Sunday, September 07, 2008

Never a dull moment

We had our first two show day on Fela! today, and boy did it suck! The air conditioning at 37 Arts is never the most reliable thing in the world, as I know well from last year, and today was apparently one of its off days. It was stupid hot on stage for both shows, and keeping mics attached to actors (where by actors I mean crazy-ass dancers who sing) was a constant challenge. The ladies were so humid in the dressing room that it was hard to even tape them up initially, and once they get to serious sweating, no hope. 

The ladies weren't the real problem though, the real problem turned out to be Sahr. Sahr plays the lead, Fela Kuti, and he, quite literally, does not leave the stage during act one. Not once. There's not even a way to sneak him off while something else happens, because nothing else happens. It's completely and totally the Sahr show. (This theme continues into act two, but there are two quick changes, one of which can be made to afford us about a minute if we need to repair or replace something.) Since there is no way to get Sahr off stage, and the show is set in a club to begin with, the emergency back up for his mic is the handheld 58 that he uses for the intro and subsequently leaves on a stand with the band. As I'm sure you've guessed by now, we lost Sahr's mic, victim of the excessive heat induced sweat, in the beginning of the matinee's act one, and had to scramble to work around the handheld for some of his onstage actions. (Hard to roll a joint with one hand, right?) At intermission we changed out the entire thing, as Reid had heard some popping as well. New transmitter, new cable, new element - with freshly sewn on (by me) windscreen. New everything. The switch was smooth, the fix effective. During act two I lost a transmitter on one of the key women, Nicole, but nothing drastically out of the ordinary, and easily fixed on a costume change.

We wrote the whole thing off. At least it was the matinee. Fixed Nicole up, and headed out for dinner. Apparently it was monsoon season in NYC this afternoon. We were totally soaked before we'd even gone half a block! Dripping, we ate our tasty kebab rolls from the Pakistani place and rushed back to reset for the second run.

All was well at RF check, no problems. Sahr's old mic, given time to dry out and a brisk squirt with canned air, was miraculously revived, but we opted to stick with the new-brand-new one. Better safe than sorry.

We thought.

This time it went by the end of the first number. Same thing. Sweat rolled right down into the element and this time there was no salvaging it. Total goner. I'm quite sure that's the shortest life of any E6 I've ever encountered. Less than two hours. So again, Sahr spent the first act on the handheld, with some adjustments around it. And again, we swapped out at intermission. This time we were forced to go back to the earlier mic, as we were totally out of spares at that point (we lost another yesterday and haven't received replacements yet), but we got lucky and it sounded ok. We did err on the side of distance from his face, in an attempt to avert further disaster, and that lead to a lot of breath noise, that would have made me crazy, if I hadn't already been there.

Fortunately, Sahr is a total pro and takes everything in stride, including the appearance in the audience of Beyonce and Jay-Z, which pretty much tripped all the women out. (They said it was good though, that they were so tired by then that having celebs added energy to the show for them.) I'm not a big fan of either myself, but I now have a positive impression of them both because they made a point of staying around after the show for a meet and greet (and some photos for our cast) with the company. It's always nice to see celebrities engaging like that, rather than running off after the show in order to avoid the paparazzi. (Looking at YOU, Katie Holmes. We totally saw you do that the other day.)

After the show, while Reid was talking to folks about our show (awful), the real Fela Kuti's manager talked to him a bit about the PA that they had cobbled together for Fela back in the day, and that no matter what anyone else said, it sounded great, just like Fela would have wanted it himself. I was really glad to see Reid get that sort of affirmation, because his job in mixing this show is an absolute beast and I'm not sure how much anyone realizes that.

There really wasn't anything we could have done differently today, so I'm not going to dwell on it for long. AC craps out, actors sweat, gear fails. Nothing to be done about it.

I still felt like an asshole though.

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