Tuesday, February 26, 2008


“Science and technology! Men [& women] building things! Putting screwdrivers into things! And adjusting them!”

“Outstanding. [Now] all we need's a deck of cards. All right, let's move like we got a purpose.”

“That wasn’t so hard.” “… We neutronized it! Do you know what that means? A complete particle reversal …” “And we had the tools! We had the talent!” “It’s Miller time!”

“Hello! …” “Hi! … Look at the silly little humans!” “Do you think they have any idea what’s about to happen to them?” “Not a clue … Bye bye …”

I fully admit I’m feeling VERY self-satisfied right now. One may even say, “Full of myself.” And you would be fairly on track. This feeling comes as a direct result of me kicking my last load-in’s ass. You heard me: I am a tech director GOD. Believe it. That’s right, Show: Suck it.

Here’s how it’s all gone down so far: After the abhorrent debacle of The Show That Shall Not Be Named and the fallout that ensued post, my production manager and I (with the ENTIRE production staff behind us) went into Sue’s office and demanded things start not sucking. Officially. This actually wasn’t all that hard an argument to convince her with on account of it being well thought-out and organized. Scott begged, I yelled, Stefi cried, and I seem to recall Anna sitting in the corner quietly rocking herself back & forth whispering, “No cry for Nell. No cry for Nell.”

Show #3 (Welcome Home, Marian Anderson/Clouds/”That Black Show” [I won’t say who called the show “That Black Show” but I’ll give you a hint: Her initials are Susan D. Atkinson]) was a much-needed break and although it was certainly an easy show to put up, it was more by virtue of it being an already-produced remount. This show was basically done and had been touring for something like nine years already and we just kind of … made it fit on BRT’s stage. We did that. And it was miraculous. There was much rejoicing …

I know you made the little cheering sound. Don’t bother denying it.

But it was not the remolding of the system that we clamoured for and demanded help in bringing about.

Copenhagen, then, was the real test. We railed. We cried out. We bitched. We moaned. Scott, Stefi, Anna, Mike, Blair, Kate & I all yelled at the top of our lungs that things like designers finishing designs on time were not luxuries but essentials. That the days of great scenery magically appearing onstage with seemingly little to no effort were over. No longer were we, the Prod Staff, going to let directors and managing producers and actors work in blissful ignorance as to how the things that help them look not stupid on stage get there. Oh you’re going to know, dammit. In fact, some of us went so far as to say that we not only couldn’t do our jobs without some of these things but that we wouldn’t (that might have been me, I can’t recall that, Senator).

I’m getting off-task. Lemme refocus here. …

Greg Mitchell (you douche canoe) was once again returning to BRT to not only design some scenery but ALSO to put together the lighting. To most of us here, this seemed like the logical theatrical equivalent of inviting a convicted child rapist over for dinner to meet your daughter … again; and then asking her to invite her brownie troupe friends over, too. In short, a bad, BAD idea.

Nevertheless, he was signed on a second time. Admittedly with the inclusion in his contract that January 4th was the deadline for FINISHED final design plates and each day late was a 2x4 to the face (thanks to Scott for pushing on that front for us). I give T-Dub credit, he came through and although it was one hell of a convoluted design, it was done (mostly) and it was on time (mostly). Regardless of its slights, it was light years ahead of his last nightmare and I, for one, was hopeful; if not downright impressed he did his job at all. To a great degree, this should be attributed to the fact that Greg Mitchell fears us. Oh, he does. He’s afraid. I can see it in his eyes. He’s fucking terrified of each and every one of us. And frankly, I’d be lying if I told you that most of us were not only okay with that but a little happy about it, too. Go ahead and judge, if you must, but contempt leaves little room for amnesty and he had something to prove to us. Namely, that he wasn’t a barnacle on the underside of Art. The jury’s still out on that but he’s at least ON the boat of Art now. I lost myself again, hang on …

The design that did show up was … Well, it was straight-forward and concise, I’ll give it that. You know, the way that first three hundred foot drop on a roller coaster called, “The Widow Maker” is straightforward and concise.

Ellipses. The floor is covered with ‘em. All of differing sizes and positions; some so large that only a portion of them is even seen; as little as a third in some cases.

