Thursday, April 24, 2014

A Celebration Of Hope

It’s not very often that I will admit I am feeling nostalgic.  Although I’m more sentimental than I let on.  Earlier this month, we had the pleasure of working a benefit held at 8500 Euclid Avenue – the former home of the Cleveland Play House.  I spent many years in various capacities at the old House of Play, and luckily had some time to aimlessly wander my old stomping grounds.  It seemed every square foot sparked a memory.  Every backstage area, hallway, and stairwell had its own story about my time there.  I’m sure I’m not the only one.  Entering the vacant theatres was sad and almost sacred – like visiting the grave of a long lost friend.

Seeing the spaces so lifeless was sobering. However, each space brought back memories of wonderful creative teams and productions from years past. Some of my favorite memories are of the Children’s Series produced by Bill Hoffman at the Cleveland Play House.  Bill produced several world premier productions through this Series over the years showcasing the talents of play writes such as Eric Schmiedl, Eric Cobel, and Kenny Kacmar.  Being part of a creative team and having the ability to work together as a script evolves is one of the most rewarding experiences I have been a part of throughout my theatrical career.   This level of collaboration creates truly remarkable work (even on a shoestring budget).  

Although theatrical productions no longer grace the stages of 8500 Euclid Ave, the city has a booming arts culture.  Cleveland Public Theatre offers several unique productions every season and continues to widen their reach.  Coming up this weekend, CPT is presenting Station Hope – A Block Party With a Purpose at St. John’s Church.  This free, one night only experience is a multiple disciplined arts event that celebrates the triumphs of the Underground Railroad, the history of St. John’s Church, and the contemporary struggles for freedom and justice.  Visual art displays, choral performances, dance, storytelling, and music will come together for this inspiring evening from 6pm – 10pm Saturday April 26.  You can get all the details here.

Among the performances will be a musical piece entitled “Get a Job” created by two of my much loved and respected colleagues, Bill Hoffman and Eric Schmiedl.   If for some reason you can’t make it out this Saturday, you can catch Bill and Eric producing wonderful shows throughout the year at the Lantern Theatre at Canal Corners & Farmers Market.  I hope you can make it to Station Hope this Saturday.  A truly inspiring evening awaits you.  Solus Lighting is a proud supporter of Station Hope. ~Maureen E. Patterson, Lead Designer Solus Lighting LTD

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”  Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Event Techs...What's In Your Workbox?

Twitter has inspired me today!  More specifically, trade show veteran Melissa P. Michel inspired me with her "Trade Show Toolbox" blog entry.  I was reading over her blog post and I started thinking about what I always have with me at events, as a lighting tech.  As I was going through my list, I realized that the core of my workbox is always the same no matter if it is a "one-off" event or a large corporate conference that lasts for days.

If I have the space (and luxury) to put an actual workbox on the truck it is a must!  If the space does not allow, or if the show is small enough, I have a back-up...which gets the job done, it's just not on casters.  Ok, here we go...

Spare Lamps - a decent ratio is one spare for every six fixtures, but the type of fixture will really determine what you need here.  Keeping track of lamp hours is also great knowledge to have.

Tape - all kinds of tape.  Gaff tape, e-tape, board tape, spike tape...there can never be enough varieties of type and color.

General Expendables - tieline, zipties, blackwrap, binder clips, fixture donuts, extra safety cables.

FOH Gear - Little Lite, paper, pens, Sharpys, highlighters, USB Flash drives, flashlight, first aid kit.

Tool Bag - the basics; multitool like a Gerber, meter, c-wrench, nippers, 6-in-1 screwdriver, circuit tester, DMX tester.  If there are LEDs or moving lights in the rig, the tool bag should definitely be beefed up with gear like soldering iron, solder, butt splices of various gauge sizes, spade connector of various types and sizes, crimpers, allen wrenches, socket get the idea, any hand tool that is used in the shop to work on LEDs or movers.

Spare Parts - if having spare fixtures isn't possible, then a good spare parts kit is the next best thing.  Techs get to know fixtures and this usually determines which spare components will be brought in the workbox.  Some general parts that are good to have on hand are small screws, nuts, washers, fixture & dimmer fuses, small sized zipties.

Cable & Connectors - it is always a good idea to have ~5% of extra cable on site for events.  "Oh by the way"'s always pop up at the last minute and a good tech should know that they are coming.  I, personally, also like to keep a 10' edison cable and a couple of cube taps at FOH with me (the reason for that is coming up in the next section).  Connectors are also important to have on hand.  Throwing a new connector on a piece of cable or a fixture is sometimes quicker & easier than replacing that piece of gear in the rig.  In addition to having all types of connectors that are in the rig, it s also a good idea to have turnarounds close by.  XLR for the com (that lighting always gets stuck with...I don't get it, you hear & speak with it - that's the sound dept!), DMX 5pin to 3pin, L6-20, GR, GP...the list goes on.  Be prepared.

Entertainment - there are some long days spent in the venue, especially at week long conferences.  Techs, don't go stir crazy, make sure you have some form of entertainment for the down times or hours long sessions with no cues.  Typically, setup just to the right of my console at FOH is my MacBook Pro, iPad, iPod, iPhone (I'm kind of an Apple fan), earbuds, some FOH snacks (I suggest Goldfish & Twizzlers) and some 5 Hr Energy shots.  Last but not least, and I learned this the hard way a while back on a corporate show in Orlando in August, make sure you have a hoodie or some sort of arctic cover.  Typically, hotels will crank the air conditioning the afternoon before show day and even if it is 90 degrees outside you will have that hoodie on in the ballroom!

I think that about wraps it up.  Everyone has their own method for getting through stand-bys, these are my ramblings.  The bottom line is find what works to put you in the best position to do your best for your clients & events.  ~Beth Reyes, Lead Production Tech Solus Lighting LTD