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High School State Festival

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by midgetgreen11, Mar 20, 2009.

  1. midgetgreen11

    midgetgreen11 Active Member

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    Anyone else ever felt there should be a minimum requirement for a repertory plot for a state festival?

    I find it frustrating that we're not even able to separate warm and cool frontlight, and they have a mix of Altman's and Source 4's making different levels of brightness...


    They have ONE unit with no color inserted for each acting area. Each acting area has a dark spot between.
     
  2. deadlygopher

    deadlygopher Member

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    We're getting to hang about 90% of our plot.

    I also have to deal with one-acts in our blackbox that think they're getting something more than just the rep plot.... fun...
     
  3. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    We have one. The UIL state competetion in Texas is hosted by the University of Texas and performances are at Bass Concert Hall (large schools) and the McCullogh Opera Theater (small schools). As Lighting Director one year (and lighting tech for three years) I oversaw the lighting for the contest. Front lights were all Source4 (10 deg in Bass and 19 deg in the OL), tops were Strand Fresnels (8" in Bass, 6" in the OL), and back lights were all Source4 PARS (Narrow in Bass and Med in the OL). Both spaces had a three color Cyc wash (from far cycs and a ground row). Bass had 15 front/top/back light areas with a two color McCandless front light system, blue and amber tops, and r/g/b and lavendar back lights for each area. The Opera Lab had the same setup except for 12 areas instead of 15. Each space had four "specials" DSL/DSR/USL/USR. The Opera Lab ran on an Expression 2 and the Bass on an Obsession II. All schools submitted a tracking sheet prior to the contest, and then during their hour of rehearsal their lighting designer would sit at the tech table (in the house) on the headset with the console operator and adjust levels/timings. During the actual show he would sit in the booth and call the cues.

    My favorite part was when kids would walk into Bass and their eyes would get wide and then the lighting kid would ask what console we had. I would tell them and they would either start drooling or say "I have never used that console but I will figure it out." Then I would say "no you won't, our operator runs the console, you just let them know what to do." *lol*

    Mike
     
  4. Dionysus

    Dionysus Well-Known Member

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    Occupation:
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    In Ontario there is a high-school drama festival hosted/funded by SEARS (The SEARS DRAMA FESTIVAL). The festival is done at three levels (Districts, Regions, Provincial Showcase) all across the province.

    There are VERY specific rules in the festival for many things, including the lighting that must be available in any venue. This includes a general wash, at least amber and blue, with the capability for each show to have 3 specials.

    The rules are long and many, but it makes for a very good, very even drama competition. There are awards to be won at all three levels, including some very nice scholarships.

    I'm quite sure the rules are still available online. Not sure if that includes the technical specifics.

    B1 - The minimum time allowed for each production entered at any level of
    the festival (district, regional, provincial is fifteen (15) minutes.
    B2 - The maximum time allowed for each production entered at any level of the festival (district, regional, provincial) is fifty (50) minutes..
    B3 - On performance night, each production is allowed a ten minute set-up and a five minute strike. The set-up and strike must be executed safely.
    B4 - Each production shall receive two hours of scheduled rehearsal time.
    E1.1 - The facilities available at each level of the Festival will vary considerably, and each production will be expected to share EQUALLY with other productions.
    E1.2 - General stage lighting will be set for all productions.
    E1.3 - It is the responsibility of each festival coordinator to inform all participants of the lighting available at each individual venue.

    I have the complete list of rules, etc somewhere in my library (I've been SM, TD, Designer, etc for 3 shows; and Festival TD for two district festivals, and consulted twice since.)

    Every time there was a 6-zone two-colour wash minimum. Many times also having additional tips, etc. Usually there are also additional colours as part of the house wash, often as a less controlled-wash, other times in each zone.
     
  5. achstechdirector

    achstechdirector Active Member

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    There should be minimum number of zones and colors of said zones. I think that they should be allowed 3 to 4 specials depending on the festival and type plays within. I don't see why are being this way.
     
  6. awhaley

    awhaley Member

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    It does sound like you've got a substandard situation. What do the rules say about travelling with your own equipment? Years ago I designed scenery and lights for a high school one-act cutting of Becoming Memories. The lighting was such an integral part of our show concept and the festival plot didn't give us the flexibility that we needed (but it didn't have entirely inadequate coverage, like yours seems to.) We were allowed to hang scenic elements from the flies through.... So I designed a false proscenium that included integrated lighting instruments (300W residential style sealed beam spot and floods attached rigidly as focussing them would be impossible in the time frame. It came in as 8' sections that clamped onto battens and went up... and the sides of the fake prosc had 16' booms (also fixed focus residential spots) built in, which came in as heavy, but portable units. It all plugged into a touring rack, and the facility TD at both theatres we performed in allowed us to tie in ahead of time and leave the camlocks ready for the touring rack (which they weren't obligated to do... so you'd have to check on that ahead of time.) It all went together in 15 minutes and came out in 10. This was a huge undertaking, but it was necessary for the show as we'd conceived it. It blew away the regional judges, but the state judges told us they felt like it distracted from what they wanted to see - young actors. This was a great lesson to me as a young designer, cautioning me to be careful of overdesign, or design for design's sake. I don't think the production was more technical than it needed to be, but the judges did and that's who you have to please with a contest piece. So when they're handing you very basic area lights and not a lot of time to get things done... it's not necessarily to be taken as a challenge to see how clever you can be to get around these limitations... it's often them telling you what's important to them and what they want to see... If they wanted big sets and incredible lighting they'd give you the time and resources to do it... While they do let you produce a full play within their limitations... the focus is on the acting and you have to remember that as you plan the design.

