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Actor Turned Techie: HELP!!!

Discussion in 'General Advice' started by lachancie, Jun 4, 2009.

  1. lachancie

    lachancie Member

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    Greeting All,
    I have been a prof. actor for years and years and have recently transitioned into the educational world and have found myself as the Theatre Director at a brand new school! I will be starting out a program in a wonderful community that supports the arts, and I have begun to realize that I suck at technical theatre, and my job will involve a whole lot of it!!!!!!
    I need all of the help that I can get.
    Looks like we'll be doing Beauty and the Beast next Spring, which should be quite an adventure.
    We will probably use Flying by Foy for the effects, and I'll be getting lots of help for the set.
    I appreciate any and all advice!
    Thanks!
    Julie
     
  2. Dreadpoet

    Dreadpoet Active Member

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    at what level? middle, High, college???
    Having said that here is advice for anyone in your situation. First off don't get in over your head, you already have it appears but for the sake of the coming year and upcoming project(s), don't allow yourself to get in over your head. Try to make use of minimalist theatre in order to gain skills in particular areas. For instance, in this beauty and the beast rent drops and allow them to be your scenery while you focus on making lighting the premier skill you work on. Next show, try creating a platform styled stage where you work on your platforming skills and continue your lighting. In the mean time, try to trust that your students may have skills in areas that you do not currently have...perhaps in sound or in props. The point is that you need to find a way to focus on one to two skills per show and build from there. Also, always always always try to incorporate something new into each show...perhaps your adept at making box sets...well in this box set try to work in a functioning sink.

    At the end of the day it all spells itself out in 6 simple words "Fake it, until you make it"
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2009
  3. rfinkels

    rfinkels Member

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    Indeed your location is an important factor as there may be pro and school companies in your area who have recently done the show and may be able to provide sets and/or expertise (costumes too). For instance, in Southern Virginia, near me, Barter Theatre did an excellent production this past season. Their stage as the second oldest in continuous operation in the US is very much on a scale with most High School theatres. They may or may not have sets and costumes available but theatres all around have done this show. You should also check with Universities in your area to see about the possibility of some direct advisement.

    I applaud your understanding that the levitation must be done by a pro. The top companies are indeed Foy but also ZFX and Hall Associates. Delbert Hall is also in the process of forming a new company. Each have a good and safe record but alas as competition in the field is fierce and there are loyal fans, you may encounter some clear hyperbole, mostly dissing the other guy. I know them all and they are all good though each with different strengths. Definitely check with Foy though Flying by Foy While they are the largest and oldest of the companies, this also allows them with some flexibility in pricing.

    One reason to contact ZFX is that they have full sets available for rental as a package but this could get quite costly.

    Each of the companies has a lot of experience with Beauty and the Beast and each can give you some useful insight in how to approach the piece.

    I was surprised in the Barter production to see that it can be done in a rather simple manner. I had assumed the show would be nearly impossible to do in a small space with no fly system (they even did full flying for the Beast). Costumes too were all built in house and worked just fine.

    Last I will use your note to inspire a new generation of performance students in college. Many of them cringe at the requirement that they take a tech class thinking "I'm a performer, why do I need to know anything about 'tech'?"

    Richard Finkelstein
    Head of Design
    James Madison University
    Richard Finkelstein, Stage Designer
    James Madison University School of Theatre and Dance, Harrisonburg, Virginia
     
  4. ruinexplorer

    ruinexplorer Minion CB Mods Premium Member Fight Leukemia

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    Welcome to the booth. I also am glad that you have decided to look for help before jumping into a field that can be dangerous without (and even with) the proper training. If there isn't anyone trained in rigging, you should exclude your fly system for the time being. I also recommend getting Dr. Randall Davidson's book: PRACTICAL HEALTH AND SAFETY GUIDELINES
    FOR SCHOOL THEATER OPERATIONS. Consider getting assistance from other departments, like wood-shop. Keep checking back. You might find many others with questions just like yours. Keep asking questions, sometimes we forget what it's like to be learning the trade. Make use of our wiki, especially the collaborative articles.

    For your upcoming production of Beauty and the Beast, I recommend using the search function. Booth member [user]loudguyrick[/user] did this production last year and there was this thread about some of the things he was doing. You will probably find many other threads that can be of use as well.
     
  5. DaveySimps

    DaveySimps CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Welcome to CB Julie. Glad to have you here. To get more exposure, I am moving this thread to the General Advice Forum. Not all members regularly read the New Member Board, and I think members may more to offer in terms of help to you. Enjoy CB!

