Saturday, August 17, 2013

Assorted Stories from my Latest Shows

In  my post about being burnt out I talked briefly about how I rescued an actor from being killed by a sandbag.  Now for a myriad of other entertaining (I hope) stories.


The fourth day of tech I came in having already worked a six hour shift at Starbucks.  It was my fourth eighteen hour day and so this is the setting for my story.  About an hour before dinner one of the actors comes offstage and informs me that one of our very large riser units is hard to move.  This wasn't the most trustworthy of actors and so I went to find another one who had proven himself to be slightly more reliable.  He confirmed the first actor's story and so I took a look at it and first checked to see if the drop pin (essentially our braking system) was down.  It wasn't.  But one side of the unit did seem much closer to the ground.  I informed my deck chief and he came over to take a look at it.  He initially dismissed it as wear and tear, but I insisted and he too noted that one side was much much closer to the ground.

We took the side paneling off and he quickly discovered that the unit had completely failed and would not roll again if it couldn't have extensive repairs made to it.  So we took it to the adjacent (small) shop and began major repairs that should have never been needed if the unit had been made correctly in the first place.  The stage manager and I then pointed out that we would need to do the same with the second unit (there was a fair amount of cursing at that point that I'm cutting out).  I spent the next forty-five minutes listen to my deck chief/master carpenter rant and rave about the whole situation (and really his whole reaction was well and truly earned).

So I walked down the street of the small city where my theatre was located, getting more and more agitated.  As I walked, I bumped into my assistant choreographer, a close friend of mine, and I literally broke down and cried on his shoulder for a solid few minutes.  I have never been in that state in my life nor would I ever want to again.  But the major scenic center pieces of the show were eventually repaired and life did go on.

Oh and as the kicker, when we took the side paneling off of both riser units there were loose screws just hanging out inside.


The rest of my stories from that show aren't quite a coherent tale, but here's just a fun list of things I witnessed/was party to/dealt with:
  • A forty year old dating a seventeen year old
  • Two dogs onstage
  • Set pieces that didn't actually fit in the space
  • Confetti canons that never fucking worked (eventually we figured out a trick with the masking tape)
  • Disappearing masking tape, spike tape, paint, paint brushes, batteries, and drills
  • A crew member who had no business being backstage because he was a safety hazard (he was a bit slow, which is not a problem, unless you're working in a business where you or someone else could get killed if you're not quick on your feet)
  • A teenage friend confessing relationship issues to me

Oh wait, I do have one more story.  I'd forgotten this one because it was the first day of tech.  This crew member eventually quit.  This was the conversation I had over wireless headset.  As you'll see, I had already learned to be very specific with this particular crew member.

"Rachel, can you please move the stage right wall unit into stage right wing three with the red paneling facing down?"
"Rachel, can you please move the stage right wall unit into stage right wing three with the red paneling facing down?"
"The stage right wall unit."
"Please move the stage right wall unit into stage right wing three, with the paneling facing down."
"Yes. You."

That was literally the only time I have ever thrown anything in frustration (I threw my clipboard (funny thing was my boss was right there and he just laughed at me)).  Luckily my deck chief took over from there.  Just UGGH.


This next story actually happened on my latest show two days ago.  It involves a picture.  Since the theatre I'm working in has no real fly (rigging) system to speak of the carpenters created an impromtu one for something called a kabuki drop.  A kabuki drop is essentially a rig that holds something (in this case a sign) and then you press a button and it unfurls.  Then you can press another button and it drops completely to the ground.  The rigging system for the kabuki drop in this theatre looks like the picture below:

So the other day, what happened was that one of the three pick points on the kabuki drop (which is represented by the piece labeled scenery) came unattached from the counterweight (in this case a sandbag).  So we got I got out a ladder and pulled the wire down from the ceiling and we reattached it to the sandbag.  However, the wire was no longer the same length as the others, so I needed to adjust the length of the other wires.  It was infinitely doable, but the stage manager told me to just let it be, so I did and we did the show without the kabuki drop.

That same night we got two-thirds of the way through the show and suddenly all three people on the crew realized that our headsets were too quiet.  As it turns out we couldn't communicate with the stage manager, who was on wired clear com (headset).  We were on wireless.  We realized when a cue to close a curtain was supposed to happen, but didn't.  Since the kabuki was cut for the night, I ran up to the booth and informed them what was wrong, but since the show is so busy for everyone involved, we couldn't actually fix it.  So we did there rest of a very complicated show with no clear com (it went of smoothly, but dear god it was nerve-wracking).

The next day we came in and there were cables securing the sandbag to the wires of the rigging to keep them from coming apart, which is what had happened in the first place.  It wasn't a clean or elegant solution but at least the idiot fixed it.  So me, being the person I am, decided to test the rig after it had been fixed and before the show.  Let me tell you, I have never been so glad of doing something.  When I pressed the button for the sign to unfurl, one of the ropes securing the sign to the kabuki drop completely came untied and it swung on one rope like a drunken pendulum and would have hit whoever was below it.  So I retied the knots, checked several other knots that were loose and tested it again.  Since I did that, it's been working perfectly, thankfully.

If it had just been rigged properly in the first place it never would have been a problem.  In case you actually care, the person who did this rigging was the same carpenter who built the riser units from my first story.

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