Monday, November 28, 2011

What will we do this term? What WON'T we do is more like it ...

Kalamazoo Kevin
Ah, here we are: the second term. It's that time in our year where we don't have a big set to build, and speech and show choir tend to dominate the performing arts landscape. Seems like this is a time for the techies to put up our feet, wrap a blanket around us, enjoy a cup of hot cocoa or tea, and relax until Spring.

Seems like you'd be wrong.

As you may not know (and many don't), this is "Wombat Day," the day where Kalamazoo Kevin, the most famous wombat in the northern hemisphere, comes out of his little blue box and looks at his calendar to determine how this term will progress in terms of providing technical support for WHS events. The legend goes something like this: if he grunts and goes right back to his box, there's six weeks of nothing to do. If he shrieks, tears at his hair, and then runs in circles at a hundred miles an hour, it means that events requiring techies are right around the corner .

Today, Kevin fell back straight, eyes wide open, twitched a little bit, and softly moaned "but it's not even December yet" over and over. This means that there is no corner - we have events staring us in the face, and lots of them. It's not often that he has this reaction, but it wouldn't be the first time that this has happened, either. (Don't worry about Kevin. A few crackers, some 7-Up, and a shot of oxygen got him back on his feet soon after his spell. He'll be fine.)

I don't know if you recall last December - and if you're like me, you've unsuccessfully blotted it from your memory - but we didn't have much time to rest. This December looks much the same. Read carefully and prepare thyself for hand-to-hand tech activity:

Saturday, December 10th: Cocoa and Carols. There are officially two shows - one at 11:00 and one at 2:00. We will do some set-up on Friday, and then we'll come in at about 9:30 on Saturday to get everything else up and running. We'll need a good sized crew for this: a couple of people on the light board, the Slice sound peeps, a couple of follow spot ops and a small but dedicated running crew (and this might be a good opportunity for those who will be crewing for show choirs this winter.) Wear your PArTs black shirt - and if you haven't been given one yet, you'll get one soon. We also have a snarky little tradition of wearing holiday headgear, scarves, hoods, etc. so see if you can find one for the show. When we are done, we'll get the sound stuff stowed, and then we'll need to strike the lights from the auditorium loft for the next big thing, which is ...

Thursday, December 15th: Academic Letter and Numeral Assembly. We'll begin the set-up for this on Wednesday the 14th. I'll take a small group of people in the morning of that day to get the lighting set up and working. We cannot set up the stage until after the last basketball practice, so we'll need a bunch of people to help with that at 7:00 that evening. It won't take long if we have enough people there to help. After the assembly on Thursday, we'll strike the stage, lights and sound, and we'll get the lighting back up in the loft and focused on the stage for the next big event, which will be ...

Thursday, December 15th: Instrumental Music Holiday Concert. Yup - same day. Nutty, isn't it? We'll need to be efficient in getting the lights set for that evening. For those who aren't going to be participating on stage, I could always use a little help in the booth running lights and a mic. Talk to me if you're interested. From this concert, we go to ...

Monday, December 19th: Vocal Music Holiday Concert. If we do everything right on the previous Thursday, there will be little need to change things up too much for this concert. Again, if you wish to help, let me know - this will be a small crew event.

And then, we have the lovely break. We'll need it because when we come back on Tuesday, January 3rd, we'll need to get ready for ...

Thursday, January 5th: AP Award Assembly. See Academic Letter And Numeral Assembly info, because it will be deja-vu all over again. The bright spot here will be that we don't have to get every light back in the loft and focused for a concert that night - but we'll take the time to at least get them up in the loft, because the next week will feature ...

Tuesday, January 10th: Eastside Band Concert, &
Thursday, January 12th: Eastside Orchestra Concert. I thank my band and orchestra colleagues for scheduling these events during the same week - it makes the set-up a whole lot easier for us. Small crews for these events, so again, let me know if you want to push some buttons.

I could go on, but that's enough heartburn for one evening. Kalamazoo Kevin did us no favors by keeling over this morning. We'll be busy, but you need to remember two things. The first one is that we provide a pretty nice service for the Washington community through our "fun." It's a lot of work to make these events look and sound as good as we can, and you have always come through in the clutch. I think there was a previous post about hard work and talent, and it takes both. So, enjoy this week and next - you'll need the rest. The second thing you need to remember? Simple:

TECHIES RULE!


Monday, November 14, 2011

Week of November 14: What Did We Learn?

With a few hours of peace and solitude separating us from leaving the scene shop early Sunday morning, it's time for us to reflect upon what we accomplished, what we might have missed, what we would have liked to do, and so on.

What we usually discover - and it's usually verbalized as the curtain is going up on opening night - is that "if we just had a little more time ..." we could have done something better. Something more visual. Made a different choice.

So, what did we learn from our most recent production of The Wizard of Oz?

From the standpoint of the technical director, here are some of my observations:

1) I believed we accomplished one of the most challenging scene changes known to theater: "The Tornado." If you look in the script, it's only two pages. But it's two pages of stage direction, punctuated by a few lines. Stage directions like "the characters go into the storm cellar" and "the spotlight picks out a small house spinning above the stage." Seriously? But this is The Wizard of Oz, and most of our audience has seen the film, and there's a storm cellar, and a spinning house, and people flying through the air in the tornado. Certainly there are other scene changes that are challenging in theater, but to go through four differing scenes in such a short amount of time is hardly an easy task. Well done, crew!

2) Scenery can be funny. Hard to believe, but it's true. Of course, it can't be funny on it's own, but when we got the portal in the Gates of Emerald City to slide back and forth, it made me giggle. It's a good bit, even if it's only for a moment. A door that can snap open and shut for comedic affect? Priceless. (OK, maybe this one is just me.)

