By Hannah Tarr
Editor’s Note: A&E reporter and copy editor Hannah Tarr is Co-Stage Manager for FC’s production of Newsies. This is a log of her day spent preparing for the show on the first day of rehearsals this summer.
7 a.m. June 4, 2018. I woke up. I ate breakfast to get fuel for the long day of Newsies work ahead of me.
7:15 I showered, then packed my bag with lunch and dinner.
7:50 I drove to school. I sang along to music to get myself hyped for the long day.
7:58 I arrived at school. To my surprise, no one else was in the parking lot except senior Jack Bishop, who was there for the lighting work session, which was scheduled to start at 8.
8 a.m. Bishop and I entered the school through the unlocked Performing Arts door. I put my lunchbox in the fridge in the theatre break room and we waited for people to show up.
8:13 Parent volunteers, the Star Boosters, had left a water cooler in the hallway for the cast to fill their water bottles with during rehearsals. Bishop and I took it to the custodial maintenance room and filled it with ice.
8:25 I texted the assistant lighting designer, junior Sam Hendrix, and found out the lighting session actually started at 9.
8:28 Bishop and I went to the picnic table outside the theatre door. I connected my laptop to my phone’s hotspot and started answering the dozen emails I had gotten in the past day. I emailed music director Angela Hampton about equipment we needed to borrow from her for recording rehearsals. I emailed a Star Booster about surprises she was planning for the cast and crew during rehearsals. I filed away some conflicts director Robbie Steiner had sent me into the spreadsheet we were keeping of when cast and crew members had scheduled absences from rehearsals. And so on.
8:56 Lighting designer Mike Nevitt, lighting mentor Sam Brown, and Crossfade (Nevitt’s lighting design company) employee Josh Robbins showed up, so we could now go back inside. They headed inside to get started while I wrapped up a few things on my computer.
9:10 Bishop went to help with lighting, and I started working in the tech office on printing paperwork.
The lighting crew were going to be doing light hang, where they hung the different lighting fixtures required by the show on their proper electrics, which are pipes that hang above the stage. During hang, some of the lighting crew would also have to be focused on cabling, to make sure each light was receiving power and information from the light board.
Meanwhile, I was printing cue sheets for every cast and crew member in the show. Cue sheets are used to tell cast and crew when and where they move set pieces during the show, including furniture pieces and our three giant towers. To clarify for them where those towers would go, we have created a transitions list, which shows who moves which tower during each of the 36 transitions of the show. This would be hung up in the hall for the cast and crew’s easy reference.
9:50 The printer had 70 jobs in its queue from all of those cue sheets and transitions, so I went onstage to start setting up the manager table and the keyboard. I set up a white table on the stage right half of the pit cover for me and my Co Stage Manager, graduate Makenna Baughman, to sit at. I put some chairs behind it, and brought the script, score, and Stage Manager Kit over to it. Our Stage Manager Kit, Franken “Stanley” Franklin, is a big Stanley brand toolbox that holds spike tape, scissors, pens, pencils, bandaids, Kleenex — anything cast or crew could need during a rehearsal. On the stage left side of the pit cover went the keyboard on its stand with a chair and a music stand for our rehearsal pianist, Jess Bullock. I grabbed a speaker from the lighting storage room in the choir room, called the lighthouse, and plugged it into the keyboard. But I could not figure out where the keyboard power cord was.
10:40 The whole transition list was printed, so I took a break from working on the keyboard and got to work taping up the transition list in the hallway. I had printed each of the 36 transitions on its own sheet of paper, so I was going to tape them all in a line down the hallway.
10:43 Steiner walked in. He was pleased to see that I was working on putting up the transitions list. “Are you excited for rehearsal to start?” he asked me, enthusiastic as ever. “Heck yeah,” I said, genuinely. Even though it had already taken me a lot of work today to begin getting ready, and there were even more hours of working before the cast would even show up, I could not wait to get started.
10:50 Sophomore Frances Crim walked in to help out, so I passed off to her my current job of taping up the transitions list. I went back onstage to get set for spiking the set pieces. I got all of the colors of spike tape out of Stanley and arranged them in rainbow order. I called up all of the ground plans on my laptop, which are drawings of the stage for each scene to show where the towers are supposed to be set. I grabbed a printoff of the Spike Color Key, which showed the color we spiked each groundplan in and the two or three letter code we wrote on each tiny mark. We had created this when we did the spiking for the show back in November, and we wanted to use the same colors and codes so the cast and crew would remember their spikes easier.
