Wednesday, September 21, 2005

introducing Ela!

(not pictured)

name: Ela Orleans
job: stage manager
height: 180 cm
computer: Apple G5
What makes you a Builder?: "I am a painter!"
favorite thing about working with TBA: "working with nice people"
snack food of choice: croissant from Almondine and gallons of coffee

Ela says: "I like hanging with people that make me laugh."

On the bridge this morning was sleeping guy, next to the traffic of the off-ramp. I guess nobody bother him there. Nearby him was a squatting Asian man, having a smoke under the shade of a little tree. There is a sort of plaza on the Manhattan side, that used to be the site of a substantial homeless encampment until the city renovated to bridge entrance and opened the pathway on the north side of the bridge. Where the homeless people went, I know not. Perhaps sleeping man falls into that category.

Today was a sort of cue to cue rehearsal in the morning because Marianne, in a daring artistic moment, decided to change the order of some of the scenes at the end of the piece. She's a wild woman! So, there was re-cuing to happen and then by about 3:00, we were ready for a run. We suited up fully in our show clothes (also designed by Stewart Laing), makeup, accents and attitudes and got going. It looks pretty spiffy, friends and I encourage you all to try and see this amazing visual and aural banquet. And it is not just pretty either, there is content, people! Meaningful, thought-provoking and moving content. There is something for everyone.

If you are curious about where to see SUPER VISION, you can go to the web site of The Builders which is but a quick rundown of our fall engagements looks something like this:

October 13-16 Walker Center for the Arts, Minneapolis
November 2-6 Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus
November 11-13 On the Boards, Seattle
Nov 30- Dec 3 BAM Next Wave Festival, Brooklyn
December 8-10 Montclair State University, Montclair

I should mentions too that the Walker, the Wexner, BAM and Montclair State are all co-producers of this piece. We at The Builders are greatly appreciative to all the support these fine organizations have given to make this large, ambitious piece of work possible. It is no small matter to gather the necessary funding and development support to make this piece of original performance possible, and without the sustaining assistance of institutions that are brave enough to go with The Builders down the path to creation, it would not happen. These fine institutions help make it happen and we could not do it without them. Please lend your support to them and subscribe to their season or go see one more show than you think you can afford. Think of it this way, just one grande frappucino a day for a month can send you to see a whole year's worth of exciting live performance. And I won't even go into the caloric savings. It's a win-win situation folks.

Tomorrow night we do a presentation under simulated performance circumstances (live audience!) for an invited audience. I am excited and looking forward to hearing what people have to say. I will report on how it all goes. Wish us luck, though that is apparently bad luck so we shall break a leg, as the show people say.

your bridgewatcher,

today's builder is..

name: Kate Stannard
job: assistant director
height: 5'2"
computer: Apple powerbook G4
What makes you a Builder? "I guess I'm the token English girl. Everyone needs one. Plus, my ability to be an 8 year old boy, a 40 year old man and a 60 year old grandma in the same day."
favorite thing about working with the Builders: "the people"
snack food of choice: naughty- yogurt covered pretzels nice-"I eat a lot of apples. An apple a day and all that."

Today the bridge was tidy! It's like somebody walked along and cleaned up and picked up all the trash. And changed the bags in the garbage cans that are improbably up there. That was in the morning but by my ride home in the early evening, the trash had come back. Not a lot but a Bud can in a paper bag and a random plastic bodega sack. Still a gorgeous ride home.

Spent the day today doing the infamous cue to cue rehearsal, where we go from one cue to the next, as the name implies. Usually this is a rather tedious day spent in the theatre but I must say I was feeling no pain and felt fortunate that I did not have to put on my makeup or costume. It got all humid and nasty again here in New York and it felt really sweaty in there again. Moist brownie, as Tanya would say.

The little showing of three scenes we did yesterday provoked a lot of encouraging feedback and that is good. Way better than discouraging feedback.

And today was James' birthday so at the end of the day we raised a glass (plastic deli cups, really) of champagne to celebrate the genius that is Mr. Gibbs. That's right, he is not just another pretty face but has the brains to back it up. I am so pleased that I have gotten to work with him on this show. He is a first rate person.

Happy birthday, James!