3) Signature moments and one-trick ponies. What moment is most memorable in the Wizard of Oz? The tornado? Glinda's appearance? The Witch's appearance? "I'm melting, I'm melting, oh, what a world?" Tough to pick, isn't it? And the problem with a show like this is that ask ten people that question, and your likely to get ten different answers. This means you need to give credence to each one. For some, we hit a home run: the melting scene if five seconds long, and everyone bought it. The flying house is five seconds, too. It actually got some applause. For some, we had to settle. I would have loved to do a great red smoke and fire effect for the witch's appearance. A CO2 fire extinguisher did the trick, and it worked. Our bubble had to be moved twice before we got it to work. We weren't fooling anyone as to how we got Glinda on stage. But, they were small parts of the show, and they served their purpose.

4. Talent may beat hard work, but we needed both for this show to be successful. And we had it. We needed smart people to learn how to run a digital sound board, and the physical labor that it took to get mics, speakers and cables set up. We needed bright people to learn and understand the new rigging system, and then run the ropes during the show. We needed stage and props managers who could organize the backstage area, and then pitch in and run stuff when needed. We needed observant light board and follow spot operators to be aware that just about every rehearsal and show needed something new and just a bit different, and then stayed attentive to make sure nothing got missed. We needed eager shift crew personnel who could count on scenery being added up until the first show, and making move quickly and quietly. We needed make-up and costume people to keep over sixty cast members organized, and then bring on some really quick changes that must have been a nightmare backstage. Everyone was talented, and everyone worked hard. Bingo.


So, what did you learn? Go ahead and post a comment. It doesn't have to be long or overly thoughtful - even small things count in something like this.

I am always humbled and amazed by the amount of work that we receive from our techies when we start throwing kitchen sinks at them. The Wizard of Oz is surely an audience favorite, but when it comes to the technical side of things, it is a seven-headed monster with sharp teeth and nasty claws. Thanks again to our fabulous crew who kept their heads about them and made a lot of stage magic happen!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Week of November 7th: How about a little fire, Scarecrow?

How about a little fire, indeed. This week might feel a little warmish, thanks to all of the stuff we have in front of us. But don't worry - keep cool and we'll all be very happy with the end result. (But I'd keep a bucket of water handy just the same.)

This is the week we've been waiting for and working toward: Production Week. It will be a long and involved week, and we need to make sure we don't miss anything.


Monday, Nov. 7th: Dress rehearsal. Crew call is at 3:00, and we'd like to get started by 4:30. If all goes well - and we have no reason to suspect otherwise - this will not be a very late night. We have a few new things to add to some scenes, and no doubt we'll have to adjust a few things. We'll also be adding sound to the party for the first time. Patience will be tonight's virtue of choice.

Tuesday, Nov. 8th: Dress rehearsal. Crew call is at 4:00. Same as Monday, without the new additions. This is the last dress rehearsal without an audience. Stay on your toes.

Wednesday, Nov. 9th: Preview Day. This is a big day, so read carefully:

  • 7:00 AM: Call. It's early, but we need everything ready by 7:55 for the first preview.
  • 8:00 AM: House is open for the first preview audience.
  • 8:10 AM: 1st preview. We will do a 20 minute cutting from the show for half of the students at Wash (and this will likely be determined after Monday's rehearsal)
  • 8:50 AM: 2nd preview. We will repeat the the preview for the second half of the school.
  • 9:20 AM: We will spot rehearse scenes as needed. We will also be touching up some needed items on the set. NOTE: if you need to attend a class, please do so. Don't miss a test, a lab, a much needed graded activity, etc. if you can avoid it. 
  • 11:30-ish. Lunch will be provided. By this time, we'll need to clear out of the auditorium so that our afternoon guests can be seated.
  • 12:30 PM: Check presets for the entire show.
  • 1:00 PM: While technically this is a final dress rehearsal, we treat it as a full production. We won't stop for anything short of a catastrophe - and even then, we'll try to gut through it. 
  • 4:00 PM: After the show, we'll have a short meeting to tend to any issues. 

Thursday, Nov. 10th: OPENING NIGHT. 6:00 PM Call, 7:00 PM house opens, 7:30 PM Curtain. At last, the moment has arrived.

Friday, Nov. 11th: Performance. 6:00 PM call, 7:00 PM house opens, 7:30 PM curtain. Let's do it again.

Saturday, Nov. 12th: Performance. 6:00 PM call, 7:00 PM house opens, 7:30 PM curtain. One last time! After the show is over, we'll strike the set. Strike assignments will be posted during the show. Everyone is expected to work; we have a lot to do, but if everyone pitches in, we'll be done before it gets insanely late.

And then, we turn the lights out in the auditorium, lock the doors, and go home. Oz will return to wherever it came from. And we'll all get a good night's sleep.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Week of October 31st: ... And Your Little Dog, Too!

Tech week begins this week! The schedule is important, so please mind it carefully. Also pay attention to any schedule changes as there are a few already. They are listed below, and we will outline them carefully at rehearsals.

TECH WEEK

Monday, 10/30: Crew View. 3:00 call for crew, you will get your scripts and instructions at this rehearsal.

Tuesday, 11/1: Tech Act I. Crew call is 3:00 PM; we will go over assignments briefly, and then we'll begin the rehearsal as soon as we have the cast. Light board operators will begin sooner as we'll be programming in the opening cues before we begin. We will end rehearsal around 6:30, depending on where we are in the script

Wednesday, 11/2: Tech Act II. Crew call is 3:00; we will begin as soon as we have our presets ready. We will go no later than 6:30 with this rehearsal.

Thursday, 11/3: TBA, as we will need help setting up for the auction. It is doubtful that we will need the entire crew, so pay attention to notes on Wednesday.

