-13 and Some Venue Pictures

So I’ve been all over the place the last week+ so I’ll give you the run-down on how January wrapped up then I’ll move on to the two gigs from today, tomorrow? Not confusing at all right… Right. No actually that sounds a little confusing. HEY. Deal with it. And fair warning, this was NOT proofread. It all began last Wednesday the 23rd…….

Many people look at the weather and get all flustered if the temperature they see comes up with the dreaded “-” in front of it. But few remember that it’s not till you start seeing bad windchill and -20 that will really knock the wind out of your lungs… Trusty 20oz coffee in hand before I hopped on the southbound interstate to brave the cold and another master electrician gig at the southern venue.

There was no information available about this gig before I walked in the door and I had no clue what to expect. When the production manager and I started chatting the first words he used were “flash and trash”… Well that doesn’t sound good… No, dear reader, it’s not.

So I’ve mentioned our southern venue (SV) a lot which has a couple spaces that we generally work in… This one is the one with the slanted clouds and large bays… here’s a shot looking down at the audience through the bay and the top of the cloud at the bottom of the shot:


Not sketchy at all right? Don’t worry we’re wearing fall arrest gear… and we’re professionals. This is the bay….20130131-221642.jpg

So back to the flash and trash… I had my electricians throw some textures on the upstage screen and picked some fun “I usually wouldn’t use these colors all together” colors and decided to roll with some sweet effects that I could program into the Ion real fast. The show was basically an athletic department talent show… A bunch of the teams had put together either group dance pieces or had some solo numbers to show they weren’t just jocks… There was no rehearsal so everything needed to be run on the fly. Below is a shot of the mens swim team in their speedos dancing to I think Backstreet Boys.


One of the kids that was really talented was a kid that played a solo guitar piece. It sucks that my phone doesn’t take quality pictures but it looked really nice. I swear.

There were some fun pieces where I got to run effects through the backlights, where the lights would flash in a random order or they would chase each other left to right. Programming effects took the greatest amount of time but the show ran well and the managers said it was just what they wanted. Fun and not the norm for the space so it was a good time. I love the various looks you can get from such a simple stock plot… I’m starting to have a lot of fun learning more about the space. No load out either…. so I went home to catch some zzzz before…

Thursday, we had a gig at the north venue (NV), lots of PARs and barn doors. Since I’m really showing you what the venues look like we’ll go through a couple fun features of NV…..

Here is probably the funniest room in the theater…. The Pie Room….. you open the door and you walk immediately into a wall…..

You have to peer in and around the corner to find that there is actually some storage space… Old theaters are pretty hilarious.

Up in the ceiling where you go to get the FOH positions are all the steel i-beams and ducting… it looks kind of ghetto, but my favorite part in this particular venue is, as you can see isn the upper right hand beam, the writing from the steel workers when the materials came up from Boston in 1930…. The historical quality of the older theaters is wicked cool. Then again… I’m a history nerd….

While I was up in FOH I had to replace a lamp… Pretty cool perspective looking down at the stage…..

One of the other fun parts is the access to the ceiling, our ships ladder. Half ladder, half stairs, all steep.

Love the historic names…. so cool.

Enough geeking out KF.

Alright! Moving on…..

On Friday I ventured to Boston to have a meeting with another local about training. It’s exciting to meet new people in this industry that are as driven as I am to improve skills among our brothers and sisters; it is a dangerous and ever changing industry and the support network that is available to us is really incredible. I’ll be back in Boston soon… and then San Francisco… then probably Vegas again later this year… There is a lot of travel to stay on top of!

