and cable that fit the transmitter and it worked. It is the first time I have had to use this backup and it is rare that it matches the transmitter. 
We ship and FedEx as much as we can so we don't have to travel with a lot, but sometimes there is not enough time between theatres to ship the stuff and we have to haul it ourselves.  That is when we rent a small truck and become a traveling circus, which was the case last week in Florida. It is the yen and yang of show business.  Minutes after I am taking a bow in front of an audience standing and cheering, I am climbing into a rented UHaul truck with questionable comfort for a ride back to a motel.
At the end of this run the big stuff was scheduled to be shipped back. We drove the empty truck back to Miami to turn it in before our flights home.  The UHaul return was a gas station in a shady part of Miami near the Airport. Even in the middle of the day I felt I had to keep one eye on my briefcase while we were settling up. 
There was a bilingual discussion over two gallons of gas that we still owed once we filled it up at the station, and whether we got our deposit back.  They finally applied the deposit to the rental and charged the difference to my credit card. This took more time than it should of because the customers wanting to pump gas came first.  Although we had allowed plenty of time to make our flights we needed every moment to deal with the unexpected.  We had been told that someone could take us from the rental place to the airport, that proved not to be the case. They were not even willing to call a cab, that was up to us. They had their truck and were done with us.
We sat on our luggage, breathing gasoline fumes to the side of a dirty drive way, waiting 30 minutes for a cab and wondering if it would actually show up in time to get us to the gate on time.  We were close enough to hear the planes land but might as well have been in New Jersey. I turned to John and said, "Is this the way you pictured a Tony Award winning show touring the south?" We laughed because it was the only thing we could do. 
I guess I had another version of this scene in mind when we opened on Broadway. I know it could be worse.  We would still be hanging out at a gas station even if the audience had not cheered and stood up the night before. That might have made this moment a little more difficult to get through.
We are making plans to film the show for DVD release this fall.  It will certainly make delivering the show to the out lands a lot easier.  But even with the leveling factor of Uhaul rental places,  I will miss the thrill of  performing the show.  That hour and 45 minutes on the stage is magical, and worth a lot more adversity than I have to endure to get it there. 
As you were,


Bob Baker said...

DVD coming. Prayers answered!! Kidding aside, I am delighted that the show will be preserved for future generations of vents to enjoy and learn from. Thanks, Jay!


Daray Pringle said...

I am So glad that I grabbed the chance I had to see the Show. if I get the Chance I would see it again and will be among the first to buy a copy of that DVD.

you should have filmed that Uhaul trip would have been a great DVD extra -Daray Pringle

P. Grecian said...

Wonderful! DVD!
As for the problems of touring, wow do I identify. It's been awhile since I took vent/puppets/magic to other cities, but it never seemed they had what I needed, even when they said in advance that they did. I remember one place said they had a lavalier mic (This was even before wireless). What they actually had was a big Shure mic the size of your fist with a metal and plywood harness so you could wear it like a lav. I had to concentrate so as not to fall forward. Lip control wasn't as much of a problem, since nobody could see my lips anyway.
I still do a one-man Mark Twain show, and the packet with requirements goes along with the contract the sponsor signs. In all the years I've done that show, they've never had everything they agreed to have; I'm not sure they read the contract!

The most exciting thing I've heard today is that there's a Jay Jonnson DVD coming! Maybe even in time for Christmas!

Anonymous said...

I saw the condensed version of TTAO that you did at the Vent Haven ConVENTion! You were great.To have the whole production on DVD will be a treasure!
I can't wait!

Tom Farrell

Kenny Croes said...

Add my name to the list of many folks who'll buy and enjoy the DVD of your show. And I will promote it's release on my blog, too!

Roomie said...

First, I know that the Florida trip was a big success...BRAVO to you, John and the boys...I hope to see it again soon...A DVD is fabulous, but I hope that doesn't mean you will stop touring....and just for the books, you, JDI and TTAO are always "pure magic," no matter the adversity!!!! The UHaul, gas station incident would never happen IF you came to Lousiana Tech Concert Assoc. and Hot Springs Village Concerts!!!!!....just sayin'...think about it, R....
Carry on,
We love you....

Cheryl said...

I have been lucky enough to see TTAO twice - and am looking very forward to the DVD release! Congratulations - your show is a wonderful piece of theatre and I am sure TTAO will come across well on a DVD, too. Can't wait!

Cheryl said...

I have been lucky enough to see TTAO twice - and am looking very forward to the DVD release! Congratulations - your show is a wonderful piece of theatre and I am sure TTAO will come across well on a DVD, too. Can't wait!

Bob Conrad said...

I saw the show on Broadway at the Hell & Hayes, and I will be buying the DVD as soon as it is available. Thanks Jay, but don't stop touring it.