Friday, 11/4: NOTE THE TIME CHANGE: All cast and crew ill be excused from 7th hour so we can begin rehearsal by 2:30. Because of the Warriors HUGE win over Lin-Mar on Monday, we will begin earlier so the band folks can get to the stadium in time for their performance. All names have been submitted to the office, and Dr. Plagman has give his approval to this change. Get down to the auditorium as soon as your 6th hour class is finished. DO NOT BE LATE. This is a one-time deal, and Dr. P has been kind enough to make this happen.

Saturday, 11/5: Set Saturday #9. In the immortal words of The Beatles, "number nine, number nine, number nine ..." This is the last change to get some big work done. Get in early, and get busy!

Stay positive - this is the witching hour for the show. Stuff looks ugly, it doesn't fit yet, and there will be confusion. Hang in there - we will get this show in shape!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Week of October 24th: I Could While Away The Hours ...

Yes, conferring with the flowers, unraveling every riddle, and being friends with the sparrows sounds perfectly lovely, but we have other things to do. More pressing things such as ... oh, I don't know ... maybe ... building a set for a show that opens in a little over two weeks? Yes, the sum what we have to do over the next two weeks may seem overwhelming, but with a concerted effort, we will achieve our Oz.

Two weeks. Yes, we're getting that close. But first, an announcement.

The winner of the "Name The Bullwinch Contest" is ...

(Cue the gameshow music:)

Cooper Shields for his suggestion of the name Eddie. 

(There's a long story behind that one that involves the nickname for a skeleton that we had in our prop shop for many years that finally left us this year ... so while it seems incongruous, it is fitting. And, it is the winner)

Thanks to all those who offered up a name and voted. (And it really was like a prohibition era Chicago election, except for all of the mafioso and the Sicilian thing.)

But I digress. Here is this week in a nutshell:

Week of October 24th:

Tuesday, October 25th: Light Rigging, 6:00 - 9:00 PM. Mainly rigging and focusing the acting areas on stage, and adding the accent lights.

Thursday, October 27th: Light Rigging, 6:00 - 9:00 PM. Our goal is to have all of the lights focused and gelled by the end of the work session.

Saturday, October 29th: Set Saturday #8, 9:30 - 4:30. We'll have to knock of an hour early today as the Iowa Caucus Debate Tournament will need to use the Auditorium for their awards at 5:00 PM. However, that means we'll need to ratchet up the effort to get all of the construction done by that time. That's the goal - get the builds completed. (Cue the driving, suspenseful action-movie soundtrack ...)

Which means that next week, the Week of October 31st, is TECH WEEK. (Cue the theme from Superman.) All crew members need to check their schedules and make sure that the rehearsal times are free and clear. It will be a big, big week. Prepare thyselves.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Week of October 17th: Pay No Attention to that Man Behind the Curtain

OK, I know - I'm a day late. And a dollar short. I'm out of town at the Iowa Technology Education Connection (ITEC) in Des Moines Monday and Tuesday, learning more about the quickly changing landscape of technology in education, and spending some quality time with my UNI IT Masters cohorts. It's been good to get away from thinking and working on The Wizard of Oz - but I know I'll be raring to go when I get back. Once again I digress ...

What's Going On This Week:

A few changes to the week, but in a nutshell:

Tuesday, October 18th: Light rigging @ 6:00 PM. Ben Godwin will be leading the charge tonight. We'll concentrate on hanging and focusing the loft and the first electric (E1.) There will also be some maintenance and perhaps a quick lesson on bench focusing. 

Thursday, October 20th: NO LIGHT RIGGING. Somewhere in my exuberance, I neglected to see that this is Senior Night and the final home game at Kingston. So ... we'll all be a little busy that night ... so ... no light rigging tonight. 

Saturday, October 22nd: Set Saturday #7. 9:30 - 5:30 PM. We'll keep building on the Witch's Castle, the Gates to Emerald City, and the Kansas House hard-drop. There will be painting of said set pieces along with drops.  Plus, there will be props, lighting, and costumes to tend to. This will be a big day to get a lot done.

We'll only have two Set Saturdays to work on the show after this, so let's get busy. That man behind the curtain may be a very bad wizard, but we don't need no stinkin' wizard for what we have to do! 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Week of October 10th: Follow the Yellow Brick Pit-Path



Thanks to the dedicated few students and adult volunteers who ventured in on a gloriously beautiful October Saturday to get the ball rolling for the set of The Wizard of Oz. Our primary goal was achieved: the "pit-path" that was originally created for our 2009 musical Into The Woods is back up and rehearsal ready. We also got a a great start on two backdrops, the storm shelter, and the wagon from the early Kansas scenes in the show. A good start, but a long, long way to go



This picture gives you a look at the pit-path structure. Rumor has it that this will indeed become the yellow brick road. It'll need some careful painting, but this gives you the idea of what it's all about. (I just home Mr. Messenger can fit his all-star pit orchestra in the center part ...)



Looking ahead to this week:

Tuesday, 10/11/2011: 6:00 - 9:00 PM Light rigging. Actually, we'll be prepping our lighting for the move to the gym, but we will also give instruction regarding the safety and procedure behind hanging lighting instruments.

Wednesday, 10/12/2011: ITED Assembly set-up. If you haven't picked up the orange sheet for attendance, make sure you stop by on Monday and pick one up from me. We'll need most of our work in the morning (2nd-4th hours.)

Thursday, 10/13/2011: ITED Assembly and strike. If you are one of the recipients of recognition, you can still help out for the assembly. Talk to me before Thursday and we can work something out. After the assembly is done, I'll need many hands to get the stage platforms, choir risers, lighting and sound equipment back to the PA area. The gym must be returned to normal by 2:30 PM.

Thursday, 10/13/2011: 6:00 - 9:00 PM Light rigging. This session will be dedicated to focusing and maintenance, with some actual rigging for the pit-path lighting.

