Monday, November 2, 2009

West Side Story Tech - Day 2 of 11

I get home from work yesterday with the intent of sleeping for an hour, getting up at 530, inhaling some food, and getting to the theater at 6p. Oops... Ok, not really. I hit the snooze three times. I knew I was doing it. As I'm finally walking out the door at 630p, Joe calls. Where are you? Are you coming in today? Yes, I'll be there in 10 mins. It's nice living so close to the theater, but I really can't be pushing the call times like that on a regular basis...

When I arrive, Joe and the LD are cutting gel. The plot has not changed since the meeting the night before - I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not. We'll see. Big Robert and the sound guy are assembling the new body mics. Any one seen a box of antennas for the receivers? Nope. Hmmm... They RTFM and see that there are supposed to be antennas, but they're not with the delivery. Great. Add that to the list of stupid things we shouldn't have had to do.

I spent a little more time on the light board. The city has built risers to put under the sound & light boards so that everything is higher. No more crouching down under the railing to see the stage, or sitting on a phone book to look over the railing. Wahoo! I have the hideous orange chair that Big Robert brought from his basement forever and a day ago, parked right in front of the light board as high as it will go. It's a great view. Now we just have to work on the two monitors for the light board - sitting right between them I can only see the center of the stage. :-/

The heat wasn't on full blast, so it was much more tolerable. I also didn't wear a sweater. Forgot to grab the fan, so it was good that it was cooler. I had water, plain goldfish crackers, and gummy bears, so I was set. No, we're not supposed to have food/drink up there. They don't even keep a trash can up there because apparently it encourages people to bring food. Of course the notes I was done with were crumpled up and thrown on the floor with the extra packaging that went with the new mics, the package for my new thumb drive, and dead batteries from my 3 Maglites. (You can never have too many Maglites.)

While the LD was getting the rest of the gel set, Joe brought me the plot. Lights were there, with circuit numbers, area numbers, and color numbers. Ok, that's good. But based on the way it was drawn, one half of the stage was amber, the other half blue, focused straight on. This did not compute. I know that a lot of designers have their color split that way, washing the whole stage from one side with one color, and from the other side with the other color. If you look carefully at the actors faces, you can see distinctly that one side is one color and one side is the other. But the lights were focused straight in. Meaning that literally the actors would walk from one color to the other with a seam in the middle. Eh???

About 7p the LD is ready to start focusing. Joe is in the genie (only city folk are allowed in there anymore) and LD is pushing him around. They start with the 3rd electric - back light. The 3E is directly over the wall of windows that will separate the downstage area from upstage. The orchestra is going to be US of the wall, while the show happens DS and on the thrust.

The set guy is irritated because he has no help. The cast is rehearsing, so he's got no one from there. One section of the wall is still braced on the DS side, and he's trying to assemble everything else by himself so he can pull the braces. Two people show up around 730 to help him, but things are still moving slow.

Joe is calling out circuit numbers as they focus and gel the 3E. While we do have a remote for the light board, it's a little more difficult to use until you know the system. So I'm in the booth taking lights up and down. This is definitely a different board. It has a lot of the same buttons, but in completely different places. Plus there is an extra step with each thing you want to do, which I kept forgetting about. So I wasn't moving very quickly. They're hollering from the stage 'BRING UP 74!' I'm working on it - I'm not as fast with this board yet.

They're going, one by one from SL toward center. LD has never used the genie before, so he didn't know things like loosening the outriggers before trying to push it. Plus it helps to unplug it so you're not dragging the cord all over the place. He also hasn't figured out steering. The thing is a bitch to manipulate - esp with people in it. It only goes forward or backward, and if you need to move up or down stage you have to turn it in it's own space. It's like steps. Three sharp lefts make a right... One of the things you learn after a while is not to look up - look where you're going. Since LD was looking up, he ran the genie right into the bracing for the back wall. CRACK! Thankfully, the only thing that cracked was the brace and not the set itself. At that point Joe started giving him specific directional moves so nothing else got run over.

As the rest of the focusing is going on, I start to notice that despite the way the plot was drawn, the blue lights on SL are being aimed to spread across the stage. Excellent.

