Day Thirteen: Oklahoma

My day off is over.  Damn it.  Where did it go?

It’s been an okay day.  True to my word, I slept until 4 p.m.  I woke up a couple of times and promptly went back to sleep.  I finally got out of bed at 3:57.  I checked my messages and found I’d missed four calls.  Three of them from the artistic director/director of the shows I’m doing.  Whoops.  What the hell could he want.  After I made a couple of calls I did some blog surfing and then once again true to my word I took a nap.  I slept from 5:00 until almost 6:00.  I have to admit that as much of a slug as I felt like it was nice to finally get some sleep.

So I should catch you up on what’s been going on.  Saturday night was the second and last performance of our out of town try out.  I was debating back and forth about not going and then decided at the last minute I would go and help with strike (for those new to theatre, strike is when you take everything apart and either load it on a truck or get rid of it) and besides I had nothing else to do.  We got to the theatre around 6:30 or so and I was hanging out not doing much of anything.  We had stopped at Sonic before getting there so I was finishing up my most nutritious dinner when the stage manager came up to me and said she had to talk to me.  At the same time the tech director also walked up and said he’d join us in the conversation.  For a moment I thought I was in trouble.  We walked out on stage and I turned to them and said, “So What’s up?”  It was worse than I could have ever imagined.

As a lighting designer, I figure out where the lights go, when they turn on and off, what color they’ll be, how fast they’ll change etc. etc.  Once we are in the theatre I do all my work communicating to a light board operator when to turn the lights on and off, and he/she programs it into a computer.  Then when we the show is in performance the stage manager will say “GO” and the board op hits the button and the lights change according to plan.  It can be very complicated and in big musicals there can be hundreds of “cues”.

So the problem on Saturday night.  The board op had gone to the board to load the first cue and nothing happened.  She tried again and again nothing happened.  She called the tech director.  He couldn’t figure out what was wrong so they called me.  And this was what I was being told.  About half way through the conversation I went running for the control room.  Surely there was a mistake.  I got there in no time flat.  I sat down at the computer fully expecting it to be some silly mistake.

I was completely wrong.  Not only was cue 1 not in the board.  None of the cues were there.  In fact none of the information for the show was there.  None of it.  What the fuck?  I sat there for a minute, while the tech director was trying to call tech support.  Finally I realized if there was going to be show I needed to do something.  Unfortunately none of the information for the show was at the theatre.  I’d taken it home to work on the “real” production.  So I started issuing orders.  I sent the board op to the grid to start writing down numbers of lights.  I sent the spot op to the stage to do the same.  By this time it was 7:45 and the audience still was not in the theatre.  It took a while to gather the information but eventually everyone returned to the booth with what I needed.

I then spent about 20 minutes loading information into the board and then told the stage manager I was ready.  She opened the house and we sat back terribly afraid of what the night was going to be.  What eventually happened was I did the light cues live.  There was no computer.  I turned on the lights that where there when they needed to be on and tried to stay one step ahead of the show.  I used the follow spots to fill in where it was dark and we did it.  For the most part, the audience was unaware that anything had happened.  I was on pins and needles the whole time.  But in the end I pulled it off with the help of my crew and the stage manager and I don’t even think that most of the actors or audience even realized there was a problem.

So the show came down and we began strike.  It meant returning all the lights to their original position, taking all the scenery down, boxing all the props and costume and then loading it all onto a truck.  The show finished at 11:00 and the scenery was in the truck with us ready to go at 1:00, which is a very fast time.  Everyone got in their cars and we started home.  I rode with the tech director and we got about a mile from the theatre when we realized the truck wasn’t behind us.  So we turned around and went back.  Whoops there was a little problem.  Seems the ME (he’s not the brightest bulb in the box, but I’ll come back to that) had had trouble seeing so he’d had the cargo lights turned on.  Which in turn ran the battery down.  So when the girl driving the 24 foot Budget rental truck tried to start it, nothing happened.  So now it’s 1:15 in the morning and we are fucked.

Of course no one has jumper cables so we go to Wal-Mart to get some.  This takes longer than we expect because it’s on the other side of town.  We get there buy them and come back.  We pull the tech director’s car close enough to jump the truck and get out.  We open the hood of the truck, and start looking for the battery.  And we look.  And look.  And look.  And look.  And look.  None of us can find it.  Surely it has to be out in the open where you can get to it.  After 30 or so minutes of this we give up and I finally convince the tech director to call AAA.  While he’s on the phone trying to get someone to come out, I decide to call Budget to see if they can send someone.  It takes about 10 minutes but I finally get thru to someone who’s able to tell me where the battery is.  I say thank you and hang up.

Seems in a 24 foot Budget rental truck the battery is under the passenger side door outside the engine.  Who would have thought.  So we hooked the truck up the car and it took about 15 minutes for the battery to charge enough to start the truck, but eventually it started and we were on our way.  I think we finally arrived home at 3:30.  Which made for a very early morning on Sunday.

Since the post is so long, I’ll catch you up on Sunday and Monday tomorrow night.

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4 thoughts on “Day Thirteen: Oklahoma

  1. Steven June 12, 2007 / 10:43

    You definitely know how to pull it off in emergency situations. Good thing you took some naps beforehand. After that, it sounds like you may need a day or two of sleep.

  2. Mikell June 12, 2007 / 18:59

    I’m sorry about the truck issues.

    The lighting cues sounds like it was when I was in the theater. We had someone sitting up in the cat walk, speaking into a two-way radio, giving us lighting and sound-effect cues.

    Ah… to be back in the olden days, before computers.

  3. Jason June 12, 2007 / 19:29

    Working the lights sounds exciting, but it does sound like some major pressure on ya. You’re a professional though, so I’m sure you have it covered. Sounds like you need some more days off in there!

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