I remain bloggily yours,

Monday, September 19, 2005

monday, monday

Hard at work on the script...

The final week is upon us. Today, guess what I saw on the bridge? Marianne Weems, the director! Valiantly chugging along ahead of me on her one-speed wonder, I saw it was her and caught up. We tried to chat but the pathway is narrow and all the Manhattan bound commuters made it impossible to ride side by side. When we got to the Brooklyn side, we went the wrong way against traffic down into DUMBO, because we are cutting-edge rebels of the avant garde. And then we pulled into Starbucks for an iced coffee because we are mindless cogs controlled by corporate global culture. See, we are complex!

Today was spent adding all kinds of exciting new video and sound to the piece. It's really looking and sounding good, my friends. In the afternoon, we did a little showing of three scenes for interested parties, near and dear to the production. It is fun to do small pieces in a performance mode, meaning that there are people other than the usual crowd present.

Also, there was a movie filming across the street from the theatre space. Recall in an early post that I described the corner where God's Little Warehouse is (Dock and Water) as one of those locations that screamed to be included in films that needed some New York City realism. Well, Griffin and Phoenix was shooting across from us today, soaking up the authentic atmosphere of a former manufacturing and shipping district. The street was lined with location trailers, craft services and trucks full of jolly Teamsters. We pretended not to look for stars as we stood on the sidewalks on break, acting like real New Yorkers who supposedly "don't care" about seeing famous people.

We have three more full days of rehearsal and then we present showings of our progress this Thursday and Friday evenings. Thankfully, the weather broke and it dried up, making the space a bit more hospitable for inviting people. It is one thing to suffer for your own art and yet another to make others suffer for it. As your humble recorder of this process, it has been a great pleasure to see it all come together, cue by cue, rendering by rendering, diet Coke by diet Coke. Onwards towards the premiere we go!

Look out, Minneapolis! Look out, Walker Center for the Arts! We're coming to your town and we're taking names!

Later Dudes,

Friday, September 16, 2005

meet a Builder!

name: Kyle Decamp (not pictured)

job: performer
height: 5' 5 1/2"
computer: Apple Titanium G4. Cat ripped off keyboard, resulting in dates from 19th century

What makes you a builder?: "1993 maybe, god. Marianne Weems and Jeff Webster approached me and asked if I wanted to do Master Builder with them. The rest is history."

favorite thing about the Builders: "Working in a room full of extremely competant people."

snack food of choice: "Moe's midday Baked Lays Potato Chips"

This is Kyle. She plays Carol, wife of John and mother of John Jr. She has been in several Builders' shows and was most recently seen in Alladeen in fabulous Champagne-Urbana, Illinois. She rides her bike across the bridge too.

Today we ran through the show. It was exciting to see it take more shape, layer upon layer like some crazy digitally delicious cake. I am all makeup makeup and that is an interesting challenge given the intense heat situation. My costume is 200% polyester (washes up good and dries fast on the road), my wig is human hair and my face is now covered with the new added feature of latex, for that old 'n' crinkly look that screams granny. So, essentially I am encased in plastic from head to toe. And it is really really hot in New York now. Did I mention that? All the tropical storm activity is shoving these humid air massses our way and though it seems like rain should happen any minute, it never really comes through to clear things out. They predict it will be cooler and dryer by Sunday but are "they" ever right? Meanwhile, we all hydrate ourselves like crazy (that means drinking water and sports beverages) and some have even taken to carrying towels for swabbing of the brow.

Saw a pair of Hanes crew socks on the bridge today. Hmmm.

more later,

Monday, September 12, 2005

the pipes are calling me

This evening on the way home, I heard bagpipes on the bridge. Yes, I thought that I had had one too many Cobras, but indeed I was sober as a fence post. I could not figure out where the pipes were coming from until I got closer to the Manhattan side and saw that they were from a circle of pipers and drummers that were gathered to practice on one of the piers beneath the north side of the bridge. As I got closer, I noticed that this were no ordinary pipe band but was in fact the pipe band from the NYC Department of Sanitation. They were standing in the shade provided by a garbage truck and a street broom that were parked there. It was the Sanitation pier, where the trucks go to rest when they are not hauling the trash off of this here island. Wish I could have seen them up closer but it was sweet to hear the strains of Scotland the Brave and other pipe favorites drift high above the East River.