11 a.m. Sound mentor Brad Murphy asked me to add some sound work sessions to the Google calendar and master schedule spreadsheet, so I did. We keep a spreadsheet of the whole schedule of rehearsals and work sessions that people can look at, and it is the managers’ jobs to make sure that is synced with the Google calendar that everyone can add to their phones. By having both of these things, everyone can hopefully always know when they need to be at school.
11:07 Steiner asked me to email out the schedule for the day’s choreography review, so I did. Our choreographer, Megan Bliss, had decided to run a half dozen of the songs in show order, and I listed them for the cast. She was optimistic that if everyone came prepared, we would be able to get out early, and I let them know that, too.
11:10 I showed Crim the next step of the transitions list: taping up all of the ground plans to go with the transitions. I had the row of transitions arranged so that each would be in between a ground plan, meaning that people could see that the people assigned to the transition would take the sets from the first groundplan to the next. Hopefully, this long row of pictures and assignments helps people to visualize and understand their cues.
11:30 The lighting work session finished working on electrics, leaving the deck clear, so Crim, Baughman, Steiner, and I started spiking the set pieces. We moved the three giant metal towers to each ground plan and put the properly colored spike tape down on the floor to mark where they belonged. Then we labelled it with the code, and put packing tape over the spike to protect it from dancers and mops. We used the ground plans on my laptop in combination with the production video on Steiner’s to figure out exactly where each piece needed to go for each ground plan.
1 p.m. My brother, freshman Jason Tarr, was helping lighting cable backstage, so I asked him to heat up my leftover Chinese food that I had packed and set it on the manager table so I could eat as I walked by it. I was hungry, but we were working too hard for me to take a break until we were done.
4:40 We finally finished spiking all 19 placements! Except for some smaller furniture pieces that we decided to spike the next day.
4:41 Baughman sat down to rest. I, less civilized, laid on the floor. We talked to our former tech teacher, Evan Wise, about the crazy few weeks we had ahead of us.
4:53 I got a sandwich leftover from the weekend’s dance recital from the break room fridge and ate it on the couch in the tech office, reading Game of Thrones on my Kindle. It was nice to get to sit down and gather myself again before the 5:30 choreography review.
5:15 Break time was over. Baughman and graduate Mitchell Lewis dust mopped the deck, and I finished setting up the keyboard for Bullock. It turned out the missing cables had been in Stanley.
5:28 I took attendance through the microphone that graduate Jordan Burger had just finished setting up. I and Steiner really like having a rehearsal microphone, because it can be difficult to raise your voice above the din of a 74 member cast.
5:30 I helped people get their cue sheets from the giant stack of printoffs I had made. Some of the more prodigious of the cast and crew had kept their cue sheets from November, or printed them off again in the months between, because they had been studying them to stay prepared.
5:37 Bliss arrived and took over rehearsal from assistant choreographer Michael Hommrich, and she and Steiner talked to the cast about unity, and about the amazing journey we were starting on again. My heart swelled as I listened to their words. The managers had had meetings with Steiner, and we had had music rehearsals in the choir room, and dance captain reviews in the dance studio, but here we were again: onstage. It was so close to being real.
5:50 We started the first walkthrough of the first song of the show, “Carrying the Banner.” The actors danced through the song moment to moment, stopping whenever Bliss had a note or one of them had a question.
6:19 Bliss announced that she had just had her first tear up moment of the remount. I did not blame her. “Carrying the Banner” is an adrenaline pumped song sung when the newsies are starting their day of selling newspapers, and it shows their unity and optimism in the face of obstacles the streets of New York City threw at them. It could be a metaphor for us, starting rehearsals again. The cast did it with just as much energy and poise as they did the night we closed in November.
6:44 We finished working through “Carrying the Banner” and went back to run it again. It was even better the second time around.
7:16 We had gotten through “Carrying the Banner Tag” and “Reprise” as well, so we took a five-minute break. I set the timer on my phone, and announced the time remaining as it ticked down.
7:20 We began working on “The World Will Know.” This was an easier song to review than “Carrying the Banner” had been, because it is not as dance-heavy. But it was just as exciting. It is the number where the newsies get really mad at the newspaper owners and decide to go on strike. I got a little scared when the cast stomped downstage in an angry line and sang right in my and Baughman’s faces, “So the World says no!”
