Immaculate Misconceptions Project Second Life

SL – Immaculate Misconceptions!

Sister Mary Thaylon

Friday, July 18th, 2008 – Performing Immaculate Misconceptions (IM) in Second Life (SL) has added a few additional tasks to our stagecraft that we don’t typically have in RL. For example, my script is riddled with notes to “start guitar animation here” and “teleport backstage”. In RL we had a sound person handling the pre-recorded sound cues, but in SL I trigger those via an iPod. But just like in RL, I still had to turn into a nun, though it was a bit easier this time with a simple drag and drop. The hardest part has been getting everything in the right order, with the right timing, juggling the iPod, keyboard, mouse, instrument and script all at once.

Thankfully, Steve cut the script into three acts instead of two, giving us much more prep time before each segment. All of that will change Sunday when we do all three acts in one night!

Reviewing the script again after two years, it struck me that there were several songs that could have been written or recorded for the CD, but were left out for other reasons. Don McLean’s “American Pie” – a highlight of the third act – was not recorded for the CD because I didn’t feel like dealing with the administrative hassles of recording a cover song. I also didn’t want to become trapped into doing the song as a request at live shows. People were likely to assume (wrongly) that I liked the song and would play it on cue. Since then, the hassle of dealing with covers has been reduced with online tools, so perhaps one day I will release it on IM v 2.0, after v 1.0 goes out of print. But I draw the line there.

We used the same pre-show music that I wrote for the RL shows, but after our first week of performances, I decided they were weak compared to my more recent writing. So for the second week, we are using some pieces that came out of my sideshow writing sessions for our friend Mike. They are short pieces that might not otherwise see the light of day. So in that respect, SL is a bonus for me because it provides an outlet for all sorts of styles and formats.

Another factor this time around is climate, as the summer heat has made it a challenge for all of us to stay comfortable for the show (we have a quiet third collaborator, Megh Woodward who runs some of the SL gadgetry from CA). The noise of my air conditioner is enough to drive me mad without amplification, so hearing it through my sound system with headphones on is not suitable. Instead I’ve been running it for several hours before hand, then shutting it down and using the residual chill for the length of the show. On most days this worked fine, but on one day I forgot to turn it on early and I roasted.

Performing with headphones is almost like a recording session, but not quite. You have to listen more carefully for cues visual and otherwise and it is easy to get distracted by an instant message or group announcement popping up on the screen.

At one point some residual curry from dinner got in my eye, threatening to blind me in the middle of one of the acts, but I pulled through. Yes, this is a strange (virtual) world.

Visit MUSOFYR for more about the experience.

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Reprise performance goes well…

Steve and I did a cue to cue run through on Thursday afternoon before the performance. Once again we were asking ourselves “Why do we do this?” as the pay isn’t that great and the work is, well… significant at this time in the semester for both of us. It seemed like we were back in June, except it wasn’t June outside. I managed to dodge a major sinus cold and kept my voice in shape, supported by cold medicine just for extra measure (which is always a gamble because it can dry out the voice).

But I donned my nun costume and Steve got his clicker and our reprise performance went well. Technical issues were at a minimum and the Taylor performed flawlessly, which is more than I can say for me. I forgot one of the lesser instrumental pieces completely, but covered with an improv that seemed to work. Another place – where music had been – appeared to go by just fine without it. Steve freaked me out a few times during a section that had previously been cut, but then added back in. Of course, I can’t really talk since I came in early on the coconuts before intermission. Damn it!

The CD of the music will still be available until I run out of copies, but I doubt I’ll do a reprint. Several of my favorite songs are likely to pop up on future albums with different arrangements, but I prefer to think of this project as a snapshot in time.

Now we move on to other things. We had hoped that we’d do IM in the Bloomsburg area, but alas our grant application was rejected, largely (it appears) due to misunderstanding (misconceptions??) about the concept and – many of us think – some fear on the part of the powers that be in the socio-political context of the play. In this time of religious sensitivity, this is somewhat expected, and we didn’t bother to fight it. I prefer to use my energy in other ways, but I will not forget this experience… any of it.

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Back in action

The Taylor arrived on 10/2… The night before I made a sign for FedEx, just so they wouldn’t miss me…

FedEx we love you… We are home!

The guitar checked out immediately, and appeared to play even better. I now feel like I can breathe a bit easier for the IM show on 10/5 and my Exchange Coffeehouse gig on 10/6. And after playing “lesser” instruments for a week, it reminded me of why I bought a Taylor in the first place… you just can’t beat that sound and feel.

Thanks to Mike at Taylor Guitars for putting up with my calls!

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Taylor on the way home!

Taylor has supplied email confirmation that the guitar is on the way back! They are even picking up the return shipping, and have sent it 2-day FedEx.

I’m told they replaced the entire pickup system.

