Magazine article Variety

Inventive Legiters Create App-Ropriate Tools

Magazine article Variety

Inventive Legiters Create App-Ropriate Tools

Article excerpt

GOTHAM LIMELIGHT

There's an app for that, as the saying goes. But an increasing number of entrepreneurial theater folk have noticed that for a lot of day-to-day legit work, there isn't an app for that - and they've set about remedying the situation.

Take Jeff Whiting, the latest legiter to add the unlikely words "software developer" to his resume. As a director-choreographer who often works as Susan Stroman's associate, he found himself slaving over exhaustive "show bibles" - detailed accounts of stage arrangements and actor movements, often totaling thousands of pages per show - so that a production can be reproduced on tour and in other incarnations.

"I'd been dreaming about ways I could make my life easier," Whiting says. "I kept thinking, 'This should be simple.' It's just there was no existing way to do it."

Looking for a digital tool that could streamline the process, all Whiting could come up with was a juryrigged combo of Power Point and Excel. What he really needed, he decided, was an iPad app - and so StageWrite, launching March 1, was born.

Whiting joins a handful of industry denizens in creating rehearsal-tool apps they'd use themselves. Two of the bestknown apps for helping actors memorize lines, for instance, come from actors themselves - David H. Lawrence XVTJ ("Heroes"), who spearheaded the creation of Rehearsal, and J. Kevin Smith, the man behind Scene Partner.

"The dirty little secret is, if nobody ever bought the app and it was just me using it in my day-to-day life as an actor, I'd still be a happy dude," Lawrence says.

As Whiting discovered, it ain't easy creating and selling an app. He knew what he wanted, but guided by a friend in the tech industry, he had to seek out the Arizona-based team of programmers that he ended up hiring to do the coding.

There's also a not-insignificant amount of money involved. Whiting, who capitalized StageWrite himself, says he had to pony up "hundreds of thousands of dollars" to bring the app to market.

The final product is a tool for creating, duplicating and editing the floorplan charts that, in a show bible, give a moment-to-moment, top-down view of where and when actors and set pieces move during a show. In beta tests during his day job, he's already found it invaluable, talking up the potential, for instance, to email jpegs of the charts to swing performers, or to a regional lighting designer in advance of a touring production's arrival. …

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