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.