When it comes to color, I have a few that I primarily stick with. As I'm looking at the color scheme chosen for this show I'm thinking - not horrible, but not what I would have done. Then I see the color chosen for the side lights. (I'm now choking on a gummy bear...) While I tend to be a little too conservative with color, I do enjoy when a designer does something with it that really adds an interesting touch. However, there are some colors that are definitely only for certain effects. 99.9% of the time, kelly green should never ever *ever* be hitting people. It doesn't work well for a sick look, it doesn't work well in a tree gobo, it's just not good. Splash it on a set, sure. People, no. Most side lights hit people. They give the stage dimension and depth. Having a fun color in there isn't a bad thing, but we're using canary yellow.

Canary yellow. Yes, I said it. Tweety Bird meets grungy gang wars. Not just one light that might represent a sun or something, all the side lights. Hmmm... The cast, esp anyone who has an orange or olive skin tone is going to look jaundice. Lovely... Why did someone pee on the set? Wow... Forget about Anita's fire engine red dress. Maybe I'll be surprised. Nah... No way. Don't use it. Big Robert and I are watching the color go in and he starts to laugh. He says 'I've tried to use that color for so many shows, it NEVER works. Give it up buddy.'

In the meantime I'm creating a cheat sheet for myself. Circuit, area, color... plus programming some groups and trying to figure out how to make the moving lights work. I'm getting better with the board, so I'm moving faster when I get yelled to from the stage. There are no lights being used on the 2E, so they're moving to the 1E. For a star effect, there are 4 or 5 lights that will have star gobos in them coming from the 1E. This is overkill, and prob should be coming from the catwalk, but whatever. Just make them work.

In order to get the gobo pattern to be crisp and sharply defined, we have to kill the work lights so the stage is dark. With the new way the light board is positioned, you can't just reach over and push the button. If I'd wanted to stay in my chair, I would have needed a broomstick. So they call works out, circuit 54 full. I can't do both at the same time. I bring up the light, then take the works out. However I'm not moving fast enough so they think I can't hear them and repeat themselves. Ugh! The night is 3/4 over, and I find a submaster on the board labeled 'dippers'. The city uses them when the Rockville band or chorus performs so they can read their music without music stand lights. Forget running back and forth, if they want work light, I'm giving them the dippers. I don't care if they make the place hotter. Move the damn button or get me a stick and I won't use the dippers. :-)

In the course of focusing lights, you always come across one that doesn't work, no matter what you do with it. It requires you to stop what you're doing, swap instruments - don't forget to grab the gel out of the non-working light! Hopefully you've grabbed one from the shop that is in the 'working' pile... While they're doing this, I start playing with the moving lights. After about 15mins, RTFM, and a quick call to Shaffer, I've got this light pointed in the house, a tree gobo in it, spinning at 30rpm's and running thru the few colors it has. WAHOO! Happy dance! Ok, stop now... getting dizzy....

Around 1030p Kim (Joe's boss) drops by the theater after some event he was working on. He came upstairs to see how I was doing with the board. He gets two steps in, looks at the floor and says 'what's this?' I said 'It's trash.' He just looked at me. Then I said 'You took the trash can away, what did you expect?' Before he can take his next breath, I say that we'll clean up before we leave. *rolling eyes* I almost said - at least I didn't throw it over the railing into the house... Anyway, He showed me a couple of other cool things the board will do, before Joe yelled at him to leave me alone.

By 11p we did manage to get everything over the stage gelled and focused. (Um, we only paid to be there until 10p. The producer is going to be thrilled that we were there later than we should have been...) My head is splitting by this point and I'm so ready to go home. We had one circuit dead center that was not just center, but also dead. Joe had to take it apart to fix it, so I hung out while he did that. Can't leave a guy at the top of a genie by himself playing with electricity. Thankfully it didn't take long and we were out the door by 1130p.

Tonight we'll work on the catwalk and whatever we're doing with the moving lights and thrust. At least that's the plan as I know it right now. Big Robert will be helping with the set tonight, so hopefully they can get the rest of it in and finished. Oh, did I mention they built a fire escape and balcony that will run from the alcove to the stage? That'll be fun to install. Looks like we'll be loosing some lighting instruments from the SL alcove. Yay.

I had a request for some video footage of the excitement. Maybe next show I'll start early and do a behind the scenes thing from beginning to end. This time, you'll just have to live with my rambling. Oh, and Sound Guy - in case you see this, I'll warn you here like I did last night. Take my chair and I'll repatch the sound board. Have a nice day. ;-)

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