Tag Archives: #stagemanager

The Irreplaceable Magic of Live Entertainment

heartbeat

Since the Covid19 lockdown began in Germany, on March 16th 2020, I am couchsurfing… and trying not to go mad.
Here, the borders have opened again on June 15th. But, mostly, I am still on that couch, until next week, when another chapter begins…

Have you been splurging on culture as well during Covid19 lockdown? During the day, I try to be productive. I write, read and watch webinars. In the evenings, I splurge and relax. I watch shows, circus, ballet, operas, theater, and concerts, (as well as tons of movies, and TV series). It’s been my lifeline.

The creative process is so important. As is the collective experience of live entertainment (I do count movie theaters in that, too, even though, of course, actual live shows are the full monty).

When I watch a recorded show online, I try to forget everything else around me. As I begin to watch on my little MacBook Pro screen, I turn off the lights in the room where I’m sitting, put my earphones in, and turn the volume up high to shelter myself from any real-world interruptions. Then, my eyes glued to the screen, I try to forget that I am sitting on a couch all by myself. I try to feel the uncomfortable auditorium seat (preferably in dusty, vintage, red velvet) underneath me, wriggling around to find the right position to be able to enjoy the next two hours without needing a butt or spine replacement after. I try to hear the excited chatter and whispers in the auditorium before the curtain lifts, try to envision the stage, try to see the technicians and performers hiding in the wings, ready to go and do what they love. I try to transport myself to the actual performance. I soak in the vibrations of the concert hall or show venue and smile when the magic on stage unfolds and the virtual audience around me applauds.

In the end, during bows, when a full house of spectators jumps out of their seats for a standing ovation, when applause is rolling through the venue like thunder, I laugh, with tears in my eyes, hoping with all my heart that sooner rather than later I’ll be able to work backstage again. I can’t wait to stage manage shows again to do my little part in contributing to the magic.

And in my private life, I want those concerts, shows (and sold out movie theaters) back, too. I want to throw myself into cultural life, dress up, make an evening of it, feel those goosebumps again, and the elation that always comes when witnessing greatness, heart, and soul on stage.

You Never Know Until You Go

Hiker by Pavel Pesek on Unsplash

by Pavel Pesek, Unsplash

Last year, in one fell swoop, I lost everything… the love of my life, my family, my home, my cats, my job, and all my savings. I did my best to survive. Then, just as I thought things couldn’t possibly get any worse, the Covid19 pandemic hit us all.
During lockdown, I had time to think about what had happened. As the enormity of it all began to fully sink in, I crashed. I worked through the pain. And I decided to not only survive but to keep remembering fondly, to keep being kind, to keep following my dreams, and to keep making the most of things.

So what do you do when you’ve lost everything and you’ve got nowhere to go? Why not take the time that is given, embrace the homelessness, and get walking?

After some research, I decided on the the E4 European Long Distance Path. I will start my hike in Brugg, Switzerland on 6th of July 2020. And then, we’ll see…
The goal is to enjoy the journey, travel slowly, be aware, and completely open for whatever may come. I am a stage manager by trade. I miss working for shows (a lot!). Getting back to doing what I love is one of two goals. The other goal is to enjoy walking and living on the road for now until I do get that job offer. This may mean walking for one week, or two…. walking for one month, two months, or six months… or even longer. If no job offers are forthcoming this year at all, then in January 2021, I should reach the garden of my good friends in the Quinta do Chocalhinho in Odemira, Portugal. In this case, I might spend the winter in Portugal… and write a book about this journey.
Who knows… these are all just ideas, not definite plans. I’ll take things day by day, step by step. I’ll be super flexible, always ready to continue walking or to, at a moment’s notice, take a bus/train/plane towards my next professional challenge backstage.

I am as curious as you as to how this will unfold!