We stumbled through the show today and picked up a little speed and many new visual and sound moments. It all changes quite fast these days. There is always new stuff coming in and new situations to be dealt with. This all takes an incredible amount of time, much of it spent on computers making cues, otherwise known as "rendering". It has a sort of slaughterhouse feel to it, doesn't it? But really, it is very gentle and does not draw even a drop of blood. Let me reassure you that no computer technicians or animation artists were harmed in the making of this piece.

It is hot as a skillet on the equator and it has made working in the space a unique challenge because who in their right mind would subject themselves to such conditions? Despite the humidity that threatens civilization as we know it, we press onwards in our tropical delirium. It's all because of the hurricanes, this time it's Ophelia pressing her crazy self up against us with her humid air mass. There is a lot of talk of "feel factor", which is not a new reality show but is the way the weather people try to gauge how hot it "seems" to a human and not a thermometer.

But I will not talk too long of weather and hurricanes, as this is a sad sad subject indeed in this great land of ours. We ought to be ashamed, when we are not bereft, for what has happened in New Orleans. Not to get overtly political, as this may end up on the Senate floor one day (stranger things have happened), but Mr. Bush please consider pulling the National Guard out of Iraq and sending them to New Orleans to have them restore order. While they're at it, a little freedom-building might also be a good idea, so that the people of New Orleans can have opportunity, just like the folks over in Iraq. I'll shut up now.

keep the faith,

Saturday, September 10, 2005


Today, we made it through the show for the first time. Starting at the top, we went through scene by scene and tried to assess the state of things. When all was said and done, I think it looked pretty darn good. Yes, there is lots of work to be done still but we are in a great place, considering we still have two and a half weeks of work time left and nobody has had a nervous breakdown or "artistic difference" with the show. I get the feeling all the players want to make this the best show we can and are all working with that in mind. It may come as a surprise to some of you out there in Bloglandia to discover that this is, tragically, not always the case. The machine is humming along and yes, there are many rows still left to hoe, the crew seems ready for the task and making great things each and every day.

Yes, the running time was a little longer than ideal but hey, it was a first run through. If we left it right now, it would be suitable for a Lincoln Center kind of Euro import thing that you watch over the course of a couple of days with box lunches provided. It is not at its fighting weight at all, but is just in training and will in two weeks' time, be lean and mean and ready for action. I was proud of everyone that we all made it through and with a minimum of stoppages and no disasters.

Go Team Super Vision!

More partying detritus on the bridge today. I guess Thursday night is a good night to hang up there above the river and pound back a few tall Buds, smoke some Newports and contemplate the nature of life in the big sparkly city. Maybe we should consider having our cast and crew wrap party up there. I will pose it to the group.

peace, togetherness and malt liquor,

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

latecomers will not be seated...

A terrible thing happened this morning. I thought that I did not have to be at rehearsal and so I did not go to the warehouse. Doh! Ela, our trusty stage manager, left several messages on my home machine that ranged from puzzled to concerned about my safety. Marianne also called, giving the whole incident of my stupidity the stamp of official disbelief. How could I have not realized? Oh well, I didn't and did manage to get myself there once I had realized the error of my cognitive process. I jumped on Big Black Bike and tore ass across the bridge, observing nothing on the way.

Spent the part of the day I managed to show up for working on the Jen and Grandma scenes. Adding new visuals all the time and trying to weave the story through them. Tanya, my human cohort in the scenes, plays a lovely granddaughter and if there was some way for me to really become this Sri Lankan lady and be her granny, I would take up the job in a heartbeat. Alas, I will have to settle for being her video stage grandma. Sigh. We are having a fun time working together in the crazy world of the elderly relative and the super tech-savvy modern gal.

Tanya is teaching me some Tamil to say in the scene and that is fun. It all makes me want to go to Sri Lanka one of these days. Must wait until it's not summer anymore though. I think it is hot here and I think I do not even know what hot is, compared to the subcontinent.

so long for now,

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

make up, revisited

I was off for most of the day today, as other things were being worked on. I showed up at 5:00 to meet once again with my personal stylist Dick. Dick is a lovely fellow and a real honest-to-god genius with makeup. He does makeup for models and fancy people who want to look younger and more fabulous and my character is somewhat of an inverse situation, as he is trying to make me look old and anti-fabulous. Maybe not anti, but just regular.