Saturday, 10/15/2011: 9:30 - 5:30 Set Saturday #6. We will have the plans for the Witch's castle by then, along with the hard-surface drop pieces that we'll be flying in. (Could this be the day we get to use the bullwinch for the first time?)  Plus we should have a finalized props lists for the cast members to track-down/create.

And speaking of bullwinches ...

Here are the nominations from the "Name the Bullwinch" contest. Vote for the one you think is best, and by next Friday, we'll know what we're calling the critter. (And yes, I'm well aware of the fact that you can vote as many times as you like. If you can live with yourself by pretending you're in Chicago circa 1930, voting three times and registering dead folks as active voters and such, well then, you just go right ahead.)

Names are arranged alphabetically. Click on the one you think is best and then submit. Thanks to our nominators for their efforts.

UPDATE: The election is over. Winner to be announced soon.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Week of October 3rd: Oz Crew, schedules, and Bullwinch Contest, oh my!

"Hey, Auntie Em - I'm tired of big talking plants, so I'm heading off to Oz this week. See you on November 10th!"

Well done, cast, crew and pit of Little Shop of Horrors! You did well to continue the legacy of quality theater productions here at WHS. But, as they say in the theater biz, "you're only as good as your next show." So ...
Here's what's happening this week in and around the scene shop:

Wednesday, 10/5/2011, 2:55 PM: IMPORTANT TECHIE MEETING. If you are on the crew, you need to be there. Schedules will be handed out, so make every effort to be there!

Saturday, 10/8/2011 - 9:30 - 5:30 PM: Set Saturday. If you aren't marching or playing volleyball, you should be at the scene shop help get the pit path up and perhaps even help paint a backdrop. 

Here is the crew list for The Wizard of Oz:

Stage Managers
Cooper Shields (Tech Assistant)
Talia White (Crew Head)

Light Board Operators

Holly Christiansen
Hanna Schroeder

Sound Operators

Teddy Townsend
Bryan Cline

Fly Master

Ted Welch

Fly Crew

Baily Ziehr
Noah Vander Vaart

Props Master

Kassie Kittredge

Follow Spot Operators

Sarah Endicott
Bryan Christiansen

Running Crew

Clara Tosi
Jack Krebs
Sammy Nading
Tyler Biernbaum
Megan Rivera
Sally Timko
Tony Schmidt
Cassie Ward
Eli Wolter
Emma Bridges

Props Crew

Katie Pease
Makenzie Wallace

Costumers (See Mrs. Sulzer for schedule)

Gabby Hughes
Kaley Graves
Anne Seifert
Siera Roth
Shekinah Brooks
Kat Cross



Monday, October 3, 2011

UPDATE: WHS Auditorium Fly System Renovation: IT'S DONE!


Today, the final piece of the new fly system was installed - the control box for the rail lights.

Amen.

Last Friday, Randy Groves, the installation supervisor from Tiffin Scenic Studios provided the final training for the technical staff here at Wash. We've been waiting a long time for this.


(Blogger's note: It's not quite done. There are still some wires, and a knob or something, and then the electrician ... sigh ...)


Aside from the equipment that was directly replaced with industry standard pieces and parts, we received the following improvements:

  • five battens that are raised and lowered by electrical winches
  • a fire curtain that can be reset automatically on its own winch
  • an illuminated rail ID system that can be read clearly during the run of a show
  • dimmable rail lighting so 
  • rope locks with safety catches that would prevent a runaway arbor or batten (a situation that would send scenery or stage weights crashing down uncontrollably)
  • keyed access to all automated systems
  • keyed locks to fly rail rope locks to prevent unauthorized curtain pulling
  • an automated bull winch that allows us to raise battens loaded with lighting or scenery safely to a position where it can be counterweighted

And it's that last piece of equipment that we would like to focus upon. Observe the "bull winch:" an electrical winch that locks into the fly rail and is capable of raising and lowering a batten that is up to 1,100 lbs. out of balance. It's not something we will use every day, but when we need it, it will save us a lot of worrying and unnecessary exertion. It will become a very important piece of equipment - very useful.

Seems like it should have a name, right?

Oh, sure, it already has a name: the "Tiffin Scene Studios HW-1000 Mobile Winch." But c'mon - that's like me calling you "Humanoid 4,538,499,326." It's new home is our theater, and we can't let something like this go without a suitable nickname now, can we?

If you said "no," then you would be correct.

So, here's the deal. Submit your idea in the form below. You can enter more than one name, but they have to be entered individually. At the end of the nomination period - Friday, October 7th - we will post the suggestions (if the list is extensive, the directors will pare the list down for simplicity) and open it to voting. The name that gets the most votes wins. In the event of a tie, the people responsible for the suggested names will square off in a cage-match in the gym on October 15th using poison darts. (Kidding - we'll just conduct a very brief run-off election.)

The winner will receive a choice of fine prizes yet to be determined. Let's not rule out some tools, free tickets, or food somewhere in the WHS area. But it will be worth your effort.

So, take a look at the picture below, and put on your thinking touques. Names should be simple and snappy; ironic and iconic; theatrical and didactical; and most importantly, small enough to actually fit on the device. Good luck!

NOMINATION PERIOD HAS PASSED. THANKS TO THOSE WHO SUBMITTED NAMES FOR THIS CONTEST. FINALISTS ARE IN IN THE OCTOBER 9TH POST.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Finally, Seymour!

Hey! We've done it! We've arrived at the big moment. Today portions of the play will be previewed for the Language Arts classes, and tonight is the opener! 6:00 call for cast and crew, house opens at 7:00 and the curtain goes up at 7:30.