Tuesday the 29th brought a rock show to NV. Lots of movers which are my jam. The crew was a bunch of dudes who you could tell had been doing this a LONG time and had absolutely no tolerance for people who didn’t know what they were doing. It took a little while of proving that I was in fact, NOT a complete idiot for them to warm up a little. My favorite part of the load in were the disco mushrooms, little rotating half disco balls, which created a great effect all over the theater…


Even the tour’s bus was pimped out ….20130131-222105.jpg

I’ll bet it had those hydraulics that make it bounce too, but I can’t claim that I saw that………… 😉 When I snuck in for the load out it looked like your typical gig from the wings…


Nothing extraordinary but lights in haze always look baller. The load out started late and ended in the wee hours of the morning, such little time between falling asleep and getting up to be back at 7am made the 45min commute out of the question. I crashed locally and gained a couple hours rest but not by much. A pretty typical turnover, rock and roll to kids show….

Of course 4 hours of sleep and kids show = grumpy stagehand so there are NO pictures of the kids show. Womp womp. Instead you can infer how my day was by this picture:


That brings us up to now…. Phew! I’ll try not to jam y’all with so many gigs and so few details at one time in the future but ya know… busy and shit. Stay tuned… Two gig day today. Update tomorrow. Stay sharp kids.

– KF

My favorite part of a show…

Is load out. Ever since the first time I struck a show in 6th grade… I was 11. The show was Oliver. It was the first play I had ever been in (I was a boy). The thing I remember most was taking the painted drop outside to paint over it, all the kids were do sad saying, “The shows over! It’s so sad!” But I wasn’t, I was excited… Who knows what’s going to be next?? It could be anything! Load outs are the fastest part of a show (usually), gravity is your friend, and the space ends up clean, ready for the next show.

Because load outs are fast paced, there’s not a lot time for photo ops, so sorry this entry is less photos than usual.

Ugh, I only look at this blog for the shiny, shiny pictures…..

Well, I got a couple funny ones for ya so hold yer horses.

First thing I see is a bike suspended by spansets in the scene shop…


Apparently the student who was assistant stage managing left her bike in the wrong place and with the careful application of the genie lift and some hardware the kind staff of the theater put it in a safe, albeit inconvenient, place. The company was conducting a Q&A session and we waited, lurking behind the large folding scene shop door until it was over and we could get cracking. The priority was getting the act’s gear packed and loaded, with ladders, the runabout, and ratchets we set to work dismantling the swinging lights and solenoids. Making sure not to rain hardware down to the deck we made quick work taking those down. Since the set was not extensive, by the time we were done with that project, most of the deck was clear so we could start on taking down all the cosmetic pipes and the pipe grid. My view from the genie provided a neat little view of some of the remnants of the show scrawled in chalk on the floor…


We moved really quickly so I didn’t have a chance to get any other photos, though I wish someone had snapped one of the great time I had holding a ten foot section of inch-and-a-half with hardware on it (about 30 lbs) and one arm holding it as I brought it down on the lift. Talk about feeling the burn.

We had a good time, and said goodbye to another lovely road crew (who gave us each a box of Texas Chewie Pecan Pralines, mmmmmm!) and moved on to striking lights. I donned my harness and went up to grab all the units on side arms. The units that were particular fun were the 8″ Fresnel units that were about half my size and a solid 15 lbs apiece.

We stripped a bunch of the lights but since it’s a school they have students to come in and complete the work so we didn’t need to finish the strip completely. Which was awesome. I grabbed the new-hire who had carpooled with me and we hit the pavement northbound.

On my drive home, I received yet another picture that nearly killed me with laughter…


Nothing like a shot of a bra and some Bulleit on a circus set in Alaska to wrap up a sweet little load out.

Later this week I’ll be at the southern venue again to be master electrician, the northern venue to hang and focus some lights, and Boston for some networking… Right now I’m going to enjoy a couple days off by burying myself in some back issues of Lighting and Sound America, trusty hound at my feet. Till next time………


Pitches love Vibrato

So I was going to add a video of the swinging lights… but it’s $60 freaking dollars to “upgrade” to the video component of the blog… which is absolute horseshit. So sorry, no video for you. Instead, we’ll move on to how my day was yesterday as master electrician for some strings…

I bust out my copy of the house plot preparing myself for what the tech packet I had seen said “Classical lighting, small group of musicians, semi circle center stage”. Great, cool, no problem. Classical lighting basically means “white light and lots of it”. As I broke into the beef jerky I had a pretty good idea of where I was heading.