We played around with my base color and accent colors and eye, cheek and lip colors, trying to find that balance for an older lady from the mandatory makeup era, who has maybe lost touch somewhat with modern standards of beauty. It is really fun and I have not done such intense makeup for a long long time. I looks scary in the light of day but under the beautiful stage lights of Allen Hahn and with the forgiving lens of the video camera and Dick's expert guidance, it is looking very very convincing. Very fun and very theatrical. I hope I can maintain this regime throughout the run of the show, as I am a notorious non-makeup person in real life. Anything for my art.

I did not take the bridge today, as I was already on the subway in the city and continued on out to Brooklyn. Not much to report on the train. The usual supersaturated pee smell in the 2nd Ave station that takes me back to the olden days of New York, before the Disney Store and the Warner Brothers store and the Hershey's store took up residence in 42nd Street. And now there is this new thing where the cops can search your backpacks and bags on the train or in the station. I prefer to be free on the bridge, where "the fuzz" can't go through my stuff.

see ya folks,

Monday, September 05, 2005

chicken on the bridge

OK, now it is getting spooky.

I'm not lying to you people when I say that this evening on the way home to Manhattan, I saw a black plastic bag like you would get at a corner store and sticking out of it were two chicken feet that were, I imagine, connected to the chicken that was inside the bag. A real chicken! What is that about? Does it have to do with some religious ritual that I am not familiar with? A sacrifice to the bridge gods? Someone's stray dinner? Or did the chicken have a heart attack and die while walking across and some kind soul "buried" it in all they could find, a plastic bag? What is up with the chicken?

Today was all about the family scenes. David Pence, Kyle deCamp and their son, played by various incredible pieces of technology. They are a kooky household, let me tell you. I do not want to spoil it for the audience but I will say that they have a beautiful home as rendered by the d-box team of animation specialists. I will introduce you to the animation crew as soon as I can get a picture of them. They are hidden from view of most of us, as they are in their little animation crow's nest, surrounded by computers that generate a lot of heat. They have an air conditioner, but it does not much condition their air. But they are troopers and are patiently turning out the animation brilliance under the guidance of James.

If someone can tell me about the chicken, I would appreciate it.

McNuggetly Yours,

Sunday, September 04, 2005

day off!

It is Sunday, and it is a day off. I am thankful, Yesterday was a short one for me, as I was only called for four hours. There was a lot of stuff to do that did not have to do with me and though I found this reality ego-crushing, I sucked it up and was professional about it all.

Let me explain about the chihuahua above. That is Poirrot, the official mascot of SUPER VISION. Why is she the official mascot? Because Poirrot has very big eyes as you can tell from her fetching photograph and we figure if anyone is going to have supervision, it's going to be her. Poirrot is quite a creature. What she lacks in teeth, she makes up for in ferocious growling that sounds roughly like a human sneeze. She is sweet and approachable except when food is nearby and she is eating it or thinking of eating it and then her protective chihuahua nature comes out. She is very comfortable around the space and goes to her place in the front row and watches the show and naps. She belongs to Tanya's brother so she especially pays attention to Tanya's times on stage. As our mascot, she is seeking to rehabilitate the chihuahua image that was demonically planted in the US pop culture psyche by that horrible Taco Bell ad campaign a few years ago. Poirrot is a creature of great dignity and could give a hoot about chalupas. She's high art, people and you will be hearing more about Poirrot.

Today on the bridge I saw the sleeping man again. This time he was not near the subway tracks but was right next to the off-ramp into Manhattan. Sound asleep! I will take a picture at some point so you can see what I mean when I say it must be like sleeping on a median strip. To each his own.

Hope you are having a nice weekend everyone.


Saturday, September 03, 2005

cobra on the bridge

Hello Blogworld-

Today, riding across the Manhattan Bridge, I saw several big empty cans rolling around in the path. They were black and grey and silver and said Cobra on them. Now, I'm not sure what Cobra is exactly, but I would guess from the design that we're talking malt liquor. Tall boy cans with Cobra written in a sort of heavy metalloid font. If anyone out there can give some testimony about the nature of Cobra, I'd appreciate it. There are so many ways to get your buzz on now, I can't be expected to keep up with all the innovations in drinking.