Come out and see WHS's production of Little Shop of Horrors Thursday 9/29 - Saturday 10/1 at 7:30 PM in the WHS Little Theater. Admission prices are $8.00 for adults, $5.00 for students w/o activity tickets and senior citizens, and $3.00 for WHS Students w/ an activity ticket.

Below is a look at the final set. While we didn't get every single thing that we had planned on the set, what we did get there looks great! Thanks to everyone who pitched in and put time in on what was a deceptively complicated set. (Someone should really speak to the designer.)

Image Credit: Lammers, B (9/29/2011)WHS Set for Little Shop of Horros

Monday, September 19, 2011

Week of September 19th: Suddenly, Seymour?

Suddenly, indeed Seymour. It's Tech Week. Remember when this seemed, like, 12 weeks away? Suddenly, it's here. And suddenly, we have a lot of work facing us. Like a certain man-eating plant that we've suddenly been confronted with.

Thanks to the four who came in on Saturday. (Yes, only four, but a good four to have come in and help.) With the band in Johnston and the Homecoming Dance that evening, we knew that there would be few coming in. In all honestly, we were hoping for more to come in. We are now behind on where we need to be for the set. That said, we'll need help when and where we can get it.

Check out the schedule please. Times are critical, and we have a lot to get done.

Tuesday, 9/20: 3:00 - 6:30 - Tech Act One. We will focus primarily on props and light cues.
Wednesday, 9/21: 3:00 - 6:30 - Tech Act Two. Same focus for this rehearsal
Thursday, 9/23: Crew call 6:00, rehearsal 7:00 - 10:00 - Run the show with pit and sound. We'll build upon what we did on Tuesday and Wednesday
Friday, 9/24: 3:00 - 6:30 - Run the show, fixing cues as we go along.
Saturday, 9/25: 9:30 - 5:30 - Set work. I know the band will be competing, and best of luck to you in the band. Those of you who aren't, get in here and bring a friend. We will have a lot of detailing to do on the set.

This is a big week, a busy week, and we need a good push from everyone. If we add any work times, they will be giving over the daily announcements. See you then!


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

There Will Be Walls: Week of September 4th, 2011

We're off to a very solid start, both figuratively and literally.

The figurative: 25 people came in during Set Saturday #1 - a tremendous showing! All of the directors are deliriously happy with the intrest that this show is getting from a technical stand point. Keep up the good work!

The literal: We completed the large goal of the day - building the solid deck support needed for the plant shop set. We built 7 individual stock size platforms and 2 custom platforms, attached legs, and connected them together, and then sheathed them with the flooring material to create the base section. We also started on the steps and the escapes, which was a bonus. Woot!

Take a look at this comparison of the design and a photo of the actual deck:




We'll add updates as we get them.

The Week Ahead:

Saturday, September 10th: Set Saturday #2: "There Will Be Walls." We'll use the same schedule as we did last week - start at 9:30 and end around 5:30. We'll have some things to paint later in the day, and we'll be setting up the walls of the plant shop. We'll also be building windows for the fire escapes, doors for the plant shops, and if we have the sort of crew next week that we had this week, we'll build the fire escapes as well. Aside from the Little Shop set, we'll also be preparing lights for the Homecoming Assembly. LOTS to do.

NOTE: Don't forget to sign up for the Homecoming Assembly duties: Set up is 2nd and 3rd hour Monday, strike is 4th - 7th on Tuesday.

Thanks for a great start to our busy drama season!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Technical Clinics: Day 1 - Schedules, Procedures, and Tours

For those who are new to the program, welcome.

This online space will have specific times and dates for technical theater activities - which will also be posted on other web sites as well. From time to time, I'll share some resources, set designs, product reviews, and anything else related to technical theater. Check it often!

Tweeters: our Twitter hashtag is #washparts

This week's schedule:

Tuesday, Aug. 30: Technical Theater session #1 - 3:00 - 4:00-ish, Main Auditorium
Wednesday, Aug. 31: Technical Theater session #2 - 3:00 - 4:00-ish, Main Auditorium
Thursday, Sep. 1: Technical Theater session #3 - 3:00 - 4:00-ish, Main Auditorium
Saturday, Sep. 3: Set construction - 9:30 AM - 5:30 PM, Little Theater/Scene Shop

Remember that we do get dirty working on scenery - wear old clothing and shoes that can take a beating. Bring some money for lunch - we never really know what we'll be getting ahead of time, but enough for a fast-food type of lunch (or you can brown bag it as well.) It's not critical that you spend every minute there, but come when you can - you'll learn "on the job" and you'll get a chance to hang out with some of the coolest kids in the school.

Thanks for your interest, and we'll see you at the clinics!!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

UPDATE: Auditorium Fly System Renovation Batten the Hatches!

The end is near - for the Auditorium fly system renovation. I'm confident the rest of us have some time left. What's happened in the last week? Lots!


Presenting the battens. No longer a collection of different lengths and diameters - not to mention age and shape - here you see uniform, 1-1/2 diameter schedule 80 pipe battens, exactly the same length - 52 feet. Not a bend or dent in the whole collection, they will do very nicely, thank you very much. And, as I haven't uttered the word safety yet in this post, check out the bright yellow urethane endcaps. The days of putting an orange safety cone over the ends of the batten when they are down are over!






Here is a look at the trim chains that are secured tot he ends of the lift cables (they are wrapped around the battens in the above photo). These chains can adjust each connection point of the batten to ensure that each batten is level. Over time, the lift cables will stretch ever so slightly, and the chains can be readjusted to make up for this change.







Here is our new fire curtain, in the down position. (Let's hope we never have to see it in this configuraion for real.) The fire curtain is on an automated drop-and-recovery system that makes resetting the curtain push-button easy. In the event of a fire, it will drop at a steady rate and close off the stage in 25 seconds. It is made of fiberglass and kevlar, not lead and asbestos as the old fire curtains were.