Make the Best of It

boo on bed ready for more snuggling

Update from the Lake Constance Writing Front:
Over the last few months, I’ve had so much to process, learn, and overcome, I ended up being not by far as productive as I’d have liked to be. Still, I alternated writing short stories and articles for various platforms, worked on my blog, kept developing the story of my 2nd book, watched stage management webinars, and sent application emails out into the world. All this whilst sharing this comfy couch with little Boo who always faithfully waited for me to return and get back to work whenever I left our shared living space for a moment.
As a stage manager, like so many of my peers, I’m out of luck at this time. Nobody is hiring… yet. But I’ll keep writing emails, just to remind people I exist… in the great hope that one of these days, this year, or next year, when shows open up again, I’ll get an email saying, “Hey, are you still available. We want you!”
In the meantime, now that European borders are slowly opening, I am planning a long-distance hike.
There is the idea of a final destination, but I want to keep my options wide open. I’ll most likely start walking beginning of July. If the pitch for my new book gets accepted, I’ll write on the road to meet deadlines. I’ll take walking breaks when I find cozy, affordable shelter and will keep working on that book. Even if my manuscript does not get accepted at this time, I want to keep writing whilst on the road. Continue with my articles for TheaterArtLife, continue with my second book…
A travel blog comes to mind as well…
Plus, I am wondering if I can combine doing something good for myself with doing something good for others… maybe do some crowd funding and donate money to performing arts organizations around the globe who really need it. “Walk for the performing arts” or something like that… (let me know if any of you have any practical suggestions and ideas for this. Please PM me).
What I will definitely keep doing as well is to keep writing applications to shows worldwide whilst I am exploring the great unknown.
And thus the duration of my hike will largely depend on when a backstage job will become available to me. I might walk for only a month, then get an offer, and head to wherever it is I am needed. Or I’ll be walking for four months, five, six… who knows. It really isn’t so much about reaching the final destination as it is about letting those feet and thoughts roam freely, as it is to knock something off my bucket list (a long-distance hike has been on my mind for decades), as it is to stay active and creative.
At the moment, everything is so greatly uncertain and even more unpredictable than usual. Many of us have no idea when we’ll be able to get back to work. Some of us, like me, are homeless on top of it and have been couchsurfing for many months. I’ll embrace that homelessness and make the best of it… and in case I get injured or I’m just not up for it, I can stop walking at any time, and get back to couchsurfing somewhere… Continue from there…
Everything is possible.
I’ll do the only thing I can at this time, and do it with vigor:
I’ll go with the flow.

ELĒKRŎN – The Fast and the Voltaic

Screenshot 2020-04-08 at 13.48.07

In my latest article on TheatreArtLife, let me lure you into the fast and furious world of ELĒKRŎN, the arena stunt show I worked for in Macau from Nov 2018-July 2019.
“Our performances were a potpourri of color, flying popcorn, and smoking tires, and they came alive with an atmosphere of joyfulness and audacity.”

Read the full article here and enjoy a glimpse into the making of “The Most Electrifying Stunt Show in The World!”

Isolation with Dad, Cat, and the Fish

Isolation with Dad, Cat, and the Fish 2

It’s the end of March 2020.
A slightly ruffled, disoriented “hello” from myself and Bocelli, my dad’s ever-meowing cat who isn’t quite sure how he feels about me invading their space…

How are you all?

I haven’t written much in this blog since last December…
As stage and production manager on one of the largest cruise ships in the Caribbean, life as I knew it was put on hold. I worked non-stop, 7 days a week, 15 hours per day. I would get up early in the morning when, without fail, my phone would begin ringing… Then, after each relentless day, I would go to bed to the sound of said phone still ringing… Until I would pass out, exhausted, dreaming a fitful sleep, still working and solving backstage emergencies in my dreams. Relentless is the best word I can come up with to describe my experience managing a large, high-risk venue on an even larger ship. Other words that come to mind are growth and stamina.  And, thankfully, persevering, managing, learning, staying true to myself, and staying kind.

The absorption in our daily work onboard was complete. My colleagues and I heard about what went on in the world through word-of-mouth only. Or, sometimes, we managed to read about it when our anemic internet had one of its rare little bursts of energy and actually loaded an article or a post for us. Although we came back to sunny Florida once a week every Sunday since beginning of this year, Earth with all its viruses seemed a million miles away.

Mid-March, our ship headed for Miami, debarking the last of our passengers to cease operations in accordance with the entire fleet. Our stately vessel was then bound to sail into isolation on the open seas – with almost all crew remaining onboard.

I decided to leave. Maybe, I had seen too many disaster movies. But my instincts screamed at me to keep moving… that being locked down on a ship at close quarters with thousands of other people was far more dangerous than to grab my bag and make my way across borders and continents back to my father’s home.

I had to go. To be there for my dad, in case he needed me. And to ride this pandemic out somewhere… not alone… but together with someone for whom I profoundly matter – and who matters to me.

My trip home, from the Southern US to the South of Germany, began on 15th of March. It became a 3-day odyssey and quite the challenge…
Flights were cancelled left and right. Borders were closing all around me, faster than I could blink. My window of opportunity to make it back safely shrank before my eyes.

Most of my cruise ship colleagues decided to stay onboard. They sailed towards the Bahamas. To drop anchor close by. They sanitized, cleaned, and partied together. There was no physical distancing. They assumed to be safe. They waited for the world beyond the blue horizon to find its way back to some kind of new normalcy. Which is when they planned to dock in Miami yet again to reenter a land-based existence…

Meanwhile, I squeezed through all rapidly closing gates and borders. Yet on the way, I shared close quarters with thousands of people on airplanes and in the airports of New York, London, and Zurich. Now, with daily rising numbers of infected people worldwide, I would not dare to tackle this three-day journey anymore. Far too much risk of infection. At this point in time, it has simply become too great a hazard to travel so far.

It seems, I left just in time.