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Taylor update

UPS messed up. My guitar did not make the promised three-day delivery date of 9/25. So the good news is that I will get a refund on the $143 shipping charge (but they can’t process that until the guitar is actually delivered late on 9/26).

I’ve been calling Taylor almost daily checking on how they plan to get it back to me, since I have to leave on 10/4 to get to Greensburg. While I have a backup guitar, the idea of going through all this trouble only to have my Taylor sitting in a shipping truck somewhere for an extra week until I get back home is driving me nuts.

Thankfully, Taylor says they use FedEx for shipping, so I expect I’ll get a little bit better service.

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Inquiring minds… maybe

Below is text from an actual inquiry about the play before our October 5th encore performance:

“Dear Mr. Schrum, After reading the flyer for the production of your monologue, I pray that it does not profane the Virgin Mary. Yes, there are many funny incidences from yesteryear about which we can laugh, but the sisters who taught us were, for the most part, truly good, dedicated women, faithful to the teachings of the church. How I pray that this is all in fun and not meant to belittle these good people for your personal gain.

The Baltimore Catechism was a marvelous book. I still remember “why did God make me?” “to know Him, to love Him, and to serve him in this world and be happy with Him in the next”. I hope that you took this to heart. God be with you. –Bob {last name not supplied}”

To this, Steve kindly replied and said:

“…my final words in the performance explain why I think my Catholic School experiences were positive ones.”

And the response was…

“Dear Mr. Schrum, I am so grateful. I do pray for you that, if you are not part of the Church community, that you reconsider. The Church is truly the bride of Christ and I rejoice that I am privileged to be a part of it. And the more that I learn of Her riches, the more I rejoice. God be with you.”

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Taylor out for repairs…

After numerous problems with the pickup system in my Taylor (314CE-LTD) both during and after the IM shows in June, I finally broke down and decided to send it to the factory (in El Cajon, CA) for repair.

Taylor guitars used to have a Fishman pickup system, but back in 2002 or 2003, they switched over to their own custom Expression System (ES) which includes a series of transducers, a pickup and a preamp that provides a low impedance signal (instead of the typical high-impedance signal from other systems).

When it works, the system sounds great. Very clear and natural. Very little of the peizo “thwack” that is customary with Ovations and other acoustic-electrics. Some owners with early versions of the ES system have experienced problems, and it looks like I am one of them.

The problem is, the ES system takes two AA batteries, which sit end-to-end in a compartment like a hot dog. There’s a number of flaws with how the battery makes the connection inside the compartment. There’s at least two places (the knob and where the two batteries meet in the middle) that can fail. On some gigs, I’d have signal for one song, but then after jostling around a bit, I wouldn’t have sound for the next song. Since the only time I really make use of the electronics is for gigs… that’s a problem! (The guitar plays and sounds great acoustically, so when I record I just use a condenser mike).

I’ve had problems with the guitar at almost every gig over the past year, and in fact I recall having trouble from Day 1, but always thought it was just me. Recently I started to get some other rattles inside the guitar, which could have been from all the jumping around troubleshooting it. At that point I figured it was best for the experts to look at it. Now I’m on pins and needles waiting for it to get back safely. The shipping and insurance were outrageous, but I figure if this helps me solve the problem, it is worth it.

I dropped the guitar off at our local Mailroom shipment center, and despite having pulled up in front of the UPS truck on 9/19, the guitar didn’t actually leave town until 9/20. The next IM show is on 10/5, so I have my fingures crossed that it can get back here. The folks at Taylor told me they would put a rush on it. We’ll see if they pull through.

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IM Blog up and running

After trying a couple different content delivery options, I decided to compile this blog from previous commentaries and current thoughts. I expect the play will continue to warrant discussion as we are doing a reprise in the Fall and there is a possibility it may come to Bloomsburg in Spring 2007.

So for now enjoy these now, more accessible, comments from past sessions and journals.

Immaculate Misconceptions Project

Opening night is upon us

6/16/06 – Well, opening night is upon us. CD pressing continued right up until Wednesday afternoon when we left for Greensburg. Our 4-hour ride out here was uneventful, with the exception of one cool van that we saw. I took a picture, but will have to wait until I get back to post it because I forgot my USB transfer cable.

Yesterday’s rehearsals went well. Our first cue to cue showed that I had to do some serious restructuring of my notes to make sure I stayed with Steve. He made lots of last minute changes and cuts, and percussion is playing larger role than before. Another runthrough, and then a final rehearsal with tech brought us to about 8:00 on Thursday and at that point we felt like we did about as much as we could do.

We’re trying to bring the show closer to 90 minutes, since it was running a bit long. We’re adding an intermission just to be on the safe side. We’ll probably do some cue to cue reviews tonight, but won’t be doing any more full-blown rehearsal in favor of keeping things fresh for tonight.

For those of you in the Bloomsburg area who can’t make it out to the show, the CD will be available shortly via the web, and we’re going to see about bringing the show to the area possibly next year.