I'd like to take a few moments to introduce the Builders and talk a bit about their jobs in the company. Today's installment features my observations on a fella we all love, Dan Dobson. That's Dan right at the top of toda's entry. He's standing in front of god's Little Warehouse (over his right shoulder) and the lovely Brooklyn Bridge is behind him. Dan is a Brooklyn man himself and proud. He is the sound designer for the show. Dan has been with the Builders for many years and many shows and is responsible for the aural landscape of the theatrical situations we cook up. Let me explain to those of you who have not yet had the pleasure of experienceing the theatrical experiences of which I speak, the sound is like another character in the pieces. It is not just "regular" theatre sound. It is not show tunes. It is not a soundtrack. It is a landscape that the show traverses from start to finish. And Dan is the guy who does his magic to make this richness happen. Like record album reviews, writing about sound is somewhat sad and I advise you all to come see the show to get the full-on Dan Dobson surround sound infiltration. I'm telling you, I have dreams where Dan's soundscape is the soundtrack! Freaky. But so good freaky.

Today we had unusual hours of operation and began work at noon and went until 7:00. Isn't that fascinating? We are working scenes individually and incorporating a ton of new material every day. The video unit and the animation unit are pounding out the visuals and they are getting more and more gorgeouser by the minute. These different tracks get laid in as we go: sound, lights, animation, video, acting, scenic. It is a process of aggregation, layering. So instead of all these elements that are considered "technical" coming in at the last week of rehearsal during what is traditionally called tech week in the theatre, they are there all along and are these other living presences in the piece. Or that's how I like to think of it. They are the co-stars with the humans.

Alright friends, I must get me to beddy-by now. Tomorrow is our last day of work this week and we are some tired Builders. Tired in a good way, from making stuff that we really care about. We are cultural workers, humble carpenters crafting things for others to appreciate, just like jesus christ.


Thursday, September 01, 2005

i feel the magic

Good morning world-

It is the exciting day after makeup! The picture above shows me applying something-or-other to give me the desired aged look for the show. Did I mention that I am playing a grandma? A Sri Lankan grandma? That's the avant garde for ya. We're all about the non-traditional casting here at the Builders Association and thanks to the magic of my genius stylist Dick and the forgiving nature of video, I will magically be transformed into Granny. It's so theatrical! Really really fun.

Rizwan Mirza, who plays "that handsome guy" (according to Granny), also got some makeup support so that he can attain the look of a haggard frequent flyer which should be familiar to anyone who has had to go through airport security or been made to brave the Long Island Railroad on a Friday evening. Dick made him look haggard, but could not take away the handsome part. Sorry that Granny objectifies you, Rizwan, but she's from that generation, you know.

We worked on the scenes where Granny appears with her granddaughter Jen, played by the fabulous Tanya Selvaratnam, and then had a story meeting with the creative brains of the operation, Marianne, James and Constance. Also in attendance was Kate Stannard, Marianne's super-capable assistant director, who has come to us from Glasgow. Ideas were flying and decisions were made about the direction of the scenes and the tone and the message and all of the important conversations that end up being distilled into the final product. The audience does not see all of this, but believe me, it's there.

Meanwhile, things are buzzing all about the space as Joe and Neal and their colleague Jamie McElhinney the tech manager continue to build and construct and, since it is the avant garde, deconstruct the set and its workings. Stewart Laing, the show's designer has created a beautiful design that serves a quite complicated set of technical demands of this piece elegantly. It is all coming together, with new pieces being added each day and it is all coming together beautifully.

All this to say that today, I think this thing is gonna be great. Rest assured, dear public, that we at the Builders are hard at work, burning the midnight oil to bring you the highest quality avant garde theatrical experience that blood, sweat and tears can coax and that money can buy. Isn't it so exciting for you? It is for us.

more later,
PS-On the bridge today, I saw a guy sleeping. No lie, he was sound asleep against a fence that keeps the subway trains separated from the pedestrian path. Five feet behind him, rumbled the passing D trains.