A Night in the Box

This week's major activity was playing Miss Saigon, Wednesday through Saturday.  Four more nights in the box.



Complicating things was some sort of cold that I picked up in Chicago.  I thought my throat felt funny because of the air conditioner, but whatever it was stayed with me, gradually strengthening up until Friday, when it finally began to fade.  I hesitate to even say that it was a cold;  maybe a sinus infection or something, because there wasn't a whole lot of snot, just the other symptoms (headache, throat ache, coughing).  A coughing fit while playing a gig on a wind instrument sucks, and the feeling that you're going to have to cough right as you're coming up to a delicate flute part REALLY SUCKS.

Monday, Tuesday:  More chipping away at the book.  With the thoughts of what didn't work Sunday night (generally technical stuff I thought I could do, but couldn't play under pressure), I went through everything, trying to reinforce the trickier parts.

Wednesday:  Knowing that I needed to save face (literally), I warmed up and then played only a little bit of the show, just to start winding it up for the night.

Most of the musicians arrive sometime around 7 PM.  I left Marietta at 5:15 and got there at 6:45, which gave me a little bit of time to eat before getting in the box.  

The field where the show is staged.  


It was really tough for me to not check parts after I'd set up in the pit.  By 7:15, all of my horns were out and ready, and that left about an hour of time before the downbeat of the show.  I wanted to use that time, but I was aware that playing too much might screw me at the end of the night.  So...play a little bit, look at my phone, talk to Clara (the oboist next to me), repeat.

This turned out to be a good show for me.  My face held up a lot better (and that flute part at the end where I'd died Sunday night--coincidentally, at the same time that Miss Saigon dies in the show--was better an octave lower, and with a two measure break during the big ensemble unison right before it). Having the Sunday show under my belt, two days of practice, and a good night's sleep all helped immensely.  I didn't feel bad about the way I played this night.

Thursday:  I could feel that my chops were tired--my lips felt puffy, and the center of my lower lip felt kind of numb, so I did no playing at home.  Instead, I spent time watching my music and listening to a cast recording.

I made it to the show in plenty of time, ate, got in the box, set up my instruments, began noodling...and it started pouring outside.  Since the stage is not covered, the show was moved inside--down the street to the small ballroom at the local inn.


The parking lot became a muddy mess.  All of this seemed authentically Vietnam--a sudden rainstorm, heat, humidity, trudging through a muddy field with all my gear, not sure where I was going...


So...indoors.  This was not a giant Atlanta hotel ballroom;  the entire space was the size of a fast food dining room.  We set up all the way upstage against a curtain, with the actors working in the space between us and the rows of chairs--around twelve feet.    It made for a really weird show--there was no staging, no helicopter, no lighting, and most importantly, no microphones on the cast, so we had to play as softly as humanly possible (and it was still too loud).  I took most of the flute and piccolo stuff down an octave so that it wouldn't stick out as much.

Playing quietly for the entire show was exhausting.  Things sounded weird, and I was really uncomfortable because some of my parts felt really exposed.  At the same time, this different set up allowed me to hear differently how my parts lined up with the other instruments.


Friday:  Back to the box!  I think all of the musicians were happy to be back at our more normal volume levels.  This show felt pretty smooth.  I did no playing at home (once again listening/watching my part go by), saving all of my warm up stuff for the pre-show hour.  Another solid performance.  I was relaxed enough about what I was doing that I was finally able to really pay attention to what everybody else was doing.  Every night, the music has made a little more sense to me.

A word about the weirdness of Atlanta traffic:  Friday afternoon took less time and had significantly less traffic than Wednesday or Thursday night.  What's up with that?


Saturday:  My last night on the show, which mentally gave me license to go for it.  Things felt pretty good!  I was a little bummed when the helicopter went overhead, realizing that I wasn't going to hear that anymore, and I was only about a half hour from the finale.  Everybody filed out of the box like every other night, and that was the end of it, dragging my horns back through the soggy field to my truck.

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