Cue 35??? What the fuck happened to Cue 35???

I was all prepared for tonight’s post.  I’d thought about it a couple of times at work tonight.  I thought I’d complain about my first night back at the restaurant.

I was going to bitch about my schedule for next week.  It sucks ass.

I was going to bitch about the verbal tip.  You know.  You were great.  We had the best time.  You are the best waiter we’ve had in New York.  All this is followed by an 8% tip.

I was going to bitch about the girl who asked for free drinks when I greeted the table.  And continued to ask for free stuff the entire time she and her friends were there.  And I wanted to ask her if she goes to the fucking Gap and asked for free fucking jeans.  Because we are a fucking business.  If we gave something free to every fucking person who wanted it, we wouldn’t be in business.  Oh, and thanks for not tipping.

I was going to ponder why middle easterners are the worst tippers I deal with.  See the above two paragraphs.

I was going to discuss how awful our super is.  And how he stood in our bathroom today, while water was cascading out of the ceiling, not being concerned at all.  It took him another twenty minutes to go upstairs to check if there was a problem.

Yes, I was going to discuss all these things.

But then I had this text message when I got off work:

“Did you keep a copy of the show file for yourself?” This was from the scenery/lighting design professor (the one they hired instead of me).

There was also a message from him but I didn’t check it till after I got home and read this email:

Production Team,

Many of you were involved with tonight’s happenings, but for those of you who were not or who want a full story:

Around 7:10, Emma (light board operator) approached me about a monitor on the light board that was not working.  We did some trouble shooting with Eric (who is in Chicago) via telephone, but could not find the source of the problem.  We decided to shut down the board and reboot, only to find that the console would not restart.  We called in Jason for additional trouble-shooting and announced the road-block to Gerri and Barb preparing them to have to make a decision about the run of the show.

After holding the house until 7:55 and determining that the console was irreparable for tonight’s run, we eventually decided to run the show without lights.  The actors (with much assistance from our ASM) and the remaining technical elements carried the show beautifully.

We will be meeting at 9:00 am tomorrow morning to discuss possible routes concerning Sunday’s show.  You are all encouraged to come, but I know some of you are far away (Maddog) or may have other obligations, etc.

Maddog, do we have the show saved to a disk?  We could potentially switch it onto the other board and run from that.

Thanks everyone


That’s not funny laughing.  That’s I knew it was too good to be true laughing.

A little background.

I’m the lighting designer.  I figure out where all the lights go in the theatre.  I do this using creativity, mechanics and a lot of guess work.  I then do a set of drawings (drafting) that I send to the theatre ahead of my arrival.  The crew at the theatre takes my drawings and uses them to hang the lights where I want them.  Then I show up and have a crew point the lights (focus) where I tell them to.

And then.

I start tech.  This is the process where, with the directors, the actors, the stage manager and the crew I figure out what lights are turned on when.  How fast they turn on.  How fast they turn off.  And by doing this I create a stage picture that make everyone go oooohhhh.   And if I’ve done my job most people don’t even notice.  This tech process can take a few hours if it’s a small show, or if we don’t have a lot of time.  Large  Broadway shows might have more than a 150 hours of tech.

And during this process we use this thing called a light board.  In the old days it was run manually and if it was a big show it might take three or four people to do it.  Ah, but then came technology.  And the invention of the computer.  And wouldn’t you know light boards became computerized.  Just for the record, a little trivia.  A Chorus Line was the first Broadway show to have a computerized light board.

And so now, I sit at a desk and I tell someone to turn these lights on, and those lights off and when things look the way I want them to, it’s recorded as a cue.  And I do this moment by moment for the whole show until all the looks are in the computer.  Small shows might have thirty or so “cues”.  The shows I designed this summer had about 400 cues each.  A Broadway show can have more than 700 cues.  The show I just designed has about 150.

Once all this is done, we run it all with actors.  I make adjustments.  And we do it again.  These are called tech rehearsals.  Eventually these give way to dress rehearsals.  And then the show opens, I collect my paycheck, pack my bags and fly home.

And with any luck there have been no tornadoes, fires, floods, famine, crane collapses etc.

Ah, but I underestimated the power of evil in Iowa.  It seems that the light board has bitten the dust.  And if the computer won’t turn on, then they can’t access those cues.  And if they can’t access those cues, then the lights don’t know when to turn on and off.  And suddenly the shows kind of fucked.  See how important my job is.

And so the email and text wanted to know if I had a disc backup of the show.  I don’t.  It’s not really my job to do this.  It’s the people in charge of the theater that have to make the copies.  And EVEN IF I had made a copy it would be useless to them.  The tech director who is brilliant, was persuaded to buy a light board that’s a piece of shit.  (He really is brilliant, don’t get me wrong).  But the light board that has died is a piece of shit.  I had a thirty minute conversation with a lighting friend while I was in Iowa about how bad this console was.  And so with all their brilliance they bought a different brand of computer than their other one,  so even if I had backed the show up there would have been nothing they could do about it.  It would be like trying to get a Mac computer to run on Window 95.

So they are fucked more or less.

This is the email I sent back to them.


Let me repeat that….UGH!!!!

With that said.

I don’t have a back up of the show file.   I only do that when I expect to do the show again.

With that being said.  The most up to date paperwork is on Erik’s laptop which might be being used for video.  It has every thing but the stuff that was added the last couple of days.  What is there, would be more than enough to get you through the last show.

As for programing.  My suggestion would be to quickly throw together seven basic looks on submasters on the other console.  You would need a look for the top floor, the bedroom, the canteen, the dining room and the classroom.  Along with that you would need a look for the two scenes with Emma when she is outside the classroom that could be the same look.  You would also need a look for the interrogation room down right.  I would then add a couple of scene change looks that would cover the changes.  If you are feeling really excited go with three or four.  You can bounce between them randomly.

Once this is programmed, run it old school.  The stage manager will let the board op know what is coming and the board op will run it on the faders live.  Luckily they are both on top of their game and I don’t think this should be a problem.  It just means that the stage manager will have to be sure that the board op knows what’s coming next.  It would even better if you could get the other board into two scene preset mode so that one scene can be on stage while the board op sets up for the new scenes.

I hope this helps.  It’s late/early but I’ll be sure that my phone is on and by the bed in case you have questions or need other information.  If I don’t answer call back I probably didn’t wake up fast enough to get to the phone.

Please let me know how the show goes.  With a little will power and quick thinking most of the audience will never know there’s a problem.  I wouldn’t even let them know about the difficulties.  Just remind the cast and crew that this was the way it was done for years and to go out there and have a good time and not to be thrown if it doesn’t go smoothly.  Trust me there are far worse things that could have happened.     And just so you know Justin, there’s no need to take my name off the program, I’m with the show good or bad.  These things happen.  It’s the beauty of live theatre.  Or the pain, whichever way you want to look at it.

I’ll send good thoughts your way.


That sort of sums it all up.

Keep your fingers crossed that the 2:00 p.m. show goes okay.

And remember, evil things happen when I leave the city.

ps…here’s a photo of a real light board:



3 thoughts on “Cue 35??? What the fuck happened to Cue 35???

  1. javabear November 23, 2008 / 13:14

    Well that’s very exciting. Is live theater ever boring?

    Did the super get the water problem fixed?

  2. Lemuel November 23, 2008 / 17:04

    cool pic. geeky stuff. Me likey geeky stuff! 😀

    Is your super still alive? Had I been the tenant, I think his family would be in contact with morticians.

  3. urspo November 23, 2008 / 22:33

    you sure lead an interesting life.

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