Well Detroit is everything I thought it would be! The theater is in the downtown area, which is really rundown and empty. I was surprised to see that there aren’t even really any restaurants around – I would have thought that people going to the theater would need places to eat but I guess not! The Fisher Theater, where we are playing, is luckily in a building which also has a few shops and places to get food, so it is not an entirely inconvenient location to be performing. There is actually a pretty good coffee shop in the building as well as a post office, deli and funnily enough, a really great yarn shop called City Knits which of course makes me really happy!
Tuesday was my first day of work. Rachel and Lee (our drummer) picked me up at 7:30am and we headed towards Detroit from Troy, the suburban town where we are staying. We immediately hit traffic – welcome to Detroit! We managed to get to the theater shortly after 8:00am though, so were not too late for our call. The stage door for the Fisher is accessed through an old gas station – how appropriate is that? Our crew and the local stagehands had been up all night loading the show in. Ken, the PSM, had also been there all night, so needless to say, everyone was not in the finest of moods by the time we got there, for lack of sleep. The load-in actually went really well though and everything was in ahead of schedule. Rachel went through all my responsibilities for load-in with me, which mainly entail getting the dressing room areas set up with cots, valuables bags, and signage, and setting up the houseboard, getting water stations set up, the call desk set up, ordering office supplies, setting up our desk areas, and getting the stage ready for actors – putting down white tape where needed and touching up the spikes.
The Fisher Theater presents an interesting challenge as it is very tight backstage. We have no crossover on deck, everyone has to use the basement to get from stage right to stage left, so we had to do some strategizing to figure out how to make that work with quick changes, etc. The wing space is also really tight, so much of the scenery and large props are hung in the air and it is a jigsaw puzzle in figuring out when things can be set-up and where to put them when they come offstage.
The show that night was an interesting experience. “Spamalot” travels with two carpenters, two prop staff, and one flyman…so in each city local stagehands are added to round out the crew. They spend all day Tuesday loading the show in and then go into running the show that night with no rehearsal. The two ASMs split the deck for the first three nights in a city – one on stage right and one on stage left, and we basically have to talk through the show as it goes with the new stagehands. It was a bit nutty the first night in Detroit as we had not only 2 local carpenters and a local props person on each side who were learning the show, but also two new ensemble cast members doing their first performance as well as a bevy of local wardrobe crew who were running the show for the first time. Couple that with a theater that has no backstage space and it made for a bit of chaos! It was really fun though to see how it all works backstage. Everyone kept saying it was the craziest first night they’ve had jesince they were in Toronto, which was also a very small theater. I had quite a few people come up to me at the end of the night asking me if I had signed a contract, and would I be coming back the next day! They thought the first night might have scared me away…not likely!
I wish I had some good pictures of the interior of the theater but even with a flash the ones I have taken are still very dark. It’s quite a sight. Very seventies. Just think gold. Everywhere. Seats, walls, everywhere. Wow. Hopefully I will be able to get some decent pictures before I leave. The one at the top of this entry is about as good as it gets for the pictures I have taken of the theater so far.
It has been great seeing the old cast members again and meeting all the new ones who have joined the company since I did rehearsals with the show last winter. And the crew all seem really great. Everyone has been very welcoming.
So tonight we “marry” the deck, which means only one deck stage manager and the crew are essentially left to their own devices in many cases. So we’ll see what happens. Hopefully no train wrecks. I will shadow tonight and tomorrow and then start running the deck alone on Sunday. Rachel leaves Monday and then I start to learn to call the show.
In terms of sightseeing, I went the giant Somerset mall on Wednesday with Rachel and Rick. It is enormous! We went intending to Christmas shop and instead all we got was a Charlie Brown Christmas tree for Brian (the other stage manager) from Urban Outfitters. It’s a great mall though…I’m sure I’ll be spending some more time there. It’s funny how much you appreciate the mall after living in the city for some time.
Here’s Rick and Rachel in front of Santa’s Castle at the mall:
There is also a ton of info and exhibits on all of American history, from the Civil War to civil rights – they have the bus that Rosa Parks rode, and all kinds of other bits and pieces from American history. Very cool. They also had a mock-up of a teenager’s room from 1987 that looked just like mine did, with a Cabbage Patch Kid and Depeche Mode poster and other fun ‘80’s memorabilia.
There is also a car factory tour and a reproduction of a historic American village, which I did not get a chance to see, but hopefully if I go back I will.