    ~Dave
     
  6. Dreadpoet

    Dreadpoet Active Member

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    I agree that if you are insisting on flying people and using rigging...get a pro. However, make sure that you do not find yourself reliant on everybody for everything long term. It is not cost effeciant and many programs fold under such tactics. So, do hire out stuff where safety is concerned, do seek aid in the first years, and do do do consider your work force before getting into the project. I am currently a one man theatre machine that must direct, design, produce, publicize, and take a large part of the construction and procurement effort...it is important to go in to each production with a firm understanding of how much you and your students can take on...in some case this means down sizing the technical requirements of the show. Obviously, if you are hiring out many of your tech elements, you'll have to cut back in other areas. This is why I stated earlier that it is important that you focus on specific areas for you to personally advance in for every show.

    I also agree that it is important that actors have a good grip of tech theatre. I am an actor tech-turned into a one-man band, so I can appreciate your fears.
     
  7. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Congratulations and Welcome! I think you are on the right path merely by being here. Use that search feature! As other have stated several members have done B&B and there is a lot of info here on the show. Don't hesistate to ask questions either. If you're not comfortable about revealing an area of ignorance then by all means PM a senior team member or Moderator, we're here to help. I hope you find CB a useful and educational tool.
     
  8. shappie

    shappie Member

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    Hi and welcome to CB!!!

    There are tons of things, advice and definitely some what not to dos that I could share with you about educational theatre, especially if you are working with teenagers (and their parents), but I don't want to overwhelm you so here are just a couple:

    1. Get yourself a copy of Technical Theatre for Non-technical People by Drew Campbell. It is a great resource and even if the information is familiar to you it gives you a basic way of explaining what you need from your support staff whoever they may be.
    2. Keep Lists!!! Lay out ahead of time! Everything from what you plan to get accomplished in a day to, the props people loan to you, to a list of interested helpers. I keep a clipboard full of information that I am never without. It keeps me from getting overwhelmed and it helps me to remember the 400 different things that I am asked to deal with on a daily basis
    3. Remember that it is okay to ask for help and also okay to admit that you don't currently have a piece of information...people will understand if you need to think about something or look it up.
    4. Above all remember to BREATHE! The show will go on!

    I hope this helps, Good Luck!
     
  9. lachancie

    lachancie Member

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    Thank you all so much for your thoughts and encouragement!
    All of it was very helpful.
    I have already ready the book for Non-Technical People cover to cover several times, along with about 30,000 other technical theatre/stagecraft books. I think there's only so much you can learn by reading about it vs. doing it. I team-taught tech theatre at a diff't school last year which helped me learn some basics, safety, etc, but I'm still in the dark when it comes to the actual construction of structures, etc. Luckily I have a lot of help from various friends in construction, etc, which is great, but they don't know a lot about building for the theatre. Like, they will build sets using a nail gun and wood glue, and they will be impossible to take apart. Ha ha. But at least they will be safe!!!
    But seriously, we have moved forward with Beauty and the Beast and are hoping for the best. Looks like we can rent ALL of the costumes and big props (wishing well, chip's cart, Gaston's throne, etc) from another local high school for $3,000. They are pretty good quality. Does that sound reasonable?
    And yes, we are going with FLYING BY FOY. I used them last year when I directed Peter Pan and they were fabulous.
    Thanks again!
     
  10. 2mojo2

    2mojo2 Active Member

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    Welcome, Julie:

    You have started an adventure. Every problem you solve will make you more capable.

    Some advice:
    >Children tend to overstate their knowledge and skills dramatically. Don't rely on a student's claim of ability. Observe, check up, supervise.
    >Get some help on technical issues from people in your community, as well as on line. College theater, community theater, sound contractors, construction companies all have resources that can help your program to operate safely and to help the students gain skills. Don't be bashful about asking people to help.

    We did Beauty this spring (low budget public high school, no flying).
    You can see some pics here: http://midnightplayers.shutterfly.com/
    The costumes are available. PM me if you are interested.

    Any thing I can do to help you, just ask.
    MJ
     
  11. ruinexplorer

    ruinexplorer Minion CB Mods Premium Member Fight Leukemia

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    If you need specific help in set construction, I recommend this book. While many theatrical books are generalized, this should take you in the direction that you are primarily concerned with at the moment.
     

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