7:49 We finished reviewing “The World Will Know.” I got prop newspapers from Studio One to do “Seize the Day.” This was the number where the newsies actually went on strike. There is a part where the newsies tear newspapers in half, then dance on them, to really rub it in the newspaper owners’ faces. Our props master, senior Kirsten Gude, was not there, but she had told me where the newspapers were, so I got them for the cast to be able to rip up.
8:30 We finished “Seize the Day” and took another 5. The crew in attendance helped Baughman and I gather tables, benches, brooms, spoons, and trays needed for the final number, “King of New York.”
8:41 Locating all of those things had taken longer than a 5, but now we began working lifts in “King of New York.” It is always important to work lifts and fights out of context before you get to them in a song or the show, so you know that everyone involved is prepared to do it safely.
8:45 We began working the choreography of “King of New York.” This is a tap number, and tap has been FC’s forte since 42nd Street two years ago.
9:10 Rehearsal was over and the cast was dismissed. We had not gotten out early, as we had hoped, but we had gotten a lot done, so I think everyone was okay with that.
9:11 I gave a new script to sophomore Nathan Long. We had gotten brand new scripts from Music Theatre International for the remount, because we had returned our old ones, and in the months since some lines had been added and character names had been changed. I checked that number script out to Long in a spreadsheet, so we could track him down if he does not return it after we close.
9:13 Baughman and I talked to Bliss about what we would need to do for fight call for the remount. In the spaces we are remounting in, we will not have as much time to look at the fights and lifts before each show as we did when we performed in November. We decided I would email the cast to get their input on how to cut down on time, since they were the ones who would be missing out on practice.
9:15 Baughman and I began walking around the theatre doing strike: putting up props, putting away furniture, gathering abandoned water bottles, picking up left behind scripts.
9:20 Baughman and I debriefed with Lewis, since Steiner was talking to Bliss. During debrief, we typically ran through each note that would be in the night’s rehearsal report with Steiner. Lewis had been at all of the debriefs with me and the rest of the management for The Hunchback of Notre Dame, since he had been co director, so we figured we would debrief with him instead of waiting on Steiner.
9:30 Baughman and I went back to striking things.
9:42 We emptied the water cooler and left. I sang along to more jams on the way home. I had to stay awake and in a good mood because my work was not over just because I got to go home.
9:50 I got home and took a break: I ate a snack and caught up on my phone.
10:17 I typed up sent out the rehearsal report. From my student email account, I sent the report to all the members of the student production team for them to read, and from the FC Stage Manager email account I sent it to the adult production staff. I decided to take another break, and sat down and read more Game of Thrones.
11 p.m. I replied to more emails. I had gotten eight more over the course of the day that needed replies. Most were from parents of crew members wondering if their kids had to be at rehearsals in the coming days, so I had to check each tech’s cue sheet to see if they were involved in transitions that we would be running in each rehearsal, and then reply to the parent with my findings.
11:23 I started proofreading the program we were planning to use at the Kentucky Center. I had to check for typos on each page, as well as look closely at cast and crew lists to make sure they were totally accurate. I thought gravely of the four thousand people I thought would be reading this program in Whitney Hall. I did not want any typos or mistakes to slip through my fingers for them to read. I had no way to know that this audience would ultimately be in Floyd Central’s auditorium. Even if I had known, I would have combed the words just as closely. It is still a huge honor and privilege to be remounting Newsies before taking it to the International Thespian Festival. Our three sell-out shows speak to the fact that the Louisville community wants to see our show regardless of what venue it is in, or side of the river it is on. I am so thankful for that.
12:06 I finished proofing the program but decided it was too late at night to send the email with my corrections. I brushed my teeth and put on pajamas.
12:23 I read Game of Thrones in bed until I fell asleep. I had to get up at 7:45 the next day, and the day after that, to do it all again.
Newsies was slated to open tomorrow night at the Kentucky Center for the Arts, but because of the recent fire at the Kentucky Center, the show is opening tonight at Floyd Central instead. The sold-out run performs Thursday and Friday at 8 and Saturday at 2 On Sunday, the cast and crew travel to Nebraska to perform the show at the International Thespian Festival. You can follow and support their journey on social media with the hashtag #FCTANewsies.