Saturday, May 25, 2013


Partway through my last update, I got busy again.  So, it is still sitting in the drafts.  However, I am slowly getting back up and running.  I am currently creating some PowerPoint presentations for introduction to video.  I am also helping a student with her thesis project and will be one of the readers as well as teaching a couple workshops.  I have also decided to begin writing a textbook based on the introduction to projection. 

I may start to publish bits of the book or presentations here as a preview. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

I'm Back!

I know that it has been quite a while since my last post.  I haven't abandoned doing this, just life has been happening, a lot.  So, I will be catching up with some new musings in the following days about all that has been keeping me so occupied and sometimes unmotivated.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy endings, new beginnings

Tonight is kind of a sad night for me.  One of my friends is leaving and heading on to a new journey in life.  How appropriate on New Year's.  She will be greatly missed.  She's actually from the light side of the theater.  She is a bright shining star who will be benefitting a city filled with stars who don't shine nearly as bright as her.  I hope my friends in her new area will have the chance to benefit from her spirit.

There is often the division between performers and technicians.  Heck, I have been one to say "An actor [performer] without technicians try to emote, standing naked in the dark, while a technician without an actor is someone with marketable skills."  Funny as it is, it is just as negative as the nasty performers in our lives.  After all, with our marketable skills, we should be able to make more money than as stagehands.  We don't because we love what we do (or we don't stay in the business). 

While I will be sad that my friend is moving on to new adventures, I am very happy for her.  All of my friends who have left this show have gone on to do massively wonderful things.  I know that she will as well.  After all, we should never be sad about something we don't have, but be happy for what we have.  I am happy that I have had the opportunity of friendship with someone who has done so much for so many. 

Until we meet again.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Know where you are going

When I was starting out in college, I majored in theater (emphasis on technical theater).  Silly thing is, I only received an Associate of Arts (2 year degree program) in theater, because I wanted to be an archaeologist.  So, yeah, I went to another college/university to get my degree in that.  But I digress.

While getting my degree in theater I had to take acting classes.  Acting can be fun, but I prefer to be behind the scenes.  Something very useful that they teach the actors is to know where you are going.  This is useful for them when something goes wrong (someone forgets a line, there is some technical glitch, whatever).  It is obvious when you have an amateur actor on stage when something goes wrong because they will often freeze, run off stage, or do something really stupid.  On the other hand, a well trained actor will handle the situation so well that you, in the audience, will be hard pressed to know if they are covering up a faux pas or if they actually rehearsed it that way. 

We as technicians should follow their lead.  We should be prepared for all contingencies for when things not going as planned.  How will you make it look?  How will you get the set changes done?  How is it going to sound?  How are you going to keep the magic alive?  This is especially difficult for those of us who have very short runs (one or two weekends) like academic theater.  You have been spending all your time making the costumes, sets, setting up the lights and sound, and only have one week to rehearse with the cast to make magic.  How are you supposed to plan for every contention?

The first thing that needs to be done with any show is organization.  By having all of your paperwork prepared and carefully organized, not scribbles on random scraps of paper, then you will have a point of reference to make accommodations for the inevitable.  Do not depend on others to tell you what you are going to do, but give them the options to choose from.  After all, the stage manager needs your expertise to make everything run right.  They will just be coordinating the action, but you have to know where you are going. 

Hopefully, technicians who work on long running or permanent productions have the opportunity to rehearse contingency plans.  After all, there is more likely to be returning audience members and they will be able to spot mistakes unless you make it look like a planned change. 

Let's think about some of the things that could go wrong.  If you have to skip a scene (say a major scenic piece prevents you from going there for some reason), it should be simple to just jump a few cues and get on track with the next scene.  What will you do with any scroller units that have to change frames or a mover that has changes but are live in the cue you are in and the one you are going to?  What if the stage manager decides to do the skipped scene in front of the main rag but all your cues are written for upstage?  What if you are using wireless mics and now don't have time to switch packs on actors?  Can you accommodate a quick costume change?  Can you finish the rest of the show if the set piece is now blocking other scenes as well?