Here comes the catch right? Your paperwork is a mess by the way.

Ahhh, you’re beginning to become savvy to the world of live entertainment…. And yeah, a little. At this point the production manager appears and informs me this isn’t quite classical, it’s contemporary classical with pieces mostly from modern composers, so it would be great to have some texture, and color, and make it look fun and funky while maintaining the classical feel. In this business “It would be great if…” statements usually mean, “You should probably do it if you want to make yourself not look like a lazy shit.” Fantastic. My plot went out the window and I hurriedly went to a scribbling and bringing up lights, I felt like I was completely behind schedule, having only a half hour of prep time… I threw together a color list and sent my harnessed electricians into the air, having done focus in the space last week, I felt much more confident than last time.

When you’re down on deck and your console is up in the booth you’ve gotta have some way to bring channels up… Lots of consoles have remote focus units (RFU, we totally say [are-foo]) or you can be super slick and use an app on an iPad. Or if you’re a super geek like me… you can use your phone…


Super sexy, you can look at cues, bring up channels, pretty much the only thing you can’t do is record things which I’m sure will be coming sooner rather than later…

We went into rehearsal where I could wander around the house and look at levels. It was lots of fun. There was also one piece that the composer had a really specific look he wanted for the song and it was really cool to be able to work with him to accomplish what he wanted. This is one of the cues was tweaking while they rehearsed…


And this is how the catwalks and house looked from the stage…


We took a dinner break and came back an hour before the show started, I built my pre-show/intermission/post show look which I thought looked pretty rad with the top light straight down on the stands and cello platform… The gobos from one of the past shows were refocused to light the teak wall behind, while I usually don’t recycle what other designers leave, but it ended up looking nice.


In the years I’ve been doing this it still never ceases to amaze me that the looks onstage are controlled by consoles like this… Technology meets art:20130119-101749.jpgIt’s hard to grab good pictures of the show from so far away but I tried, it looked good given how I thought I was sort of behind and making it up as I went… The real kudos came from the act as they left after the Q&A session at the end where I got lots of thumbs up and ‘Thank you’s’, to me that’s a great satisfaction.


While I was on this gig someone texted me this too which cracked me up…. gotta love classical music.


And now a brief update on our friends from the circus…. Before they packed up completely I had a very brief conversation with one of their riggers when he haphazardly put the bottle of Bulleit in his road case… I asked…

“Aren’t you worried that’ll break in transit, buddy?”

“It’s always been fine before!” he replied.

“Well maybe we can find something to wrap it in.” I smiled… mischievously.

This is where one of my previous posts comes in… I mentioned that my bra had made a guest appearance on a birdhouse during the final scene of the show. It was one that I was getting rid of anyway, so while walking across deck I stuffed it in the rigging case… I would have wrapped the Bulleit in it but the bottle was gone, as it was being decorated and we would finish drinking it later. The case was closed and loaded on the truck.

The other night I received this picture from Alaska where they’ll be performing for the week….


I burst out laughing…. My bra is out in the world on tour with a circus. You can’t make this shit up. I hope that what I contributed to the rigging becomes a usual update on where they are… and hopefully it will keep a bottle of Bulliet safe from stray wrenches.

Holy shit this job is awesome.

Load out in the black box tonight… Post to follow tomorrow. As per usual… Stay tuned!


Ummm… That’s a tiger head…

Second day in a row down at the black box with blue catwalks! We needed to finish up pipe and such so the company could do their technical rehearsal later in the day… By 9:01am I was in the genie lift ready to rig the last pipes…

Finally, some pictures that make sense…

Easy snarky audience! Sheesh!

This first one is a chain, to shackle, to thimble secured with a nicopress fitting.

This one is two pipes of different sizes secured together with U bolts through a plate.

Pretty cool right? There is a definite feeling of satisfaction that comes from building shit. Again… Rigging = sexy.