Even so, I was terrified upon my arrival in Germany. My dad’s loving hug, which usually feels so good, made me quiver inside. Had I endangered him by trying to do the right thing? After the initial closeness, I tried to distance myself physically from him as best as possible in his small apartment…
I have now been at his place for 15 days. I’ve counted the minutes, the hours. And, I was glad, yesterday, to finally get to that magical 14-day-incubation-time mark with both of us – as of yet – still healthy.

But there is the ship. My co-workers and friends. Who worked and partied with vigor during the past two weeks out at sea. And for whom safety was an illusion.

Three days ago, I heard 14 people onboard our floating palace were infected with Covid-19. Yesterday, the count had already risen to 51 people. I am terrified and worried for my colleagues and hope with all my heart that this is it… not, how I fear, just the tip of the iceberg. 1’600 crew are still onboard. I can’t stop thinking about them. Trapped on the ship. I hope they will beat the virus. I hope their immune systems haven’t been compromised too much by months of working hard with barely a pause.

Here I am now, being stared at by Bocelli, my dad’s tone-deaf-opera-singer cat. I am grateful for my little harbor of momentary safety, at the border between Germany and Switzerland, amidst green fields and forests. I am, however, well aware that, just as on the ship, safety in the face of an – as of yet – undefeated, invisible enemy is an illusion.

For now, in self-isolation like most other human beings on our planet, I have way too much time to think on my hands. I endeavor to use this gift of time wisely. I want to rest, but also be creative. I want to write. I will write. Our world has shrunk so much so fast. Yet, through our creativity, with the aid of the Internet, there still are no boundaries. We can still let our minds soar. Writers like me can send their words out to ride fiber currents…

I am thinking of my friends and family around the world. More than ever before, I know there is nothing more important than the human connections we build throughout our lifetimes. I can’t wait to be able to travel again to do what I love most: hug and squeeze the people I care about, touch base with them every so often, share experiences, ideas, and thoughts.

No matter what’s out there, and no matter what happens to each of us in the months to come… as always, friendship, love, kindness, creativity, and hope will help us overcome it all… even when we have an annoyed, territorial cat glaring at us.

Raging Waves

cozumel-back to prison

Almost three months of working on the ship now, yet I have never felt further away from the ocean. Our ship is a floating entertainment park… with no access to the true authentic beauty all around us. I long to taste the salty freshness of the big blue on my lips and all over my body. Long to feel the sensation of peacefulness, invigorating energy, and freedom I’ve always associated with the wide open seas.
That being said, working on a cruise ship is a valuable life experience I am determined to treasure. As a stage manager, I am learning an abundance of useful skills managing the onboard Aqua theater. The pressure onboard is relentless. Work never stops… to such an extent that even brushing my teeth in one go without being interrupted by phone calls becomes a challenge. Additionally, working with people from over seventy different countries tops all international experiences I’ve been exposed to thus far. As difficult as it gets sometimes to juggle a myriad of mentalities, I treasure the slowly blooming friendships with people all over this gigantic ship, as we meet each other for a few seconds in between chores. Room attendants waving and fist bumping with me as I am running to my control booth before the show. Maintenance men smiling in the hallway, forgiving me for calling them at odd hours in the middle of the day and night for technical issues in our theater. On a daily basis, life lessons keep building up in tune with the raging waves of the seas all around me. I am trying to take them in stride. Failing on some days, succeeding on others.

A new decade, a new year

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Here we are. A new decade, a new year… 

I am finding myself surrounded by the deep blue sea once more. Amazing how life keeps bringing me back to be either on, at, in, or under water. Ultimately, it is where my soul feels the most at home. 

2019 was the worst year of my life so far. I am eternally grateful to let it go and move on. But, as always in times of major trials, 2019 was also one of my best years to date. I learned, I grew, and I was reminded of the deep well of strength, positivity, and passion within me. I was reminded of my capacity to love. And, I was reminded of the massive importance of empathy and compassion. More than ever before, I learned to believe in myself and trust myself. I am happy to be alive. 

Speaking of trust: I received so much loving support from my dear friends around the globe. No matter how much we rest in ourselves, it’s the human connections and caring for each other that make life truly worth living. I am in awe of the wonderful people in my life. Thanks for being there.

2020 is off to a good start. I am managing the beautiful aqua amphitheater on the Oasis of the Seas. I am lucky to work with a great cast and crew and am enjoying every minute we create, and laugh together. Whilst this massive cruise ship brings us from one Caribbean destination to the next, we perform our beautiful show, called Aqua80. It’s a little masterpiece we can be proud of. Driven by 80ies music, it is brimming with great performances, good energy, and soul.

As I am navigating this new challenge, I am keeping an open mind. I don’t know how long I will be here. I don’t know yet if cruise ship life is really for me. What I do know is that I love my job as stage and production manager. And I love seeing the ocean just beyond our theater… a constant reminder of how far the horizons reach. I’ll keep an open mind… about everything… and I’ll see where the universe will take me.