Next week, we'll post the final update, and at some point in the near future, we'll post a video walk-though of the new system.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

UPDATE: Auditorium Fly System Renovation: Towing the Line

As with many construction projects, the infrastructure - that stuff that we can't see but we need for every thing can work smoothly - has to be done first, and it takes a lot of time. Our project is no different. The additional steel, the electrical work, and the repositioning of equipment is finally done, and now more visual aspect of the project is coming together. This week was all about rope and cable lines.




The weight arbors that have spent the past few weeks on the floor are now in place, and the control lines have been rigged. In this photo, the arbors on the far right are in the up  position - and those magnificent rope locks featured in the last update are holding the weight as advertised - and the ones to the left are in the down position. No counterweights have been added yet, but this allows the steel cable lines to be extended down all of the way.




And that looks like this: a veritable forest of steel cables. From this angle, it looks like they are hanging in random fashion, but there is order in this chaos. Each batten will be suspended by five cables spaced evenly from the grid. They will line up with the arbor that they are attached to, so what we have right now are several rows of five cables. This photo shows about 1/3 of the cables rigged, but most of this was completed in a day.





Evidence of one of the many improvements: automatic winches for the electrics. As stated in earlier postings, none of the electrical battens will raised or lowered by a hand line. Here is the control box, placed prominently on the rail. With the push of a button, hundreds of pounds of lighting instruments can move into position with accuracy.






Along with our lighting battens, the new fire curtain - WHICH WE HOPE WE NEVER HAVE TO USE - will also have an automatic control. Without getting into specific fire code rules and regulations, manual releases and automatic recovery systems need to be in place. According to ATD Ben Godwin - who knows a little something about fire alarms and prevention systems - the curtain will likely need to be tested on a regular basis. This will allow the curtain to be reset with relative ease.






The project is progressing as planned, and by the first day of school, the auditorium will be ready to use. We will have a training session during the technical theater clinics and safety seminars during the second week of school - plan accordingly! The next update will feature the battens, the curtains ... and whaddaya know, the project will be completed! Whoo HOO!

Monday, August 8, 2011

UPDATE: Auditorium Fly System Renovation: Lock, Load, and Lower.

The title of this post sounds catchy, but perhaps things are not quite in the right order. Ideally, we lower battens first, load them up with scenery and counterweights, then we lock them at a trim height. I suppose if you want to do things the hard way then I guess you can lock the batten, load it up with stuff and then lower it, but gravity usually wins that argument. Once again, I digress.

Today's update showcases some of the equipment that you will be interfacing with - the things that help us lock and lower the battens.

Presenting our new rope locks: The Restrictor. You may recall that we had an interesting - some might even call historical - collection of rope locks on our rail. (We counted three different types at the last strike.) The idea is that the operating lines - the white ropes that we pull to operate a batten - run through the lock to secure the rope from unintended movement. A cam (oval metal piece) would literally squeeze the rope against another metal surface inside of the lock until that pressure was enough to hold the load. Typically, if the batten was off by 25 pounds, the pressure would not be enough, and the rope would slip through - which was bad. Some of our older rope locks had a loop that would put additional pressure on the rope, but that was only good for countering another 20 pounds - not to mention that those loops were made of cast steel and prone to snapping off. Which was really bad.

A close-up view of the lock shows three things: an indicator to tell you if the batten is heavier than the arbor, a long, hefty handle, and a keyed lock. The indicator eliminates the need to check the balance by releasing the lock with hands on just in case it's out of balance. The indicator will give you a visual cue. The longer handle give the operator more leverage in locking the rope lock, and the lock prevents unnecessary batten operation.

Remember how we would really struggle raising and lowering the electrical battens? All those people trying to raise a batten full of lighting equipment? Me yelling things that I really shouldn't be yelling? Lovely times, I'm sure, but now a distant memory. Say hello to one of the many electrical hoists that will allow us to raise and lower the electrical battens with the push of a button. This is a close-up of one on the loading palate, but they have since then been installed on the grid. The control panel will be located on the fly rail, and it will be key operated. An additional safety concern is addressed by only allowing one batten to be lowered at any given time. The battens will be connected directly to the cable drums on the shaft connected to these motors, so no more counterweighting the electrics.


And what stage renovation is complete without curtains? Yards of lovely black curtains - teasers, borders, legs, mid-blacks - look at them! The luxurious velour, the nap of the fabric, the - OK, I know, they are still in their boxes. But they are here! That's a reason to get excited, right? Sure it is. They will likely be the last step of the install, so stay tuned for that event.

And just for giggles, I thought you should see why the Auditorium was closed off for the summer. I realize that many understand that idea that there would be a lot of people working on the grid, and that there are plenty of fall hazards around, but the stage deck has been the work zone for the installers. This birds-eye view shows you how much stuff is left to do.

And there is still a lot to be done. This week, the electricians are doing their thing, connecting the winches to the control panels and connecting the fire curtain control to the release mechanisms. The arbors are still lying in position, waiting for their installation, and there are hunks of steel that are sitting on palates. I'm not sure what they do exactly, but they are heavy and hunky, and whatever they do, I'd bet they do it well. Check here again next week for the latest update.

Friday, July 22, 2011

UPDATE: Auditorium Fly System Renovation: Steel Your Resolve

For those who have never watched anything with a sizable amount of steel being assembled, or who have no idea how it's done, take the opportunity to see how something gets built. We're lucky that we have men and women who are known as steel workers. These people are the experts at taking large, impossibly heavy chunks of metal that have been fabricated to a certain size and shape, reading the construction drawings, placing the steel at various heights, and securing it. They also have an arsenal of tools, lifts, ropes, winches and sometimes plain ol' brute strength to get the job done. We'd be doing them a large disservice if we didn't tip our hats to them.