For those of you fuzzy on your geometric shapes, the term “ellipse” is from the Greek for “absence” and is defined as being the “locus of points on a plane where the sum of the distances from any point on the curve to two fixed points is constant.” Unlike a circle, which has one, constant radius that never changes on any X or Y axis, the ellipse has two very distinct axis’s; a major and a minor and its radiuses are ALWAYS changing. It is the “cross section of a cone seen at any angle but a right angle with its axis.” Try noodling THAT one out …

Look, just think oval like we all did at first and you’ll be fine. (Actually, if you look at a drawing of an ellipse whilst you read the above definitions, I think they make a lot more sense than I’ll otherwise admit)

I was fuzzy on the whole ellipse thing as recently as two months ago. I’m a veritable fucking savant on the subject now …

Here’s the main thing about ellipses you need to realize in order to grasp the foci of this load-in (and subsequently, why I kick so much damn ass): To accurately draw an ellipse, you need to locate its two foci points along its major axis and draw its circumference’s constants from them. In small scales (like on a coffee table), this is fairly easy with a little math, two nails and a string. On larger scales it become difficult to locate these foci and keep constant the distance between them (string, even tie-line, stretches and even aircraft cable wants to sag over a distance of sixty feet). As these distances grow larger, so does the difficulty in keeping the geometry uniform.

Let me put it this way: Try finding a point two thirds along a ninety foot line when you’re standing in a room only forty feet wide. Yeah.

And that’s just the floor. They START at sixteen feet along the minor axis and go upwards to something like forty-two feet. And that’s along the SMALLER of the axis, for the love Jiminy! And there are six of these fuckers! Seven, if you count the one on the Wall.

Oh yeah, … The Wall. The Wall is a 24’x36’ faceted masonite (hard board; think tempered cardboard) wall that CURVES; FOLLOWING ONE OF THE ELLIPSES ON THE FLOOR across stage. The surface isn’t solid in the manner of most other walls, either. Along with the faceting aspect it is also split every 4’x8’ so that lighting instruments hung from behind it will shine through the seams. Because of the steep angles of the lighting instruments, the Wall itself needs to be very thin. Less than four inches thick. Look, it’s difficult to describe truly in words.

Originally, the Wall was spec’d by T-Dub as constructed out of wood. This seemed cagey, in my opinion, as I doubted 2x4 pine’s ability to stay straight over 24 feet and to hold itself upright without a TON of cross-bracing that he had deemed unacceptable for his lighting purposes. Wood really wants to bend under its own weight. Think trees in hurricanes. The Wall had to be steel but the big issue with that is BRT just wasn’t equipped to weld structurally properly. That and no one but me and Stefi had done any real MIG welding less than a year ago. We managed to fix that. We bought a welding conversion kit to make the fluxcore-piece-of-stinky-shyte welder we DID have into a MIGlet (also known as Barbie’s First Welder) and I even managed to teach just about everybody in production how to MIG weld. And most everybody does it now REALLY WELL. I mean, to look at the assistant stage manager, kate, is to look upon an innocent. But “Best Welder in the Shop,” I wouldn’t. But she’s awesome at it. You should see her beads; jesus …

I only go into this kind of depth here because not only did I teach myself a HELL of a lot about geometry in general and elliptical shapes and how to conjure them from the very air around me and not only did my crew make a pile of steel into a wall twenty-four feet high by an inch and three-quarters thick but we managed to do it all TWO SOLID WEEKS BEFORE TECH EVEN STARTS.

We are gods. Okay no, we’re not gods. But given the first half of this season, it sure feels like we’re gods. Yes fine, we’re simple mortals. But we’re mortals given the time to have explored our options and given the time to check and recheck and build things right the first time. That’s what’s important to realize here. You especially need to recognize that to understand why this show frightened the pants off of me just prior to getting started on it.

Putting this show up scared me not only because it was new ground for me technically speaking (I mean, … ELLIPSES!!), but precisely because we WERE given the time to noodle everything out. I won’t say we were given carte blanche, but we were given a lot more support than I feel like the Scene Shop’s been given in the past twenty years. Shyte. If we couldn’t pull this one off, it was no one’s fault but my own. That’s a kind of pressure I actually wasn’t prepared for. If for no other reason than I was putting pressure on myself not to fuck up. I admit I am my own worst critic.

So you wonder why I feel like walkin’ on sunshine? Cause for the first time in a long time I feel like not only did I do my job but I did my job well. My karate instructor used to say, “You’re only as good as your last fight.” Tomorrow’s fight with Dear World might suck and I might lose it (the pictures of THAT model frighten me a little bit), but in today’s I kicked ass, despite being all out of bubblegum. Forgive me if I feel a little pride from that. Or don’t; that’s cool, too.

That’s word. Good night. And good luck.

PS- Bonus points to the first person who can identify the four quotes at top. See? My blog is not only entertaining, but challenging!

1 comment:

Sam said...

I'm stuck on the first two. I know "INDUSTRY!" well but couldn't tell you where it actually comes from. And the second I'm just lost with.

But the last two are pie:
Independence Day

And a tasty pie it is.

Good for you for taking charge and whooping up on BRT. It sounds like things are coming together for you.