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2015 May 21

Limited Edition Kinetics have arrived!

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 22:55
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I received my order of Limited Edition Kinetic lights from Futuristic Lights today! I suspect that others who ordered Limited Edition sets will be getting theirs in the mail very soon also (the company started shipping on Tuesday—I got mine fast because I’m in the same county as they shipped from).

Here is what comes in the set: 2 gloves, 10 lights with cases, diffusers, and batteries, a folded instruction card, and a black drawstring bag with the company logo printed subtly on it.

Here is what comes in the set: 2 gloves, 10 lights with cases, diffusers, and batteries, a folded instruction card, and a black drawstring bag with the company logo printed subtly on it.

Note that there are 64 items that need to be assembled for each set: 2 gloves, 10 Kinetic boards, 10 cases, 10 diffusers, 20 batteries, 10 battery tabs, a drawstring bag, and an instruction card.  Even working very efficiently, it is probably going to take them a couple of weeks to get all the preorders shipped.  There’s no way that they could have afforded a standard “fulfillment” service for doing the shipping, as those generally set their prices based in large part on how many items need to be assembled for each order.

Component sourcing, manufacturing, packaging, and shipping have all been much more difficult than they anticipated, and they are shipping at the end of their estimated delivery time (even though they thought that they had allowed lots and lots of extra time—I thought that they would be able to ship in March, which shows how little help I was in anticipating what might go wrong for them). As it is, they are shipping without the boxes they had ordered, because the box printer was taking far longer to print the boxes than they had allowed for (and they hadn’t put a penalty clause in the order for late delivery). I suspect that they won’t be ordering from that box manufacturer again.

The amount that the founders of Futuristic Lights have learned from their first commercial product is amazing (way more than most engineering and business students get in four years of college), and they haven’t lost their enthusiasm for the process—they have already started work on the next 2 or 3 products. For those products, they’ll apply the lessons they learned on the Kinetics—they’ll have more realistic manufacturing lead times and will (probably) be able to reduce the manufacturing costs through better part procurement and different manufacturing partners.

Perhaps even more amazingly, my son has managed to maintain his part in the manufacturing and engineering effort while excelling on a full load of computer science and math courses at UCSB (in Winter quarter he had 24 units, instead of the standard 16, but he decided that the load was too much on top of all the engineering work he was doing for Futuristic Lights and dropped back to a saner load for Spring quarter). So far, most of his courses have been extensions of stuff he has learned partially on his own, and not all-new material. I suspect that courses may be a little more difficult next year as he tackles parts of computer science that he hasn’t already nearly mastered.

For this summer, he’ll be working on new products for Futuristic Lights, except for two weeks of summer Shakespeare with WEST Performing Arts, one week of which will be watching plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, the other week of which will be a conservatory with WEST and Santa Cruz Shakespeare.  He’s done both before, and is looking forward to it again this summer.

2014 August 17

Oregon Shakespeare Festival

I’m a little envious of my son—he’s gotten to go to Ashland twice this year to see plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  He’s seen nine different plays there this year, two of them twice.

For the first trip this year he went with Alternative Family Education, as part of their Dramatic Literature course in spring semester.  They teach the course each year around the plays that they’ll be seeing in Ashland—he’s taken the course three times and enjoyed it each time (except for some of the written assignments).  The first time he went, I was on sabbatical, so took the time to travel with the group as a “chaperone”—we’d had to fly to Ashland separately, rather than travel with them on the bus, because the trip left the day of the state science fair, though we both rode the bus home.  Since then he’s been able to travel both ways with the school group, but I’ve always had a heavy teaching load in the spring, and couldn’t justify skipping class for a pleasure trip to Ashland.

Last week, he traveled with a group from West Performing Arts.  This is the first time that WEST has done an Ashland trip, and it was planned at the last minute, so they were not able to get enough tickets or transportation for parents to accompany the group. It was a smaller group than the AFE—only ten teens and two adults. They were originally planning to see five plays, but while they were in Ashland they managed to get the last twelve standing-room tickets to Into the Woods, so they ended up seeing six plays—a pretty intense schedule with only three hotel nights!  They didn’t do as many workshops as the AFE group, but a lot of the workshops are aimed at general school groups, not at kids who had as much theater training as this group.  I don’t think that the teens minded not having a lot of workshops—most of them had just finished a two-week intensive Shakespeare conservatory, and all of them had done at least one of the Shakespeare conservatories (either this year or in a previous year).  It was an older group than the AFE trip also, as three of the teens were 18 or older and had graduated from high school.