So, what have our friends the steelworkers been doing? Let's take a gander, shall we?

This view is from upstage, looking stage right and nearly straight up. At the top of the image is the gray underside of the new catwalk - or the loading gallery - moved from the stage to its permanent location. In the past, we've used this to counter weight the arbors so we could raise battens that had been loaded in the down position. We will still have that option, but we will likely not need to do that any longer. The bull winch (which will be featured in future blogs) will pull the arbors down to the floor level, and we can counter the weight on the ground - which, as we have all heard before, is safer. The black vertical lines that run the length of the photo are actually the tracks that the arbors will ride along as they move up and down. No more cable guides that allow the heavy arbors to twist as they move. Smoother and safer.
These are the arbors, lined up and ready to be attached to the tracks. These very solid pieces of equipment are much heavier than what they are replacing - and they are virtually all one piece when assembled correctly. These will hold the counter weights that will act against the weight of the batten. You will notice that these new arbors will be a bit taller, and that there will be far less "play" or movement in the arbor. Once again, we can say "safer."



Five palates of weights await their final resting spot upon the arbors. These weights have a notch on either end that will fit around the arbor bars, which will hold them in place securly. The process of loading the arbors will be very similar to what we've been doing in the past. These weights will be all be one weight - about 35 lbs. per brick - instead of the two sizes we've been used to. As the bricks are lighter than what we are used to, and since our system will have a much higher loading capacity,  there will be - and I quote Giles Cory from The Crucible - "more weight." (Don't worry - we'll keep the Salem Puritans far away from these should the get the idea of holding trials again.)


Here is a close look at the US end of the fly rail and the tension blocks - those pulleys near the floor that guide the control ropes. The are heavy beasts, not because they bear a lot of weight, but because they are able to travel a short distance up and down to account for any change in the length of the control ropes. Temperature and humidity affect the ropes over time, so the downward weight of the block will always keep a reasonable amount of pressure on the line. The horizontal rail is empty now, but will soon hold the rope locks - which we'll discuss in future blogs.

Here is a better look at the rail, from US looking DSR. This will look fairly familiar - the shape and length of the rail is essentially the same dimension of the old one. What is different is the gauge (thickness) of the steel. It's a beefy hunk of metal, for sure. At the far end of the rail, you'll notice that they are in the early stages of attaching the control lines - the white rope dangling down is looped up and around the control loft block pulley. These rope loops will be attached to the top and bottom of each arbor, just as with our old system.

Now a word about the new fire curtain. Remember that rope that had wires twisted around it, with a board jammed in the middle of the rope twist? Yeah, let's not talk about that any more. It's long gone, and now we have a nice, new system that can be run automatically or manually. This equipment is necessary should a fire occur on stage. A fire proof curtain closes the proscenium off from the audience, allowing them time to safely evacuate. Let us hope that we never have to drop the thing for real. It is likely, though, that if we have a prolonged power outage, or if a smoke detector in the theater sends a false alarm, it will come down on its own accord. An  electric winch system will allow us to quickly and safely get the curtain back in its safe mode. There are also manual release in case a fire is spotted before the system activates. Regardless, releasing the curtain for the fun of it is the same thing as pulling an alarm to get your jollies - and it's against the law, complete with fines, expulsion hearings, and the title of "felon." In other words, use only in emergencies.

Within the next week, the arbors will be slid into place, cables will be attached, and ropes will be strung. Battens are sitting in the shop just waiting to be assembled, and electrical connections are being prepped for the winches. A lot of work still needs to be done, but according to Tiffin Scenic Studio installers, we are on schedule.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

UPDATE: Auditorium Fly System Renovation: Some Assembly Required

Oh, it's like Christmas in the Auditorium.

Actually, it's more like Christmas Eve. You know, when the toys are all in boxes, and "Santa" has to take everything out, make sure all the parts are there, put together the stuff, check that there are more than enough batteries, and somewhere during all of that there is the consumption of the "special eggnog," and for some unexplained reason, Mom and Dad need a nice long nap and 9:00 AM on Christmas Day? Yeah, that sort of Christmas Eve. Well, here's where we are as of July 12th:


First of all, let's look up an stage right. The new catwalk/loading gallery has been installed. It's a bit hard to see here, but it actually is a few feet higher than the old one. Because of this, the stage side of the catwalk is completely caged, and the rail height is just below the height of the grid iron. In comparison, the older catwalk sat about six to seven feet below the grid. Remember all of that talk about safety? Yup - this is one of those nice perks of having stuff installed in this century rather than the last one.


 This photo shows the new weight arbors standing on their sides. There isn't a good way to show how much bigger they are, but they stand about 7 feet tall, which means we have a lot of capacity for each batten. The arbors will slide in what is called a J-track so that they don't twist back and forth as our old arbors did on their cable guides. This will make for smoother lifts and drops, and will eliminate the twisting action of fully-weighted arbors. Which, I might add, is safer.

To the right are what I believe are the floor blocks - those pulleys on the ground at the bottom of the fly rail that guide the pull ropes. They also located at the top of the system, but ganged with the cable blocks, which I'll talk about next. This picture shows eight of them arranged on their loading palate, so it's a bit hard to see all of the details. The frame for each sticks out a bit further than the old ones, which leads me to believe that they will be firmly anchored to the ground. Which, again, seems like  a much safer situation that what we've had.

 Lots of things in this photo: on the left side of the photo is a lot of flat bar steel and angled steel that will eventually become the J-track that I discussed earlier. There is also a fair amount of bracing that will need to be installed, largely out of sight of the working end of things. On the right side of the photo is one of the racks of new battens. 1-1/2" tube steel that is straight and interlocks with the other pieces that will create 25 battens that are the same diameter, length, and trim height. Oh, can you just smell the safety in our theater?