That project didn’t take us long to complete, so our day turned into the “what can I do for you” game… The first task was tape loops. OMG how can I contain my excitement?? TAPE LOOPS!


We stuck them to a piece of plastic so we could peel them off and use them (I thought that was pretty clever), they looked like little marshmallows and we made TONS of them! They were to hold up shooting targets all around the theater. It was pretty slick.

At some point I looked up from my sticky little project and saw how low one of the swinging light fixtures was above the prop table… I was mightily impressed as the table did not move for the show… I couldn’t wait to see the lights drop from the solenoids… God I’m such a geek.

When all the little targets were up the set looked a little like….

That! Of course I was most proud of all the nifty pipes we had added:

The dangerous game of “what can I do for you” turned into one of my worst nightmares… Busy work. Now I don’t mind getting paid to do busy work, but it’s hard for someone like me whose mind wanders and I know I end up making simple mistakes and kicking myself later. One of the reasons I love what I do is the diverse jobs I find myself doing but when you’ve got several hours of the same thing over and over, I start to go a little more nuts than I already am.

Well THAT’S saying something….

I KNOW!!!!! RIGHT?!??

The task that was dealt to my friend and I was taking 50′ cables and turning them into 5′ cables… I didn’t mind the job of slicing cables up (WAHAHA!! Destroyer of cable!!!) but then the task of stripping, clipping, stripping and screwing (Mmm sounds sexy… it’s not.)

We made 20 5′ cables total… Woof. I surpassed my quota for the year already… I went off to a post work meeting, then swing back by the theater to check out the tech. Not only was the swinging light rig amazing, all the lighting was incredible… From what I saw the show was really interesting… There was totally a character in a tiger head and they set some paper on fire… Because it was the very end of tech, none of it made sense to me… But it was entertaining and certainly art… Check them out here.
The evening ended like so many other calls do, at a bar. I had a lovely cider and snapped a great shot of some dollars all up on the ceiling.

I’m now a gig behind once again. Damn pictures and writing take time, yo! Tomorrow I’ll fill y’all in on this sick string quartet I’m currently sitting behind an Ion doing lights for. It looks real purdy if I do declare. Stay tuned… 😉



Electro-swing music started my day off in just the right way… If you’ve never heard it, please do check it out.  I recommend Parov Stelar… Actually listen to some while reading this post, something like Booty Swing (not joking), and you’ll get a glimpse into my world… Since this blog is sort of stream of consciousness….. Hahaha! AAAAAAnyway……

Now, Why? you may ask did electro-swing start my day out right? Well…. dear reader, lets find out…

My friend and I pulled out of the Old Navy parking lot at 7:02am headed to the theater from my ‘Rigger, Please’ post… Interesting little black box, fun catwalks, strange homemade pipe grid. We were about to find out what that pipe grid was for, I was all a twitter. We arrived early, very early, so early in fact there wasn’t anyone from the venue in the theater at all. We tried some doors and found that it was open so we let ourselves in, found the work lights and made ourselves at home. Slowly folks started to trickle in until the full compliment of house staff and stagehands were present, and by 8:30 we even had a van to unload.

After the van was unpacked we shuffled into the theater, the Technical Director who I had been rigging with the previous week started talking to the road guy about specifics of the ground plan, much interested, I sidled closer to have a listen. The TD turns to me and says “Ok so…. well, since everyone else looks like they’re doing lighting, you heard all that, lets get to it!” Total win, I was psyched to be in the air rigging again. So the pipe gird was going to be a support for long pipes with lights on the end, they were held up horizontally in contraptions called solenoids (basically they convert electrical energy into linear motion, so when triggered they release and the lights swing free). ELECTRO-SWING!! HA, get it….. Yeah, simple pleasures for a simple mind, that little joke made my day.

Bitch, you be crazy. 

I know. Deal with it.

