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Tales from the Wings

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11/8/14 11:34 pm - redwolftamer - More college tales of woe

Anybody still here? Whatever, I'm recording this for posterity.

Freshman year of college I was run crew on my school's production of The House of Bernarda Alba and basically my job consisted of one thing: taking the basket of laundry off the stage after Act I. The rest of the time I'm sitting in the hallway where the dressing rooms are playing Pokemon Sapphire on my Gameboy Advance (it was 2005). Throughout the three week run I was perfect in this one arduous task, always being right in my spot to go out and get the basket at the perfect time. That is until the second to last performance. I don't remember exactly what it was that was distracting me, probably a combination of talking with the other crew members and attempting to raise my Mightyena up high enough to take on Norman, but all of a sudden I hear applause signaling the end of the act. Crap, get your ass out there now! I jump up and run to the wing and get right out there right as the lights go down and grab the basket. Close call! One of the other crew members, who was on wardrobe duty and an uppity bitch gave me a talking to, which I kinda deserved but at the same time it was the only time I almost messed up and there was only one show left.

Also in freshman year I was running the light board on the big dance show at the end of the semester and out of all four years of college that was hands damn my favorite show that I worked on and not just because it was technically the easiest. Mainly it was because I had an awesome stage manager that took his job seriously but at the same time allowed us to goof off, especially on the headsets. Nothing especially funny happened, except for the dancers in the matinée somehow dragging their ass on several pieces. One of them they were off by almost a full minute from the music. Aside from that it was just laid back and fun.

Sophomore year I was ASM for a production of Neil Labute's The Distance from Here and it's was what prompted me to start thinking about changing my major, but that's another story. The director for this show, while awesome (if a little pretentious) on a personal level, was absolute hell to work with. For starters she insisted on a ridiculously complicated set. Complicated as in the sense that there was a rotating main set piece, two platforms on scaffolding that were a good 15-20 feet off the ground, a moving platform, and a working pet store complete with live fish and mice. Now aside from the main set piece, all those other set pieces were used for one, two scenes tops. The set was phenomenal and got the best reviews, but ridiculous, and the strike almost maimed someone when the wrong pin was pulled from the scaffolding and it collapsed. The director also insisted on hiring the same fight choreographer from it's original off-Broadway run and this "professional" sound design guy who we all called Danny Bonaduce since he bore a striking resemblance. I use the term professional loosely as he just screwed up the system that the in-house techs had to fix and he didn't do anything that our own techs couldn't have done.

That's the set-up. Despite the complicated aspects of the show, I actually had very little to do during the actual run of it. The tech rehearsal was 12 hours of doing nothing but sitting in silence on my computer. Pretty much the only thing I did was signal the run crew when it was time to rotate the set. The rest of the time I was on my computer and listening on the headset. Two things happened during the run, the first was during the third show I believe. I only really needed to pay attention to the headset for two calls near the end of the show so in the beginning I tuned out what was being said specifically. During this run we get about 15 minutes in and I realized I wasn't hearing a damn thing on the headset. No calls, feedback, nothing and they couldn't hear me. I quickly signal to one of the waiting run crew guys to tell the SM my issue because I don't give the signal to turn the set until I get the all-clear from her as it's a safety issue. I forget how we figured it out during that show since there's no intermission but we found a way. Apparently Danny Bonaduce screwed up the channel that only affected my side of the stage. For the rest of the run they had me set up on a different channel that only the SM could switch to so I'd get nothing but silence until she switched and gave me the cue then switched back.

The last show, which was a Sunday matinée, had the most peculiar thing happen near the end of the run. All of a sudden electric guitar music, that wasn't a sound cue, can be heard on stage, but not in the house I don't think. It completely threw off the poor girl who was giving her poignant monologue at that point in the show. Backstage we're looking around wondering where the hell it could be coming from and I notice I hear it from a hole in the floor against the wall where some pipes are and I realize it's coming from underneath the stage. I run down the stairs to where there is a recording booth (of which I had no idea existed) where some music students were practicing. I'm banging on the window begging them to stop and they apparently had no idea there was a show going on above them. Fine time to learn that booth was not soundproofed!