I had some time this summer and could have gone myself, but arranging my own transportation and lodging at the last minute did not appeal to me, and my wife was not particularly interested in going there. She would travel to see world-class opera, particularly if the destination also had great art museums, but not for theater—the local productions are high enough quality for her and not much trouble to attend.  We had season tickets for Santa Cruz Shakespeare this year (as we did for Shakespeare Santa Cruz most previous years), and we’ve got season tickets for next year’s Jewel Theatre season.  We’ll also go to 8 tens at 8, an annual production of 8 new (or fairly new) ten-minute one-acts, and probably the best of the rest, a staged reading of another 8 from the pool considered for 8 tens at 8.  We also usually see the Shakespeare To Go performance, though not together—my wife sees it when they tour to her school, and I see the last performance they do, up on the UCSC campus. We’ll probably also go to the WEST Ensemble Players performances and the summer teen show by WEST. Though our son won’t be in them any more, we still know a number of the actors and they kids usually do a good job (tickets are cheap also).  If Santa Cruz Shakespeare puts on a holiday pantomime this year, we’ll probably go to that to, and possibly go to see the long-form improv group Freefall at one of their shows.

We’ll be going to one more WEST Performing Arts performance this year—a fund-raiser for their scholarship program this Friday.  This is not a rehearsed production—they’ve just requested a number of their more reliable actors to do monologues or sketches.  So my son will have one last chance to perform at West End Studio Theatre, though he hasn’t decided what he’ll do yet.

So with 14 or 15 theater events a year, and more available if we wanted them (UCSC stages several plays every quarter, but we rarely go to any of them), it isn’t as if I was starving for theater. My wife doesn’t get to anywhere near that number of operas (a few in San Jose and a few in San Francisco) and has to make do with broadcasts in the movie theater—and I wasn’t counting the broadcasts of National Theatre London that we see at the movie house, so I shouldn’t count opera broadcasts either. I’ve no cause for complaint.

Still, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival has a bigger budget than anything in Santa Cruz and produces some pretty impressive shows—I would like to see them again. Maybe next year.

2014 August 9

WEST closes

As I mentioned in End of an Era, the West End Studio Theatre had their last scheduled performance tonight, with the showcase for the teen Shakespeare Conservatory which they teach with the aid of Santa Cruz Shakespeare. The first week of the conservatory is acting classes, seeing all the Santa Cruz Shakespeare plays, talking with dramaturges, actors, and other creative staff from Santa Cruz Shakespeare and post-performance analysis of the plays.  The second week is intensive work on the showcase that they perform at the end of the week.

They named the show Villains and Braggarts, doing seven scenes and four sonnets.  My son was one of the 5 performers in Sonnet 133 (which they played as a courtroom scene), Malvolio in a scene from Twelfth Night (where he ends the party of Sir Toby Belch, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Maria, and Feste), RIchard III courting Lady Anne over the corpse of her husband, and Theseus in the play within a play scene from Midsummer Night’s Dream.  This is the second time that my son has played Malvolio at one of the WEST Shakespeare conservatories—he did the cross-gartered and in yellow stockings scene in 2011.

I thought that they did a very good job of the scenes, but the sonnets were rather hard to follow when played as scenes—I needed for them to go at about half the speed they did to catch what was being said.  Members of the audience who were even less familiar with Shakespeare than me had trouble following some of the scenes also, as they were just snippets from the plays and rather heavily cut.

Although a couple of the actors have graduated from high school, most of the troupe were younger, so I think that West Performing Arts has a good crop of actors coming up, and I’ll continue to go to the teen performances for the next couple of years, even though my son will no longer be on their stage.

I think that the audience most appreciated the fight scene from Romeo and Juliet, where the students got to show off the dagger stage fighting they had learned a week earlier, and the play within a play from Midsummer Night’s Dream.

I overheard plans for  WEST doing a fundraiser (probably for their scholarship fund) in a couple of weeks, but I don’t know whether this will be at the West End Studio Theatre or at Broadway Playhouse.  Next week Terri Steinmann and John Pasha will be driving 10 teens up to Ashland to see five plays there and take a few workshops.  My son will be going, though he’s already seen two of the five productions from when he took the spring trip to Ashland with Alternative Family Education.

