Author Topic: VENUES: Outdoor Theatre, revisited  (Read 3428 times)

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Maribeth

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VENUES: Outdoor Theatre, revisited
« on: Sep 17, 2015, 09:10 pm »
Something we haven't talked about in a while- outdoor venues! I just had my first rehearsal onstage (of a musical) in an outdoor venue, and wanted to share my experience and hear about yours.

Things to prep for:
  • What can be left outside/what can't
  • Bug spray and sunscreen!
  • Having water and cups available (and reminding folks to hydrate)
  • Hard playing surface (needing to add insoles to shoes)
  • Weather plan/checking the weather each day
  • Making sure not to damage surroundings! including but not limited to damage to grass/plants, leaving trash outside, making sure cables don't damage surroundings (cable runs instead of tape), etc
  • Needing additional sound support, and lots of ambient noise. Create a "top" level for mics so that the engineer can boost sound if the surroundings are louder
  • Limited power
  • Different lighting at different times of day
  • Dress appropriate! Hat, sunglasses, light layers, good footwear
  • Communication- walkie talkies? How are actors cued? What is the communication with FOH?
  • Plan for longer breaks if water/restrooms are farther away
  • Instruments going out of tune quickly due to temperature/humidity- having extras, or a plan to re-tune

Things I really wish I had done differently after my first day outside:
  • Brought more snacks! And more water, annoying to have to go and refill my water bottle on breaks
  • Brought a 2nd pair of shoes to change into (my favorite trick for long days)
  • Made sure I really took breaks. Totally exhausted by the end of the day.

What's your experience been with outdoor theatre? Any tips and tricks?

PSMKay

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Re: VENUES: Outdoor Theatre, revisited
« Reply #1 on: Sep 17, 2015, 10:35 pm »
Always be on the alert for critters. They don't have call times and don't observe theatre etiquette. (I had a startled skunk go off on me while footing a ladder once. Not fun.)

Maggie K

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Re: VENUES: Outdoor Theatre, revisited
« Reply #2 on: Sep 18, 2015, 05:57 am »
My additions/experiences:

1. Dress in layers and have an extra set of clothes handy (including the shoes already mentioned.)  I've had days where it was boiling while the sun was up and then the temp dropped drastically when it got dark.  As for the extra set of clothes, if you get caught in the rain you don't want to spend the rest of the day in damp clothes.  If you're going to be doing a lot of outdoor theatre it may be a good time to invest in some waterproof shoes that will keep your feet dry.

2. Security!  How accessible are your work areas to the public?  How do you recognize who is allowed backstage and who isn't?  Where do you put valuable items, including any weapon storage?  I usually tell the cast and crew not to bring any valuable items with them just to be safe.  What are your protocols if there is a breach in security?  Once during rehearsal we had someone hop the fence and claim someone with a gun was after him!  Another time, the audience got to choose whether to watch the show or the cops breaking up the drug deal on the hill behind us.

3. If it's really hot, take more frequent breaks even if it's more than the union requires.  Everyone's health is far more important.

4.  Keep extra towels on hand.  If the temp drops at night you can get condensation on surfaces.  One summer we had to wipe down the deck at intermission because it would get so slick.  I also had to wipe down any furniture before it went onstage to make sure it was dry.

5.  Paper gets soggy if it's humid.  If you have paper props in the show, have some paper weights and plenty of extras.  One gust of wind can ruin your prop table.  I favored keeping things in plastic totes and only getting them out right before they were needed.  A bit more work for the crew during the show, but it saved time on getting things under cover if it started to rain.  I also stored my script inside one of the trailers so that it was safe from the elements when we weren't working.

6.  If you do not have easy access to a water source invest in a lot of baby wipes or moist towelettes.  A good way to cool off is to rub down your arms and neck.  It's also feels heavenly if you get some of the layers of dirt, sweat, bug spray, and sunscreen off before you have to apply the next layer.  Having a solar shower on hand is great too if you're doing a show that can get messy.  We had one actor who really appreciated getting most of the blood off before he went home.

7.  As mentioned, be prepared for critters.  One year we learned that red tail hawks like to have a place that is high up in the middle of a clear space where they can easily see everything around them.....while they eat.  Everyone was really excited when the first one landed on the truss.  Until pieces of dead pigeon started raining down onto the stage.  We then turned into the Red Tail Hawk Diner and had to check the stage every day for partially eaten carcasses.  The half-eaten headless rat was my personal favorite.

