Making a NU Stage show: A multimedia story

There are two types of people in this world: the ones that get seen and the ones that don’t.

When NU Stage, Northeastern University’s student-run musical theater club, performs its production of “Godspell,” the people dancing on stage will get all the attention.

But there’s a secret group, pulling strings, that no one will notice.

Emma Soucy, a recent Northeastern graduate, is one of those silent but vital players in the show. Soucy is a technician for Northeastern’s event management department, a role she started as a work-study student during her undergraduate years. She joined as an usher and learned lighting simply because there was a need for it.

She’s since become a master of the lights, or, in her more humble words, “kind of the most experienced lighting tech on staff right now in terms of programming.”

For “Godspell,” the club’s lighting designer will bring Soucy her designs, which could include anything from funky colors to flashing lights. Entrusted with the artist’s vision, she’ll get to work programming it into existence. When “Godspell” opens, she’ll just sit in the auditorium and press a “go” button for each cue, but there’s a long road to travel before that happens.

“The hard part of lighting is the programming,” she said.

Her programming baby is an ETC Ion, a pricey light board with well over thirty keys, plus knobs and dials. Press certain keys together and you’ll get even more commands. There’s a learning curve that she compares to typing.

After five years, Soucy can do it without looking.

Still, she estimates it will take her 2 and a half to 4 hours to program the initial cues for “Godspell,” and that’s before the inevitable tweaks from the designer.

“You’re programming and making edits to your work probably up until the show starts,” Soucy said.

Only event management employees are allowed to run the board, so it’s usually up to her to sit there during the NU Stage shows, but there are a few exceptions.

Blair Childs-Biscoe is one of those exceptions. As both co-lighting designer for NU Stage’s performance of “The Drowsy Chaperone” last spring and an employee of the event management department, she was authorized to touch the board. That meant she could have her cake and eat it, too, or, more specifically, design it and program it.

She started by annotating the script with ideas and working with the show’s other production staff members to bring it all together. She described the last month of the process as a crunch.

“Hopefully by the final dress [rehearsal] everything is together the way you’d like to see it, and so you can just make some final little touch edits,” she said. “But a lot of the time that’s not actually what happens…as does happen in technical theater, something goes wrong or you go behind for some reason.”

Her favorite parts were working with the production staff and seeing the payoff of her work.

“There’s a couple of numbers that I remember in particular that was like, ‘Aw man, you did a good job! Good job, Blair!” she said.

NU Stage is a consistent two-timer in Northeastern’s Blackman Auditorium each semester with a revue and a main stage musical, but there’s a nonstop flow of additional events through Blackman and the university’s other event spaces for the staff to manage. The department even has its own co-op to help.

Dante Marino, a third-year music industry major who currently has the role, took it because of his interest in music. His favorite part of the job is being exposed to events he wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

“You see what people are doing,” he said. “You see all kinds of different art forms.”

His most memorable shift was during the Chinese Students and Scholars Association Gala, which had about ten acts, ranging from dramatic performers to a 20-plus-piece band (this clip is from the 2015 gala hosted by MIT).

“It was like four days like 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., just working, trying to get the show perfect and figuring everything out, and there were just like a hundred people running around, trying to make it happen,” Marino said.

Soucy, now in post-grad life, has been able to transition her backstage experience into a career. She does freelance lighting work for audio visual, or AV, companies, and is a desk electrician on the Huntington Theater’s new play,  “Tiger Style!” Her job focuses on run crew duties.

According to Soucy, the most fulfilling part of lighting is when you “see the transitions happening perfectly, working well with the music, working well with the acting, and you actually see it in real time.”

Check out my photo series from the NU Stage “Godspell” rehearsal room:

To round out the NU Stage story, watch my behind-the-scenes feature video on “Godspell” ensemble member Carol Hicks:


The speculative controversy around the “Fixer Upper” stars

Photo (cc) 2015 by chumlee10

“Fixer Upper” has been a staple of the home renovation world since its premiere. But the HGTV show has been in the news for a more controversial reason this week.