2014 July 14

End of an era

My son has his last performances at West End Studio Theatre this summer—his last summer before college.  He has had theater classes with Terri Steinmann and various of her staff members since the Wizard of Oz class in July 2004, and he has been performing on the WEST stage since they opened in 2007.  Between Pisces Moon (where Terri taught before founding WEST) and West Performing Arts, he has done at least 42 classes with them (I’m not sure how to count the Dinosaur Prom Improv troupe, which he performed with for two years—I counted that as only one class, though it probably should count as more, as there were weekly practice sessions for the two years).  Adding up all the course tuition over the 10 years he’s worked with them, I think we’ve paid around $20,000, averaging $2k a year—well worth it for the pleasure and the learning he has gotten from it.

This past weekend he performed as Otho (the interior designer) in Beetlejuice. After seeing the movie, I did not know how they would pull it off as a stage play, but they did quite a good job of it—particularly since they did not have the complete script until a few days before they performed (a long-standing WEST tradition of writing the script after rehearsals have started).  There were two casts (the morning class and the afternoon class), but I only saw the afternoon cast’s production—I understand that the interpretations of essentially the same script and set were quite different for the two casts (costumes had to be different, because the actors were very different sizes).

He has one more class with them this summer—the summer teen conservatory with Santa Cruz Shakespeare, which I believe still has room for another student or two (the conservatory is limited to about 12 students).  He’s done their Shakespeare teen conservatory for the past four years—it is quite different each time. The conservatory is probably West Performing Art’s most advanced theater class.

After this summer, not only will he be finished with West Performing Arts, but the West End Studio Theatre, where about half his performances have been, will be closed. We joke that they can’t go on without him, but the truth is that they are losing their lease.  They’ve been renting on a year-to-year contract for eight years, and the landlord has found a tenant (a beer brewer) willing to lease the space on a longer term lease.  The parting is amicable, but everyone will miss the W.E.S.T. space, which has been much more flexible and functional than any of the other spaces children’s theater has used around the city.

West Performing Arts will continue classes at the Broadway Playhouse and at schools, but they’ll need more space for classes than Broadway Playhouse can provide, especially for their popular summer classes, so they are looking for a new home. If anyone knows of spaces that might meet their needs (ideally, two large adjacent spaces that can be used for classes, one of which can be a flexible performance space, totaling about 10,000 sq ft, with storage, office space, and nearby parking and not needing a lot of renovation).  They don’t have a lot of money (they’ve been keeping the classes affordable), so the typical $15–20/sq.ft./year leases locally are probably beyond their means.  If anyone has any leads for them, their contact information is on their web site.

2014 March 9

Three Days of Rain

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 22:43
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We just saw a very good production of Three Days of Rain, by the Jewel Theatre in Santa Cruz. It runs for another week (Wed through Sun), and I don’t think that all the performances are sold out, so tickets may be available (though probably not for all performances).

We’ve also purchased our tickets for Jewel Theatre’s production of What the Butler Saw in May—for once we ordered the tickets early enough to get our choice of seats.  We picked a day that has apparently just been added to the run, since we were the first to buy tickets for it—the first day we looked at would have required us to sit in the back row, where we usually end up. Those are not bad seats in a tiny theater like Center Stage, but it’ll be a nice change to sit in the third row, in what are arguably the best seats in the house.  (The second row is clearly the worst, since it is on the same level as the first row, so sight lines are somewhat blocked.)

Next year, my wife and I will probably get season tickets for Jewel Theater, as long as most of the plays look like ones we want to see. My son will be away at college (I hope—we haven’t heard back yet from any of the colleges he applied to), so it will just be the two of us. That means we’ll stop skewing the age distribution so much—we’re guessing that my son was the youngest person in the audience by a factor of 2, and my wife and I were probably still below median age and will probably continue to be until we retire.

I think it is a shame that Jewel Theatre is not attracting a younger audience—the ticket prices are fairly affordable ($31 for adults, $26 for students) and the quality is high. Maybe Friday nights get a younger crowd than Sunday nights, and we’re getting a distorted view of the audience age distribution. There is certainly plenty of youth interest in live theater, but maybe it is being met by all the children’s and teen theater that is available in Santa Cruz (schools, West Performing Arts, and the musical companies: All About Theater, Kids on Broadway, Hooked on Theater, Little People’s Repertory Theatre, Christian Youth Theater, …). Perhaps Jewel Theatre needs to team up with West Performing Arts to have a special teen day or family day with discount group tickets.

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