All in all, I'd say most of my best war stories come from doing outdoor theatre.  Anything and everything can happen.  You have to be prepared for so many things that you never even have to think about when you're inside.  But I wouldn't trade a single moment or experience!

(One of these days I will have to share The Tale of THE BED)
I like the ephemeral thing about theatre, every performance is like a ghost - it's there and then it's gone. -Maggie Smith

Maribeth

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Re: VENUES: Outdoor Theatre, revisited
« Reply #3 on: Sep 18, 2015, 07:26 pm »
Always be on the alert for critters. They don't have call times and don't observe theatre etiquette. (I had a startled skunk go off on me while footing a ladder once. Not fun.)

Charmingly, we often have butterflies or birds fly through the stage area. Since the show is about nature, it couldn't be more perfect. I'm hoping we never get any squirrels. :)

Maribeth

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Re: VENUES: Outdoor Theatre, revisited
« Reply #4 on: Sep 18, 2015, 07:28 pm »
3. If it's really hot, take more frequent breaks even if it's more than the union requires.  Everyone's health is far more important.

We're actually planning some shorter rehearsal days- even a 5-6 hour day feels much longer in the heat.

Aerial

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Re: VENUES: Outdoor Theatre, revisited
« Reply #5 on: Sep 20, 2015, 10:46 pm »
Quote
5.  Paper gets soggy if it's humid.  If you have paper props in the show, have some paper weights and plenty of extras.  One gust of wind can ruin your prop table.  I favored keeping things in plastic totes and only getting them out right before they were needed.  A bit more work for the crew during the show, but it saved time on getting things under cover if it started to rain.  I also stored my script inside one of the trailers so that it was safe from the elements when we weren't working.

This summer I put all my paper props in those zipping plastics document folders, attached to the back wall of the set.  This worked great for keeping them contained in the wind, and we could zip them up quickly if it started to rain mid-show.


Maribeth

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Re: VENUES: Outdoor Theatre, revisited
« Reply #6 on: Sep 23, 2015, 02:41 pm »
Something I've been learning regarding musical instruments: We set them as late as possible, as they get out of tune quickly in the heat/other elements. So, the actors do a tune before the show, then the instruments are set at the last minute, and they have tuners on them so that the actors can do a quick re-tune if needed when they pick them up to play.

christina

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Re: VENUES: Outdoor Theatre, revisited
« Reply #7 on: Sep 30, 2015, 04:17 pm »
I've been working in a permanent outdoor theater for a few years, and all of this advice proves very true! 

Ziplock baggies and little tuppware containers have been very useful for delicate and paper props, and printing checklists and papers on stiffer paper has worked well for the SM team. 

Since we are a permanent venue, and pack in our props and furniture each night we don't have to worry about the public getting into our things, which is really great. 

Grip tape (with staples) is also a must, as we can get some fairly damp evenings, as well as actual rain, and sometimes dance rubber on shoes and the grit we always have painted into the deck of our set is not enough.

For cold nights we always set out blankets for actors backstage, and for hot days we make gatorade in bulk, and have buckets with ice and washcloths stationed at strategic spots.

BUT! I have a question for the hive mind about prop tables and what to use to write on them! 

We have those off-white plastic tables, and leave them outside overnight.  So spike tape comes off relatively easy with the heat during the day and damp in the evenings.
Right now we are using spike tape with clear packing tape over, which worked really great through hot days and dewy evenings, but we just had a night where it rained hard.  And almost none of the tape stayed on the table.

I have written with sharpie directly on them in the past, but it is a pain to get off during strike. 

Is there some kind of large wax paper I should be covering my tables with?

Any ideas? 



SamanthaR

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Re: VENUES: Outdoor Theatre, revisited
« Reply #8 on: Sep 30, 2015, 05:01 pm »
I would stick with the sharpie and use denatured alcohol to remove it at the end of the show. Another thought it contact paper, but I am bot sure how well it would stick to the texture of the tables. I'd be curious to know what you come up with!
wee but mighty

Maribeth

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Re: VENUES: Outdoor Theatre, revisited
« Reply #9 on: Sep 30, 2015, 06:58 pm »
You could also try using a china marker/grease pencil right on the table. They usually stay put in high heat situations (like you would use to label gels) but come off with soap and water.

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Maggie K

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Re: VENUES: Outdoor Theatre, revisited
« Reply #10 on: Oct 02, 2015, 09:46 pm »
You could also label a plastic tablecloth and strike the tablecloth along with the props. An extra step but less clean up.
I like the ephemeral thing about theatre, every performance is like a ghost - it's there and then it's gone. -Maggie Smith

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