I can't tell you the answers to all of these scenarios, but I can tell you that a well seasoned technician will not build a show without contingency plans in place.  After all, everyone expects the show to go on and no matter what the problem is, they expect you to make it happen.  We make our jobs look easy when things go right, make sure that you do so even when things go wrong.  You will be appreciated.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Preparation can be confusing

I like to be prepared.  I don't like surprises (in a bad way).  So, yes, when I travel, my bag is usually packed with more than what I want, and hopefully I won't end up needing anything.  Such was the case with a recent business trip that I took.  First of all, the system that I was responsible for was tested and fully planned for any problems that could arise when arriving on site.  I was very thankful for that since we ended up with other challenges.

Now, this event had live performers as well who would be doing some stunts.  In preparation, we trained before hand as well as on site to make sure that if anything were to go wrong that we would be able to get our performers medical attention as soon as possible.  This goes along the line with normal training in basic first aid and CPR that normally goes into my work.  We also train in electrical safety (had my electrical hazard, safety toe shoes on for the entire event) as well as other hazards we may come across.

So, with all of the preparation that we have done prior to arriving on site, as well as the steps we were taking as soon as we arrived, I was more than a little surprised when the security supervisor for the site showed up the morning of the event to ask about an injury that had occurred.  He was upset that there had not been a formal report filed with the facility with the occurrence and wanted to get some of the details.  At first we were completely shocked to hear this (we didn't have a large crew, so I figured that we should have heard about it).  We make a couple of calls to those who had not arrived on site yet, no one had heard anything.  The overnight guard was still there and confirmed that it wasn't any of the crew that was working overnight.  Then the "Aha" moment came.  The guard said that it happened the previous afternoon when we were rehearsing for the performance.  I asked if it was one of the performers that they believed to have been injured, which he affirmed that it was.

It seems that someone observed our rescue rehearsal and thought that it was real.  First of all, I feel really good about that.  It means that we were well enough trained in saving someone that from the outside, it looked like we were really doing it.  After all, we had to get the performer on a spine board and carry him towards the point where the ambulance would have picked him up.  I relayed the entire event to the security supervisor, along with the approximate time that we practiced the rehearsal.  Phew, crisis averted.  No surprises here.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I really need to be more organized

We have all been instructed that it is important to back up our files on our computers.  After all, hard drives crash, yadda, yadda, yadda.  I know some people who are extremely good about this.  I went out and purchased an external hard drive and have backed up quite a few files, even if I don't do it on a schedule yet.  Yet, I still seem to never get around to organizing all those files, I just know they exist multiple places.

Sure, this goes along with physical things as well.  I know that I have boxes of things that I don't need (hoarder?, just in my garage) and should get rid of.  At least when I moved from Arizona, I had a wonderful opportunity to purge.  The people at Goodwill knew at the sight of my car that there would be a lot to unload (actually exceeded my IRS allotment for donations that year).  Even at that, I know that I really need to purge more and also organize what I have.

So, today, I had my laziness bite me in the rear.  I save emails.  All the time.  Half the time it is because there is something important in them and the other half is because I don't have the time to read them.  Well, today I go and sign in to one of my web based emails to find everything gone.  They claim that it's because I hadn't signed in for an extended period of time (which I do at least weekly) that my account had been closed and all emails deleted and now had been re-instated.  Obviously I was quite irate, but how much can I complain for a free service?  On top of that, they then wanted me to use their service to collect the mail from all of my other accounts.  Yeah, like that's going to happen (I've had problems with this account ever since AOL took it over). 

This was extremely inconvenient for me since I got lazy and used the free email as online storage.  This isn't the first time that something like this has happened to me (though I had legitimately forgotten about an account), but this time I lost a lot more important data. 

Will I learn my lesson?  Who knows.  I try to keep up with everything and keep organized, but frankly it gets pretty overwhelming (what's it like to be just whelmed?).  So, how does that help you?  Will you learn from my mistakes?  How often do you back up your information?  Do you trust "cloud" computing to protect what's valuable to you or do you keep more secure means like CD/DVD copies in a fire safe?  Then again, it starts to come down to what really is important.  Should I relegate a lot of my virtual possessions to a virtual Goodwill as much as I do my real things?  Probably should.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Where have I been

Aside from being busy at work, I have been creating a second blog.  This one is not theater related, but was requested none the less.  You see, my wife gave me a set of Zombie Magnetic Poetry for Christmas and I started writing poems on the refrigerator.  My youngest happened to be collecting them in a notebook, so when I was asked to share them, I created a new blog.  Please enjoy the poetry and comments are welcome.

I'll get back to the theater related posts soon.  It's just been a busy season as I'm sure you all understand.