It started with a Buzzfeed article on the Gaineses, the stars of the show. The article stated that the pastor of their church preaches that homosexuality is a sin. The author was not able to get a comment from HGTV or the Gaineses when it was originally published, but posed this question: 

So are the Gaineses against same-sex marriage? And would they ever feature a same-sex couple on the show, as have HGTV’s House Hunters and Property Brothers? 

Two days later, the Washington Post published an opinion piece called “Buzzfeed’s Hit Piece on Chip and Joanna Gaines is Dangerous,” written by Brandon Ambrosino. In the article, Ambrosino, who is both gay and Christian, defended the couple and condemned the Buzzfeed article:

The entire article is an elaborate exploration of that hypothetical question. And yes, it is very much hypothetical, by the reporter’s own admission: “Emails to Brock Murphy, the public relations director at their company, Magnolia, were not returned. Nor were emails and calls to HGTV’s PR department.”

But that does not stop Aurthur from writing almost 800 more words about the non-story. Her upshot seems to be: Two popular celebrities might oppose same-sex marriage because the pastor of the church they go to opposes same-sex marriage, but I haven’t heard one way or the other. (I can’t imagine pitching that story to an editor and getting a green light, by the way.)

He goes on to accuse Buzzfeed of being manipulative and deliberately targeting conservatives.

It’s no secret that part of Trump’s success is owed to how skillfully he invalidated the media’s authority in the eyes of his conservative followers. The message was very clearly: The media doesn’t like me because I’m conservative, and they don’t like you because you’re conservative, and they’re going to try to ruin all of us, so let’s just ignore them.

And then, like clockwork, BuzzFeed published a story proving him right.

The Gaineses was trending on Facebook into Friday and had released no public comment on the topic.

A conversation with New Haven Independent Founder Paul Bass

Photo (cc) 2015 by Anna Hanks

Today my class had the chance to hear from Paul Bass, a man at the forefront of the race to rethink the journalism model. 

Bass is the founder of both the New Haven Independent and the affiliated WNHH Radio, both of which are run out of New Haven, Conn. The Independent is a non-profit, online-only newspaper that relies on donors and grants for funding, an interesting model in an era where both subscription and ad revenue are shrinking around the country. WNHH is described on the Independent website as broadcasting “original New Haven news and arts programs with dozens of local hosts.”

As a hyper-local site, the Independent has had a demonstrated impact on the New Haven area. Bass told how the paper covered the potentially unconstitutional arrests by local police of two people who were filming the officers. The coverage led to legislation at the state level to protect citizen’s recording rights.

As a member of the small organization, he has to wear many hats, from radio host to reporter.“I have to make sure not to get burnt out,” he said.

In fact, the company as a whole seems to live at the intersection of several genres of media.

“Are we a radio station or a news site? Our answer is yes,” he said.

Bass highlighted the diversity of his reporters and radio hosts. For example, the WHNN host staff is 40 percent African-American, 40 percent white and 20 percent Latino.

He believes it’s good for people to know journalist’s bias. To remain fair, he suggested reporters acknowledge their own bias and “try twice as hard to get people you don’t agree with [as sources].”

His main piece of advice to my class? Find a good newsroom, and focus on interesting people over prestige in the search. “The opportunities will follow,” he said.

Journalists respond to Rory’s failed career on “Gilmore Girls”

Alexis Bledel (Rory Gilmore). Photo (cc) 2008 by Jason McELweenie

Netflix’s new series, “Gilmore Girls: A Year in a Life,” has brought journalism and entertainment together, something that certainly peaks my interests and makes it perfect for this blog. The four episode program, a continuation of the WB/CW series that ran from 2000-2007, follows young and often comedic mother Lorelei Gilmore and her friendship with her daughter, Rory. Throughout the original run, Rory dreams of being a journalist, and given her intelligence and admission to Yale’s journalism program, it looks like she’ll be successful.