11/17/11 04:36 am - redwolftamer - College tales of Woe

I was the ASM/Fly op#2 on a fancy production of Cabaret. The fly rail for that particular stage was about 30-40 feet off the stage floor and they put me up there because we didn't have much of a crew, and I was the only one not on a spot op that stupidly said I wasn't afraid of heights. Anyway my job was to fly a rain curtain in and out for the song and dance numbers and twice I didn't pay attention and pulled the wrong rope so that the curtain flew further in to the stage instead of out. It could have been bad because one of the cast members could have been directly under the bar the curtain was hanging from and got knocked in the head, but luckily that didn't happen either time. I did get reamed out from the stage manager and from the head of the tech department afterwards though. On a funnier note, also on the fly rail we had a hazer which created smoke for atmosphere during the show and the day of the last performance apparently it wasn't going off right because the smoke filled the stairwell and set off the smoke alarm. If the alarm isn't turned off and reset right away the fire curtain automatically gets released. Normally this wouldn't be much of an issue except we had this big ass truss "ceiling" suspended from about right behind the proscenium to about ten feet from the end of the stage and if the fire curtain, which is really heavy, had come down on top of it there would have been major damage to just about everything. So we had to rush to clear the proscenium of any stray props and furniture that was in the way plus lower and detach half the truss ceiling. Not to mention since the alarm had gone off the building had to be evacuated. It was the end of February and my school was on a mountain in the North East so it was freaking cold out and the cast were in their skimpy sexy costumes. The show only got delayed about a half an hour so it wasn't a disaster but it's funny to think back on it.

10/30/07 02:52 am - redwolftamer - Strange things happen in the Woods

So my last show was the one advertised, Into the Woods, but I wasn't on light board this time! Shocker yes I know. I was on running crew this time, and while I did enjoy it, I really wanted to be back on lights. Mainly because the guy that did do them, and I love the guy to death, but he had no sense of timing what so ever. Anyway, this isn't about that, this is about what happened on stage. In fact in the four year history of our group this had to be the most problem laden show ever.

So our space, as I think I've mentioned before, is not meant for full scale productions. The acoustics suck, since it's a gym the sight-lines suck, the lighting can get really tricky, no dressing rooms, only one backstage walkway, but probably the biggest problem is the stage itself. There is really no wing space at all, maybe six feet on each side so every year I'm amazed at what the set designers are able to pull off. Well for this show we had a big eight foot house frame and a rather largish bed that comes out once for the Granny wolf scene and they both come on at the same time from my side of the stage. It was a very intricate process to get both on stage at the right moment, with my job being to hold the scrim back for both of them to pass through. Unfortunately it took us four shows to get it right. There was always a problem with either the house getting caught or there wasn't enough room to get it out, and therefore the bed didn't have enough room to get out. In fact the second night the bed actually got caught on one of the trees and the back post started to break off so poor Todd, the ASM, got stuck on stage having to hold the bed up. The actors were able to improve enough to pull off the scene so I definitely give 'em props for that.

Back to Todd, he had an unfortunate ability to be seen on stage. Take opening night for example: At the beginning of the second act, there's an earthquake that rattles everyone around, particularly the Baker's house right? Well I don't know who told Todd to do this, but he was told to hide under the Baker's table and shake it at the right moment. There was a tablecloth to hide him. Well no one told our Baker Todd was going to be there and as soon as Todd started to shake the table, the Baker yanked the tablecloth revealing our red faced ASM! He quickly darted behind the baker's book backdrop. I was told that was the best thing of the entire show. 0_0 After that he just hid behind the book and knocked the table over.

The last tale I'll divulge is what happened the second night I believe. You know the scene where after Milky White runs away the Mysterious Man gives it back to the Baker then disappears and then once the Baker leaves he comes back to be confronted by the Witch? Well our Mysterious Man had a mental block during rehearsal that he had to go back out on stage and it came back with a vengeance here. So our Witch comes on, looks for him, he doesn't come out so she shuffles off stage. That made our Baker's Wife come out from that side and say "I was going for the hair but I thought I saw the Witch." or something like that which for some reason made the Baker come out and reiterate to get the hair. After that the show continued. It was a very odd show that night.

Add to that a Cow that kept losing his ears and feet, a Jack that was completely anal about his props, a messed up sound effect for the Giant's mic that made her sound like she was underwater, and a four foot drop with no exit hole and you have our show!

