Rip Van Cashwell

Technically, that title is inaccurate, as it suggests I've spent the last little while in protracted sleep. If anything, the opposite is true, and not just because I was up until 3:30 grading papers last night. No, this sleep deprivation goes back to well before Halloween. In fact, I think the rush of events begins on Thursday, October 28th. Walk with me down memory lane...


I've got classes... I've got rehearsal for the play I'm directing (Larry Shue's The Foreigner)... and I've got dorm duty! Yes, as on all duty days, I'm wandering the library during our nightly study hall, except when I'm wandering the halls of two dormitories for which I am also responsible. At 10:00, I get to head out of the library and stay on dorm for check-in; once the boys are all present and I've called in the roster to the school switchboard, it's just a matter of settling them down and staying on dorm until 11:30. That gets me home just before midnight, but I've got to get up early, because...

FRIDAY 10/29

Today's the day I'm driving Thing Two to Newport News to check out the campus of Christopher Newport University. It's about a 2.5-hour trip, and with a 10:00 appointment, I tell him we need to get out of Dodge by 7:00, particularly since we'll have to dodge traffic in Richmond in the midst of its rush hour. Sure enough, circa 8:30, we're slammed to a halt at the junction of I-64 and I-95, but things thin out a bit a few miles later when the two roads split again. We make the appointment with a few minutes to spare, check out the classroom buildings, dorm rooms, student union and library before we're turned loose to dine in the dining hall (which makes, if I say so myself, a pretty fair General Tso's chicken). We also sneak into the theater to check out the facilities, as Thing Two is planning a career in drama; they pass muster with him, and then it's back into the car so I can get back to campus in time for Friday's run-through. (I got my classes covered by colleagues, but only I can supervise this rehearsal.) Once that's done, I get the last time off that I'll have for a very long time: five uninterrupted hours before bed!

If I haven't mentioned it before, I teach a class at 8:00 Saturday morning. And another at 8:45. And another at 9:30. But then I'm free! I can change clothes, go to the theater and dive into Tech Day! Yes, everything as yet unbuilt, unhung, unpainted, unfocused, or unmoved must be built, hung, painted, focused, or moved. We fight (again) with the trapdoor, set the downstage walls up, hang lights, rehang some lights, and sling paint around like Impressionists on crack. It's a long process which keeps me in the theater until nearly midnight, and then it's time for:

SUNDAY 10/31
I celebrate Halloween by going into the theater at 8:30 to go through light cues, then set up a sound plot; this is a mix of harmonica- and banjo-heavy music for pre-show, entreact, and post-show segments, plus bunches and bunches of BBC-recorded sound effects. Since the play takes place on several stormy nights, there is much work to be done with thunder, lightning, and wind, plus a few engines and one large explosion. I'm not quite finished when our technical run-through begins at 1:00. The actors are in full costume for the first time, but props are still missing and we can't really run through the sounds yet. At least we handle the lighting. Unfortunately, the scene involving the melting Klansman just isn't working. We can't keep his robe from going down into the trapdoor with him, and it's got to remain onstage in a small pile. Maybe a fan in the orchestra pit can inflate it? I change into coat and tie for dinner with my advisees, then head to the school newspaper office to do a final copy-edit to my friend Greg's house to grade papers in front of the only NFL game I'll get to see all week.


Class begins at 8:00, as it does every Monday, and takes me until 3:15. (There's also a department meeting, as it's the first Monday of the month.) I finish setting up the sound plot, get a computer from the technology department, and arrange the CD tracks into a usable playlist for the show. Then it's time to rush around buying a few necessary props--foodstuffs we'll need for the breakfast scene, mainly. Dinner's at 5:30, then it's a 6:30 call for dress rehearsal. We've still got a handful of props that simply aren't there--air props! AAAARGH!--and a couple of scenes still aren't clicking. We'll need to run through them on Tuesday afternoon and evening. Worse, while we have sound effects, we've got a neophyte at the sound board, and I'm going to need to go over every cue with him on Tuesday before rehearsal. We try the melting Klansman trick with the fog machine going and a fiery orange light shining up out of the pit, but the fog and the press of bodies obscure the light. We've also got techies in the pit using dowels to hold the robe up while the actor disappears from under it. It's still not working. A leaf blower? We've got to figure out something. I wrap up around 11:00. Bed by midnight.


A late start--8:45!--gives me a little momentum for the day, but that dissipates after class as I work the breakfast scene repeatedly. Then it's time for prop work--the prop master arrives and I put him on the job of tracking down ALL the props we still don't have! A few more lighting and sound issues must be dealt with, and then it's time for a quick bite before the sound and light men run through cues with me at 6:00. A cue-to-cue involves just going through every sound and light cue in a show without any of the intervening lines or events on stage; I read the script into the Telex headphones and the sound and light men make the noises and lights happen. This one, even with a four-year veteran at the light board, takes 90 minutes; since the whole show takes only 110, it's pretty clear that our new sound man is facing a pretty steep learning curve. The scene we worked on clicks, though. I just have one more scene we'll have to run through, though I think the drama department chairman wants me to re-rehearse the whole show. In bed by midnight... ish.


8:00 class--I don't think I've actually managed to grade anything yet this week, though. Class ends at 3:15, then it's work though a few more tech issues. At least the props seem to be taken care of. Dinner at 5:30, then some quick scene work and brief attention to sound cues. We're giving up on the lights and dowels in the pit; the Klansman will melt with techies' hands reaching up under his robe serving to keep the robe onstage. And what do you know, it works!


Opening night. I'm pretty sure I had classes, but who remembers? We go up at 8:00 p.m. with a decent-sized crowd and wrap up at 9:55, with a standing ovation for the actor playing Charlie. Yes!

Second night. Fewer classes, fewer panics. A day in molasses. Energized by the first show, the cast goes through the script picking up cues even faster; we wrap up at 9:52 with a SECOND standing ovation.


Last night. Classes go smoothly and I find time for a brief collapse in the early afternoon. One of the cast members' mother is taking care of the whole cast party, so I have nothing left to do except type up my last set of notes for the cast and post them backstage. We finish the run at 9:55 with a THIRD standing O. Three for three! The cast party involves barbecue in great quantities, courtesy of the Gordonsville's own BBQ Exchange, a great new restaurant for those who enjoy the 'cue. We also bring the set's gumball machine to the party so the cast can lie under it when we open up the side full of M&Ms. There's a chocolate spill of BP-like proportions. Everyone tries to play Guitar Hero, then sits back to watch The Lion King before heading out at midnight for dorms. I stagger home bearing 'cue, rolls, pumpkin muffins, potato salad, baked beans, and slaw in ungodly amounts.


I rested. Leftover BBQ at my buddy Greg's house while we watched NFL games. Then advisee dinner, and then a trip to the school newspaper office, where I begin a lengthy job of copy-editing that lasts until 1:00 in the morning. But the paper's due by 9:00 a.m. Monday, so...


Oh, yeah. Classes! I has them! From 8:00 to 3:15. I also have a meeting with the parents of a student who is not doing well here, and since they've flow several thousand miles to get here, I feel they deserve what shreds of attention I have to offer. At last I get to put on the jeans and T once more to tear up the set at strike. I climb ladders, haul lumber, and work myself into a frenzy to take it all down in a single two-hour orgy of entropy, then feel so drained after dinner that I fall into bed at 8:30 and don't wake until the next morning.


Oh dear lord. I have HOW many writing conferences to prepare for?


It's the Marine Corps' birthday, and I really, really wish there were Leathernecks on hand to rescue me from my alarm clock.

So how have you been?

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on November 10, 2010 7:22 PM.

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