It therefore came as somewhat of a kick in the gut, at least to me, that the 32-year-old Rory in “A Year in a Life” is a fairly unsuccessful freelancer whose limited career implodes over the course of the year, ending with her jobless and living with her mother. 

Perhaps the most meta and entertaining response to the reveal came in the form of an online piece by The Atlantic. In an episode of “A Year in a Life,” Rory tells her mother that the publication bumped one of her stories. Even though the decision was fictional, The Atlantic still wrote a rebuttal, titled “Turns Out, Rory Gilmore is Not a Good Journalist.” 

The posts goes on to outline not one or two but 21 journalistic missteps Rory makes during the four episodes, from taking David Carr’s image in vein to sleeping with a source. The article, by Megan Garber, doesn’t cut the younger Gilmore much slack:

Amy Sherman-Palladino, Gilmore Girls’s creator, writer, and executive producer, once expressed her annoyance that so many of the show’s fans seem to care more about Rory’s romantic fate (Dean? Jess? Logan?) than about her professional one. “It’s just such a small part of who Rory is,” Sherman-Palladino told Time, of her character’s romantic life. “I don’t see people debating ‘Did she win a Pulitzer yet?’”

Spoiler: She didn’t. And the show has now provided a pretty good explanation of why.

Mashable published a similar article, “Rory Gilmore is not a good journalist,” by Los Angeles-based reporter Saba Hamedy. Armed with the knowledge of Rory’s career failure, she takes a retrospective look at the signs in the original run that Rory’s career wasn’t going places, including her not knowing about her high school’s newspaper and being bad a networking.

Luckily for everyone, Rory ends the new season with the decision to refocus and write a book. Perhaps it will suit her better.

Good News! It’s now easier to watch Netflix.

Photo (cc) 2015 by Uditha Wickramanayaka

Long car and bus rides just got a lot better for Netflix users. The streaming service announced yesterday that it had launched an online viewing option for its subscribers. The service is available on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets on the Netflix app.

Some titles cannot be streamed offline, include the recently released “Gilmore Girls: A Year in a Life,” but the company has promised to make additional content part of the program at some point. 

“While many members enjoy watching Netflix at home, we’ve often heard they also want to continue their ‘Stranger Things’ binge while on airplanes and other places where internet is expensive or limited,” Netflix’s Director of Product Innovation Eddy Wu wrote yesterday.

Amazon Prime Video, YouTube Red and Starz’s mobile streaming app already offer this service.

This decision also follows Pandora’s addition of offline music streaming through its new Pandora Plus service, which was announced on September 15.

The Cast of “The Breakfast Club” Makes the News


 © Luigi Novi / Wikimedia Commons

Though it’s been decades, this week was a surprisingly eventful one for “The Breakfast Club.” Though none of the cast members have been involved in major Hollywood roles recently, two of the film’s stars trended on Facebook this week, though the attention was for very different reasons.

Judd Nelson was trending into Tuesday simply because of his birthday, which he celebrated on November 28. Website The Hits put together a collection of Bender-themed gifs dedicated to their “favorite member of the Breakfast Club,” whom they called the “criminal” of the group based on his alter-ego’s rogue personality.

But it was his costar Anthony Michael Hall that made hard news headlines that same day. The actor, who played meek Brian, allegedly attacked his neighbor outside their condominiums. He was charged with felony assault. Hall was previously arrest in 2011 after disturbing his complex with loud, erratic behavior, and allegedly stalked his ex-girlfriend in 2009, after which a judge ordered him to avoid her.

Shailene Woodley Speak About Thanksgiving at Standing Rock

Photo (cc) 2014 by Red Carpet Report

While most of the country was visiting relatives and eating turkey, actress Shailene Woodley (“Divergent,””The Fault in Our Stars”) released a video about the violence of the first Thanksgiving, while protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Jane Fonda and Woodley served meals to water protectors, or protesters, on Thanksgiving.

Woodley has been involved with the conflict for many weeks. She was arrested for allegedly trespassing and rioting at Standing Rock on October 10 and plead not guilty nine days later.