Monday, 28 July 2014

Hooded and Miked for a Musical?

Klaus-Louis Jansen van Vuuren, Chandré Bo, Gerrit Scheeprs and Aliza Graham

This past week Music! – The Musical? a new musical written by myself and my friend Mr Gerrit Scheepers debuted at the Krekvars Student Arts Festival. When it comes to staging, musicals contain a whole new set of challenges. Technical challenges I rarely have to deal with when directing and staging straight drama or dance and physical theatre productions. Such as head microphones. With receivers. Head microphones we pay for per production and technical rehearsal and are temperamental at best. For both our technical rehearsals Aliza Graham’s head mic decided to stop working at the beginning of the run. And with a cast of four where three of us never leave the stage there is no opportunity to switch microphones, or to fix anything once we've started the run. Luckily for us she does have a strong voice, and she could still be heard without her mic, but as we started the tech run, sans her microphone, I told her not to push her voice. Save it for the actual show.

Klaus getting Aliza's mic pack in her dress while I'm tuning the guitar before our technical rehearsal

I know no premier runs 100% smoothly. There are always things that need to be fixed after the first run. Something unforeseen. But I do try to plan

For marketing the day of our first show there was an opportunity to perform a 5 minute excerpt of the shows. Also for marketing purposes I had bought 4 hoodies to be printed with the show’s name the Friday before. My planning was sound. We had a rehearsal the morning from 8 to 12 to work in the notes a friend had given from our technical run the weekend before. At 1 I was to fetch the hoodies giving me enough time to go home, shower and get ready to perform the excerpt at 3 and then be ready to move into the theatre at 4:30 to perform at 6. I should have known that something wouldn't go as planned.

During rehearsals we realized that 1: only Gerrit and I would be able to perform the excerpt; and 2 there would also be no place and cabling for a keyboard, so it was either up to the guitar. The songs played with the guitar were all sung by Aliza. The song on the ukulele sung by the entire cast was our only option, so Gerrit and I had to pull it off. The text leading into the song played by the ukulele was performed by Gerrit and Aliza. I wrote the script, so I had an idea of the words. We went through the text and song quickly twice before I was off for the hoodies.

I arrived at the shop just after one to pick up the hoodies. The secretary in the office was not the same lady who had taken my order. I should have known. She went round the back for order and returned empty handed. She made a phone call to her colleague who had taken my order and was now on leave. As she flipped through the order book I saw my sheet.
“Chandré” and “Music! – The Musical?” were written along with the quote and information pertaining to the sizes of the lettering.
I showed it to her. She retreated into the workspace and returned without the hoodies:
“I think your order got lost between the orders”
This made no sense to me “Are these your hoodies?”
She showed me the large plastic bag with the 4 black hoodies inside and the word “MUSIC” written on the back with a black marker.
“Those are my hoodies” I said redundantly.
“When do you need them by?”
I wanted to say NOW
“At the very latest I need them by 2:30” it was 1:30 already. I still had to go home and shower and to my makeup, which as I have written before is challenging.
“It’ll be done by 2:30. Did you email my colleague the image you want on the shirts”
“I gave it to her on a flash drive. She saved the image.”
“Her computer is hanging.”
Excruciating minutes later.
“Oh, here is your image, but it doesn’t want to open. Can you email it to me instead?”
I raced home with her business card in my hand. I fired up my laptop and sent the image to her. I jumped into the shower. As I got dressed I saw the email on my phone with a slightly altered image:
“Would this work for you”
I replied that it would and I wondered how far the printing was by then. I dried myself, painted on a face fit for the stage and ran out of my flat at top speed with sopping wet hair. At 2:35 I walked into their offices again.
“I'll go check if your shirts are ready”
They weren’t. I could feel my soul start to whither. Especially when the technician walked around to the reception area where I was standing. He asked me some or other technical question while holding up a very-much unprinted hoodie. I had no idea what he was asking:
“I need to leave now…with the hoodies”
“Don’t worry Mam, it will only take 10 minutes”
“I have to leave in 5 minutes. I need to perform with these hoodies at 3”
The secretary answered the question and sent him on his way. Then looked at me in a very awkward silence.
“Well, can I pay so long so that I can leave as soon as he is finished?”
“Yes, we can do that”
I wanted to bang my head on her desk. Or perhaps hers.

At quarter to 3 I flew out of their offices with four printed hoodies, and receipt, for which I was offered no discount. And at 3 Gerrit and I were on stage in our hoodies, performing an excerpt which was not our own for marketing purposes. At 10 past 5 Aliza flew into the theatre, after being stuck in traffic with no makeup on. We taped her into her mic and checked her for sound, she did her makeup at top speed and was ready to go on stage as the show started. Her microphone worked.

For two technical rehearsals the rest of our cast had had no microphone problems. The housing station for the head mic taped to my and neck stayed in put on the band of my jeans. During our first show, the mic pack freed itself from the band of my jeans while on stage, taking some of my hair with it as the tape ripped from my neck on its decent. But by some or other miracle it still worked. 

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