Here are the head blocks - and it's not a great picture but you can see some of the sheaves that the cables will go over and across the top of the grid. These will be located at the top of the fly tracks. One thing that we can't get a good picture of (yet) are the loft blocks. These are the pulleys that some of you may recall were bolted to the grid. Not anymore. The loft blocks are now mounted to the roof girders, which means that if for some reason we need to get to the grid, we will walk under the cables rather than stepping over them. If any of you have ever done this - and I'm guessing not many of you have - you will realize just how much more safer this arrangement will be for us.

As things continue to progress, I'll keep on updating. There's still a long way to go, but things are getting done. Plans are in place for the ceremonial first curtain pull later in August. (OK, a bit kitchy I admit, but we need to do something!)

Monday, June 20, 2011

UPDATE: Auditorium Fly System Renovation: "Dude! Where's My Catwalk?"

Indeed, dude. Where is the catwalk?









Not here. For those who were not inclined to look up often, the catwalk that made up our "loading gallery" (that place 36 feet off the stage deck that we would visit from time to time to load and unload weights) is now gone. Or, just about gone, as evidenced by the ladder landing at the top right of the photo. Watch out for that first step - it's a doozie ...

















What will be there soon is the next generation of loading gallery. Behold - all steel (no wooden slats for a floor) with a protective "cage" as a railing.  Solid tube construction, and, needless to say, not 54 years old. There is something to be said about that.









Which leads to the answer to the first question:






This is all that is left of the steel frame of the catwalk. The wooden slats are not shown, but you get the picture. It seems a bit meager, doesn't it? This speaks volumes regarding the new structure that is replacing the old structure: it will be safer and more secure. We may never find ourselves up on the catwalk if we plan our designs well, but if and when we do, it will be a safer place to be. That's the whole impetus behind replacing the equipment.







There is a certain casulty that I must say I will miss: There will be a number of past actors and techies who labored mightily to leave their mark behind in a theater that they loved - and their names go out with the steel. While I cannot condone the act of tagging government property, I suspect that a new set of names will appear as the years go on.






And the beat goes on. Check here next week to see what else has been done.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

UPDATE: Auditorium Fly System Renovation: Handball, anyone?

What does a naked theater look like? Like this:
The rail and the lines have been completely pulled, in this photo taken from the SL just upstage of the proscenium. (Never thought we had that much room, did you?

What's behind the old fire curtain?

Bricks. At least part of the way up. The old gray monster is down, and on its way out.

One oddity that we see is a concrete pad put down where the new rail will go.

This photo, taken from the SR well looking straight upstage, shows the freshly poured concrete where the rail system will be attached. The amount of force that the system is designed to handle requires a strong anchor/foundation. With our new automatic winches, this will provide stability and increase the degree of safety (in terms of load bearing) to levels unseen in the auditorium.

Stuff is happening quickly! WOOT! Check in regularly for updates as the new equipment begins to come into the theater!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

UPDATE: Auditorium Fly System Renovation, June 7, 2011

The WHS Auditorium was closed to all activity starting Monday, June 6th, at 8:00 to allow contractors to begin the demolition phase of the fly system renovation. So, as if on perfect cue ...

Image credit: Lammers, B. "Naked Flyspace" 6/6/2011
This is what our current fly system looks like, as of 4:00 PM, Monday, June 6th. Only three electric battens are left (and if it weren't for the cables that don't quite allow it to go all the way to the floor, they would be down as well), every shred of dry-rotted, filthy, tired black curtain is gone, as well as the upstage cyclorama drop. The main curtain was pulled last week, with the intention of getting it re-treated for flame retardancy. This photo, taken from the vantage point of the scene shop, also gives those with a certain fear of heights a clear shot of the loading gallery catwalk - a cool 32 feet above the stage deck. The pull lines had not been pulled when this photo was taken. The workers will be spending a good deal of time up on the grid, so if you the fire windows open atop the auditorium as you pass by the school, it's because it's about 15-20 degrees warmer up there on any given day. (I didn't ask their opinion of how it was to work on the first really hot day of the year, but some things just don't need to be asked.)

I'll continue to post photos and any commentary on the install. When the equipment begins to show up, we'll post information on what it is and what it does.

Hope the summer has stated well for everyone!

Friday, May 27, 2011

CREW CALL: Little Shop of Horrors (September 22-24, 2011)

Crew sign-up sheets are now available outside of the Auditorium. If you are interested in being part of the actual production crew (the crew who runs the performances) or the stage manager, make sure you complete a form and submit it in the mail slot on the concession stand door. I need these by Wednesday, June 1st. I'll have a crew list by Thursday, June 2nd, and we'll have a brief production meeting after the 7th hour final on Thursday.

The set for Little Shop of Horrors (LSOH) will be a bit more complicated than our past September shows. There are two main settings - an exterior setting for Skid Row, and the interior of Mushnik's Flower Shop - with a few other single-scene settings that need to be interpreted. This is what Skid Row will look like:

Set rendering: "Skid Row" for WHS's production of Little Shop of Horrors.
 The center part of the set will be on a revolve. You'll note that we also have working doors to condend with. When we see Mushkin's Flower Shop, the center will revolve to look like so:

Set rendering: "Musckin's Flower Shop for WHS's production of Little Shop of Horrors.
 These designs are preliminary drafts of the design, and will likely change over the summer. Check this blog regularly for updates to the design.

Set work will begin on August 8th. We are well aware of the music camps that will be taking place during that time, so we know that you'll be occupied at various times during the weeks leading up to the first day of school. A more detailed work schedule will also appear on this blog site, so check regularly after the first of August.

Remember, the crew sign-up forms are due Wednesday, June 1st!