Most of the lights and solenoids were held up by the pipe grid we already built and raised, but we were going to need to add several pipes to the air to get a couple of the solenoids up in the air which meant lots of clever hanging. We had a rolling cart full of fun rigging items, bucket o’ shackles, pail o’ wire rope clips, nicopress tool, and the tennis ball I found in the scene shop and was bouncing around for a few minutes…


I again committed an act of blog failure by forgetting to take a picture of some of my handiwork to really illustrate what I did all day, I promise I was doing a lot and I will snap a shot tomorrow. It’s one of those things where I’m not super comfortable having my phone in my back pocket 20′ up in a genie lift so I usually don’t have it on me while I work. Below, the long pipe to the right with the light on the end is one of the swinging lights, they look really cool when they’re swinging I can’t wait to actually have power to them tomorrow.


There are 5 lights and 5 solenoids, 3 of the lights start in the swung out from center position which meant we needed to add 3 pipe hanging positions from the catwalks, outside the grid we already hung. Things were made tremendously easy by the runabout Genie lift, no outriggers, no pushers, no problem… Well that’s a lie, despite it being practically brand new there were all sorts of error codes that would pop up, usually when I was midair trying to do something… The TD would rush over, write down the error code, then we would use one of the emergency stop buttons to reset the damn thing… It was pretty funny, mainly because the TD is such a cool guy and had such a good attitude about it. Anyway, in the shot below you can see the lights aren’t terribly far off the deck, the road guy said lying down on the deck when they release is a pretty crazy sensation… Hopefully I’ll get to try that tomorrow.


Once all the lights and solenoids were up, which took a while since there were lots of little things to potentially drop, pipes in the grid that needed to move for the lights to properly connect to the solenoids, the genie doesn’t move particularly fast when it is moving (ha, ha), AND as you can see, we were working kind of in the dark for part of the day while the electricians focused the lights, by the last couple hours of the day we were able to move on to adding some cosmetic pipes to add to the look of the show. It was a full 8hrs of fun, everyone (house and road crews) were really laid back and that usually makes for a good day. Looking forward to another full day tomorrow… I promise, better rigging pics! Stay tuned boys and girls!


Mr. President

Sunrises always get me, even though I am NOT a morning person. Just the thought that sometimes this is what we try to recreate on the stage is cool, and just like production, no two are the same.


Another ungodly early morning headed back to our southernmost venue, after the week of driving the 80 miles it was beginning to be sort of numbing. Today I was going to be Master Electrician in a different space for a press conference to announce the new president of the Ivy League college the arts center we work for is associated with. It’s a funky little auditorium with a fairly well done plot but some of the positions are tricky to get to. I also knew the event that we were lighting was going to be videotaped and broadcast live on youtube… something I had knew in theory how to light… but really felt like this:


I had a little prep time before I sent people up in the air to focus so between my phone, scrawling notes, aaaand a cup of coffee I took a deep breath and started my first official focus in this space. The really interesting thing for an electrician who’s used to being up in the air actually doing the focus going to the person down on deck, in charge, calling the focus, is how quickly and easily you forget how tricky some of the hanging positions are to get to. Not only were my guys in fall arrest but they were working on an incline, and sometimes underneath architecture… and there were three of them and one of me. The only way I’ve ever learned how to do something is to actually do it, I know I didn’t keep them as busy as I’d like but everything got focused, it looked great and it was a really fun experience that I took away a lot from for next time (as in later this week for Brooklyn Rider).


The largest part of this production was definitely going to be video. All I had to do was write a walk-in cue, a podium cue, and a glee club singing cue… The tricky part was making sure there was enough of the right kind of light on everyone for the cameras. After I wrote my cues and had lunch, I came back to the booth to find a small Apple store had opened in my absence:



There wasn’t enough time for me to figure out what each of the computers were doing unfortunately, I do know the guys in the second picture were feeding live video to YouTube (for all 66 people that watched it, almost $10,000 worth of MacBooks seems totally worth it…..right?)

