A few weeks ago, my friend Kevin contacted me on Facebook. A friend of his was a in a clown troupe who would be performing in Vilnius and might have need for a stage manager. So I contacted Kevin’s friend, who put my in touch with Iryna, one of the clowns and the partner of Dimitri, the guy who had created the show – a show called Aga-Boom.
They were coming to Vilnius for less than 72 hours and my job would be to call the show with the local operators. Piece of cake, right? Sure, except this was a clown show, and while it was technically a scripted piece, it was silent and I didn’t really know the show. Sure, Dimitri, had sent me a video of the show, but it was an amateur recording, in three parts (with bad time code) and blocked visuals or skipped frames at the important bits so I was going to be flying a bit blind. That was okay, I’d been there before. My theatre background involved not only performing, but also backstage wizardry. At one time, I had to rebuild a homemade light board in-between acts at the Las Vegas Little Theatre (back when they were housed in a shopfront next to a Stop-n-Go and had a structural support pole in the middle of the stage). Add this to my time in the booth at The Groundlings and I figured I could handle most anything.
The plan was this: They would arrive Friday night. Saturday, we’d meet up and then Sunday, the day of the show, we’d have rehearsals starting at 8am until showtime at 5 that afternoon. They were then scheduled on a 6am flight Monday morning. No problem. Irene asked me to come to Vilnius for noon on Saturday so I did. We met for breakfast and I got to meet the rest of the group – I’d already sort of met Iryna and Dimitri on Skype so now I met Jesse (Kevin’s friend who had made the original introductions) and Anton, the sound guy. As it was the first time in Vilnius for some of the troupe (and the first time in a long time for others) I joined them on a brief tour of the city given by one of the Festival organizers (to be fair, it was more of a drive around town than a tour, but it was still fun). The biggest thing for me was getting to know everyone and get a bit comfortable.
We ended up at the venue that afternoon to do a little bit of prep work, which involved making a 30 meter screen out of a roll of paper. This was an interesting experience. I was used to walking around barefoot on scrim paper (thanks Richard Faverty) but I’d never made a screen before. And since I’d watched the video of the show a few times, I knew this screen would get thoroughly destroyed before the night was over. After the 45 minutes or so of building it, I was kinda glad they were only doing one show, otherwise we would have spent all day making these. The end result was amazing though. It looks seamless and is well worth the effort.
On show day, things began to get a little harried. The show packs fairly small, but is in reality a big show, and the end involves a number of balloons of various sizes which all needed to be inflated. Various props needed to be built and the light needed to be set. Here’s where problem number one came in: The light guy wasn’t used to the board and software we had. At least not using it as a theatrical board. He was a live concert guy, which is fine for stand-up comics (the other acts at the festival) but for a show he was a bit out of his element. Add to that the software wouldn’t do what he wanted so whenever we’d set a cue, it would change or vanish or we wouldn’t be able to get it back. This put us way behind schedule. By the time we wanted to do a cue to cue, the lights were only about half set and the second spot had yet to be set-up (in fact, the second spot wouldn’t get set-up until just before showtime). We did our “run through” and waited for the audience to come in.
The show itself, from an audience stand-point, was great. There were laughs and applause in all the right places. From a tech stand-point, it was a bit of a mess. The general “we’ll make it happen” attitude of the crew was a bit frustrating in that the timing was off and I was bad at making sure the cues were 100%, but as trials of fire go, I didn’t get burned too badly.
In the end, we all had a good time, I think. And I’m ready to jet off next time Aga-Boom has a show anywhere in Europe. I know how to do things differently (and better) for next time.