8/2/07 12:43 pm - redwolftamer - For those of you in the South Jersey/Philadelphia area

If you love great music, extreamly talented kids, super sets and lighting, and most importantly Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, come see the Rancocas Valley Interfaith Player's production of:


August 2,3 and 4 at 8:00pm
August 5 at 3:00pm

Tickets: $10.00 In advance
$12.00 At the door

Sacred Heart Auditorium
250 High Street
Mount Holly, NJ 08060

If you'd like to buy tickets, or have any questions call Risa at 609-347-8241

X-posted like mad

4/10/07 12:11 am - redwolftamer

Word of advice! Never q2q a show the night before dress with no actors! I say so because for the show I advertised in the last post, Aida, we did that, and it was quite an experience. So it was like 11 at night, the director let the cast (and the stage manager since she would be backstage instead of with me at the light board, according to the director's reasoning) go because we had been there since 6. So now it's just me, the director, the lighting designer and a couple people who didn't leave for some reason. So we very tiredly go through the show, occasionally asking the people to get on stage for placing, meanwhile forgetting about how the actors go to the thrust stage a lot. So when it comes to dress reahearsals, I have to keep adding light and marking it in my script. I have to do it manually because the board we got was too much of a pain in the ass to reprogram. So when you see my script there's the regular numerical cues, plus scribblings upon scribblings of notes of where to add lights. Every night during the show me and my assistant who was calling the cues for me were constantly on edge that we got it right. Funnily enough, the last night my assistant had to run the second camera for the taping, so I was by myself, and I did not make one mistake lol.

I can't wait until Into the Woods this summer for more lighting misadventures!

8/2/06 04:25 pm - redwolftamer - For those of you in the South Jersey/Philadelphia region

If you love great music, extreamly talented kids, super lighting (wink), and most importantly Elton Jon and Tim Rice, come see the Rancocas Valley Interfaith Player's production of:


August 3,4, and 5 at 8:00pm

Tickets: $8.00 In advance
$10.00 At the door

Sacred Heart Auditorium
250 High Street
Mount Holly, NJ 08060

X-posted like mad

3/30/06 10:11 pm - granolatechie - latest show

Hi all! I've been lurking for a bit and decided to finally join so I can post stories myself since I enjoy reading everyone else's. The latest show I've been involved with was "Sylvia" by A.R. Gurney. If you know the show, you know how funny it is :) We were performing it in a space that is kind of a blackbox theatre. It has great accoustics so we didn't use mics, and it has a tiny backstage area: no wings at all, a small room upstage that 4 people had to *very quietly* do quick-changes in and deal with props and our minimal set. There is a scene towards the end of Act I where 3 members of the cast are singing excerps from "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye" by Cole Porter. I was standing backstage, props in hand, waiting to set them during the blackout right after the song. One of the props was a dog's squeeky toy; it's kind of supposed to be a surprise for the audience when it gets squeaked during the next scene. Well, I'm whispering to the one actress because we noticed on this, our last of 6 performances, that the color of the toy under the blacklight exactly matched the pin she was wearing. She reached out to pick it up, and made it squeak -- in the pause onstage before Sylvia starts to sing! I'm friends with the actress playing Sylvia so she wasn't too mad or anything but she did say it was hard to keep a straight face during the scene after the toy squeeked. Nowhere near the worst show story I could tell, but I thought my most recent one would be a good starting point :)

11/17/05 11:59 pm - redwolftamer - Death of a Salesman wasn't depressing, it was downright funny!

Ok so last year as you may or may not know, I was the light board op/ASM for my school's fall production of Death of a Salesman. Well our crew has a long standing tradition of warming up before a show, but for some reason we never did it for DoaS, and it produced dire consequences. On opening night, almost at the end of intermission, the other ASM somehow dislocated her knee back stage. Having dislocated my knee before, I know what that feels like so when I hear the news I go running from the booth to backstage. By the time I got there the knee was in the right place and she was recovering, and they told me get my ass back in the booth. We still had to delay the intermission an extra half hour though. The next night, not doing the warmups again, she somehow got a massive nosebleed that made the EMTs and police make a visit. She was fine by the time I found out about it, but I also heard that she got in a car accident the day before and banged her head on her locker that day. We all thought she was going to die the next and last night, but luckily we did crew warmups before the show, and everything went well. Her secret santa had a great idea and gave her a giant Get Well card signed by everybody.

