Thursday, September 30, 2010

Camera Charging On the Go and Abroad

Most digital cameras available today are powered via a rechargeable battery. This portable Kodak charger is convenient when planning to rough it without electricity or feeling afraid to charge an expensive camera in a foreign outlet even with a power adapter.

The charger is good for two full charges of a USB compatible camera but the unit itself must be charged before traveling. Click here to pick it up at Kodak or here from Amazon. 

My experience while traveling abroad for ten days is the charger did its job of two full charges. But after almost six days, the charger could no longer juice my camera. Luckily I had a spare fully-charged camera battery and my camera could be charged using my iPad charger. But if you use video or constantly turn on and off your camera and take a vast amount of photos, you are likely to run the battery much quicker than you'd like therefore requiring a charge soon afterwards. The only other drawback is the charging of the unit itself took overnight.

One added benefit is the base unit is able to charge other USB devices such as iPods and phones in addition to cameras (see photos below).

My camera is from Kodak's EasyShare 'M' series (model #M109315). Kodak constantly updates their product line and this camera is no longer available even though I purchased it about a year ago. Updated versions are available at

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Programs Cost, Playbills Free

Collection of London programs.
During the intermission of a London performance of 'Love Never Dies' I observed a group of visitors from America claiming to an usher at the Adelphi Theatre that they did not receive their playbills when they were seated. In New York and in all theaters across the United States, the ubiquitous playbill at a stage play is normally included in the price of a ticket and most theatergoers treat this tradition as a god given right. However in London programs must be paid for and the usher indicated it so to a bewildered group.

Souvenir Brochure (or Souvenir Program) next to Programme (or Playbill)
This is normally a shock for visiting Americans. On Broadway I always found it wasteful that at the end of a play the floor is littered with discarded playbills. With producers claiming of high production costs its a wonder Broadway has not followed suit. In London there are no programs laying waste after the performance.

The programs in London are much more durable being constructed of a thicker paper stock and a couple of centimeters larger than a Broadway playbill. Most programs cost about £3 (US$5) or even up to £7 (US$11) for magazine size versions.

Pages in Programme.
The program is not be be confused with the souvenir brochure. Much larger in size than a program, the souvenir version contains pages of color photographs from the production. The one caveat is the souvenir brochure is produced at only certain times during the production's run. Because of this the photographs in the souvenir brochure will often contain photos of cast members no longer with the production while the program will always list the current cast members. To remedy this, an insert of the current cast is placed in the souvenir program. Most souvenir brochures cost about £10-£12 (US$15-$18).

If a program and souvenir brochure are available I will always purchase both as they are the only documentation of the theater experience. Souvenir brochures (or in the USA, souvenir programs) are primarily produced for musicals. Plays will normally offer only a program or playbill.

Pages in Souvenir Brochure.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The London Theatre from Stalls to Balcony

Her Majesty's Theatre stage view of 'Phantom' set from balcony. Photo by flickr/dbray46 (2008)
London stage theaters name the levels of seats differently from Broadway houses. When purchasing tickets for London it's important to know this distinction especially if you are very particular about seat selection.

In most Broadway theaters, there are only two levels but at least a couple have three. They are classified from the lowest to upper levels:
- Orchestra
- Mezzanine
- Balcony
So if you purchase a balcony seat, you will find yourself on the third level. However many local theaters outside of New York classify their second level as the balcony. Because of this some ticket holders to a Broadway show, such as 'Mary Poppins' at the New Amsterdam Thetre, are disappointed to find they are seated much higher than expected.

In most London theaters, the lower to upper levels are classified as follows:
- Stalls
- Dress Circle or Royal Circle
- Upper Circle or Grand Circle
- Balcony
So if you purchase a balcony seat, you will likely find yourself in the most upper reaches of the auditorium.

Keep in the mind the higher the level, the more severe the rake of the balcony. Handrails are usually present to help patrons guide themselves along the steep aisle steps.

Palace theatre stage view from balcony. Photo by: webshots/ptschan (2003)
Another important distinction is the arrangement of seats on the stalls level in London compared to orchestra level on Broadway. Almost all Broadway houses have a orchestra left, center and right with two center aisles and two side aisles. In London, the stalls level on most theaters have seats in an unbroken row with aisles only on the sides. Some London theaters will have a singular center aisle. The largest of London theaters: Palladium, Apollo Victoria and Theatre Royal, Drury Lane have stalls seating arranged similar to that of Broadway houses.

Because many London theaters were constructed when there was a distinct class system and mixing of the classes of avoided, some balcony ticket holders will find themselves using a separate entrance from ticket holders seated on the stalls or dress circle levels.

Below are two samples of London seating charts. One for London's Palace Theatre which currently houses the musical 'Priscilla, Queen of the Desert' and the Noel Coward Theatre which currently houses the revival of 'Deathtrap'.

Noel Coward Theatre Seating Plan.
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