The ‘show’ itself was so short it was almost shocking, after two speakers the new president was introduced to a standing ovation, the glee club sang a couple songs full of school pride, and that was pretty much it. Best part… no strike. Awesome. And from what I hear everyone say, everything looked great on camera. Mission a-fucking-complished! I hopped back in my car and headed home to sleep till noon the following day… We’ll return to the land of the strange pipe grid tomorrow! Stay tuned, I can’t wait to find out what that thing is….


Rigger, Please.

There’s nothing quite like a late load out and another early morning, this time to a theater you’ve never been to before, to make you say… Oh my god, really? Dawn, the day after the circus, I was again on the road by 6:45, this time sleepily rolling toward a college for a hang call, besides being there at 9 am, I had no further information.

I parked in what I hoped would be a spot that I wouldn’t get a ticket or be towed (the never-ending parking war) and with harness and gear bag I walked into a beautiful building and was promptly lost. It took me a few minutes of wandering around until I found the other stagehands on the call milling around some tables which were presumably outside the theater. 9am rolled around and we went into a little black box theater that had 5 or so catwalks spanning the width of the room, most of the plot was hung already and there was some pipe suspended by ropes hanging from the catwalk.

There were also some pipes on the ground and a genie lift in the corner, looked like a good time was about to ensue. The Technical Director for the theater appeared and gave us some directions, we needed to secure the pipes that were suspended by rope to the pipes above in the catwalks using the pipes on the ground. We would then use aircraft cable to stabilize the whole rig so that some sort of moving swing thing could be attached. The TD was up front in that there wasn’t much else to do, hang a couple more lights, then cut and drop color but only if it were delivered after lunch. A part of me wanted to end early so I could curl up in a ball and sleep.

We proceeded to install pipes, one person in the air, one person in the genie, and me on the ground. I just had to hand sections of pipe up and the others would get it into place attaching it with cheeseboros (clamps that sometimes swivel in the center, used to hold two pipes together):

M AboveAllLight.com_MLSM_swivel_Coupler

The finished project looked like this:


What the fuck is that trying to be?

I’ve got no fucking idea, dear reader. No fucking idea.

Once all the pipes were up, the fellas kept working on making everything level and straight and I went through a pile of hardware getting aircraft cable, turnbuckles, shackles, chain, wire rope clips, and thimbles together for the guidelines to the grid. After a quick coffee break we harnessed up and went to the catwalks. hardware in bucket.

Each aircraft cable had a thimble installed at one end, secured in place by a nicopress fitting:

Nicopress Sleeve

This was connected to a batten clamp using a shackle:


Oh my god I’m so confused.

Don’t worry, rigging is tough, I’ll try to be gentle. But it’s a big part of the reason why rigging is so sexy. 😉 As an aside… I LOVE rigging, and I rarely get to do it since I usually get commandeered into lighting. Needless to say this call made me pretty happy.

The other end of the aircraft cable would go up to the grid and be secured either to other batten clamps or to a turnbuckle…:


… by adding another thimble and some wire rope clips:


So this picture above shows the wire rope clip itself, comprised of a U bolt, a saddle, and two nuts (tee hee), and the proper way to add a thimble and clip your turnback. You can’t stagger your clips (like the middle example) and you can’t “saddle a dead horse”… meaning your saddle has to be on the “live” side of the wire rope, the one having forces exerted on it, as opposed to the “dead” side (the end just hanging out). My sleep deprived brain didn’t think to snap a pic of the finished product to show you (sorry), but we did find a chalkboard and made a Bart Simpson homage that only theater nerds would appreciate:


So once the guide lines are installed, the turnbuckles spin and take up the slack in the wire rope and shazam! One weird pipe structure that isn’t moving anywhere!

We took a break for lunch at the greasy cafeteria (there was a healthy option too but fuck that), and upon our return there was a large flat box full of color to cut. A most unexciting process compared to the morning’s rigging, but c’est la vie. We cut, labeled, and framed all the color then went around and dropped it into all the lighting units that needed it. It wasn’t a particularly grueling day, but I was beat and ready for a nap. I headed for home knowing that tomorrow would be…….. yet another gig……….

– KF