Also during that show, both Uncle Ben and Willy decided to throw in some modern day words. Uncle Ben slipped in freakin' on the second night, and me, the SM, and sound board op all look at each other saying "Did he just say freakin'?" While at the third night Willy says "I need something really awesome to tell your mother boys." Nice right?

The second night was just a bundle of joy with the next thing that happened. For all of you that know the show, Willy has a bunch of flashback scenes, and we had just about all the flashbacks take place in front of the house on the apron. Well during I think it was the first Uncle Ben flashback when the boys start to scuffle or something, one of them apparently bumps into that infamous half wall again and knocks over the phone. Keep in mind the flashback took place in front of the house, so whoever bumped into it broke the house's fourth wall! Linda made a save my picking up the phone as if cleaning and saying "Messy boys!"

So I think that's about all I can remember of the memorable moments of that show. I'll post about my experiences with Noises Off! next time!

11/15/05 03:18 pm - ddr_llama - Ironic. (X-Posted.)

So last night we finished our technical rehearsals of "Dracula." However, we ended on a sour note that I felt I needed to share with someone.

We incorporated costumes for the first time last night. They're all really elaborate, as is our set. The run went really well after we had to get thru a LOT of problems with the floor crew abusing their headset priviliges. But it was better. After screwing up only a few cues, we went on to the curtain call. The way our director decided we would do it is like this: The cast is all onstage in various areas (we have a unit set,) and after they all bow, Dracula flies in up thru the window on a line on the counterweight system. The problem with this is that the area behind the window is flooded with lighting instruments, a hazer, a couple speakers, and this is also where the crew has to get around behind the set.

So, basically we flew Dracula for the first time in his costume. He has a cape, and what with the millions of instruments back there, it caught. Drac flew about halfway out, and blacked out from being strangled. Thank god the floor crew consists of lots of big guys, they grabbed the counterweight and hung on for dear life. They flew him back in and all I hear on headset is:

"Dylan? OH MY GOD!!!!!! BRING HIM IN!!!! (Rumble rumble thud)"

So. We almost killed an actor. Literally. Oh, AND half the cast has mono. Seriously. We open on Thursday.


11/12/05 10:54 pm - tiimmmy

okay, i go to a highschool that had a really good drama program, we go all out on everything (ie making it rain on stage), a fully functional book (opens closes, flys in and out) well, this book was 8 feet wide and 12 feet tall, it was huge, and was made out of wood, so it weighed a ton, we were getting ready to hang it on the rail to fly it, when our sm (whos was a complete bumblefuck) decides to move the border in front of the rail we need, well our ropes technician just added the needed weight onto the rail for the book (i think it weighed about 900 pounds, (not kidding, we put weights in the back of the book near the bottom to keep it from tipping forward and taking out the entire cast, as amusing as that would have been), well, he took the safety off and all of a sudden he's gone, all we saw were his legs flailing as they raced toward the ceiling, well, we have an upper loading gallery, this kid flew all the way up, and missed the loading gallery by about 6 inches (if he had hit it he would have been killed instantly, well our td screams hold on harry, and the kid slides down about 35-40 feet with bare hands, he was bleeding all over, it was sooooo funny tho.
another time working on the same show, which was seussical, i had to be in the cat that was over the audience and the stage (we have a large pointed thrust stage that puts the scene about 1/2 into the house) i needed to drop the clover into this large field of them in the middle of the stage, i had to practically hang of the cat, i never missed my mark, but on the last sat show, as i was trying to conceal myself from being seen, because everyone would always look up at the ceiling to see where it came from, well, i hit the back of my head on the pipe that we hung the lights on, made a rather loud thud, well, the cat has a clearance of about 3 to in certain spots 5 feet, well, i was a little disoriented and whacked my head into a girder, and to add insult to injury i backed up into another girder, so now i have no clue which way was up and i still needed to climb a ladder down about two stories or so to get to the stage, i had no headset to ask for assistance, so i climbed down, i told my td what had happened and he also is the coach for the womens soccer team, so he knows how to check for concussions, so he was pretty sure i had one, so he called my parents to let them know, when i threw up all over the place in the lobby. this wouldn't have been so bad, but it was intermission by then....and i had to go to the hospital and i missed the cast party.
in a show they did(i think it was sweet charity) before i was there, one of the dance hall girls body mics battery exploded during her scene during a performance, well she was being burned by battery acid down her back and she kept singing and dancing, and the audience never knew....i give that girl a lot of respect for being able to do that.
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