    Art
     
  7. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    In Texas each school may bring 4 units, that must be floor mounted with their own dimming that is capable of plugging into 2 20A circuits. It must be set up during the alloted set up time.

    As far as specials, think about it this way. We had 12 shows at the state level. If we did 3 specials per that would be 36 lights. Not that we didn't have the inventory, but that means paying IA stagehands to be there all day to focus the specials. Not to mention it adds another thing to do people who are already (in 99% of cases) overwhelmed getting their show into such a huge space. Plus even if we did 3 specials for each school, then some school would complain because all the specials were out on the rail and they wanted a special on the 1st electric or something.

    That is why there are 4 prefocused specials.

    Mike

    PS The point about the focus on the acting is one that needs to be made to many lighting designers not just those in these competitions or festivals. Often times designers can get so caught up in having pretty lights or making cool effects or have our part stand out or "be a part of the show" that we forget theater is not a "light show". We are there to create a space for the actors to tell their story. If what we do does not fulfill that simple purpose, or if it detracts from the acting on stage then the design is a failure, no matter how good it looks.
     
  8. midgetgreen11

    midgetgreen11 Active Member

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    It is really difficult to create a weather or time effect when there is no color on the stage. Dimming a warm light, only makes it warmer.

    I will say they had Red, White, Blue strips above most of the stage, however, the circuits with red, blue white, were daisy chained all the way down, and not all of the blue circuit had color, some of it was white, and same with red.

    We were allowed 1 special per school, which had to be hung on an onstage electric because the cove openings were filled with area lighting. Unfortunately... there were no electric pipes to hang it on, so it had to be hung on a drapery pipe.

    Also, their strips were not hung on raceway pipes, they were chain supported from the ceiling, which scared me. Their cyclorama was not used by anyone during the performance, and was hung on a 1x3 piece of wood duct taped to the next.

    For those asking-- Other rules included fitting the set into an 8' x 10' taped box on the floor backstage, given 1 hour tech/rehearsal time, and missing the performance prior to yours to be in the dressing rooms.
     
  9. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    Yup, we had the same rules. If the set didn't fit in the box it wasn't going on stage. Also no cantalevered (sp) set pieces, limited tech time, limited run time, etc. There is a whole book (and I mean a BOOK) of rules. We actually had schools disqualified at State because of illegal sets.

    Mike
     
  10. awhaley

    awhaley Member

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    Ben, I certainly am sorry you had to work in such miserable (and potentially unsafe) conditions! You're correct... dimming a warm light does make it warmer. You can USE that fact.... Maybe all the lights on at 65% is daytime, and only SOME or even ONE of the lights on at full is night? You get areas of shadow and darkness, along with a cooler quality of light?

    In the end... it may be up to the actors and the sound designer to make weather events, or to show passage of time. It's a shame they don't make the rules so that lighting can play its full part in the experience of the play... but that's just how it is sometimes. In the professional world I don't always have all the equipment I want to do every bit of story telling that I can imagine either... and it's never easy to stop saying 'If only I had....' I'm not telling you not to wish for more... just that you'll never stop wishing for more. ;) If you're finding yourself needing to do a technical effect and unable to because of the contest conditions, and it's letting the entire show down because it's not there.... this is your director's fault really. The rules were available when he or she perused scripts and it was their responsibility to pick a show that could be performed effectively under the conditions of the contest. Would you pick a musical if the rules said no orchestra (obviously not for a state one-act contest... but as an analogy. ;) ?) So you shouldn't pick a play that requires things to be done with light that can't be done in your situation. Not that any of that helps now... but take heart and know it's not your fault.

    Esoteric, I half agree with you about the point to lighting designers... we DO often need a little reminder that if the cool effect we worked on for six hours distracts from the show, we need to cut it in fifteen seconds... not spend eight more hours making it even cooler and more distracting to fix it. ;) But I feel the need to bristle my hair a bit every time someone says it's about the actors...

    In my opinion, the thing we all need to be reminded of is that theatre is about the AUDIENCE. In the same way that I have to cut the clever chasing effect if it's distracting, and actor may have to cut a perfectly accurate and terribly polished accent if it makes it difficult for the audience to understand or connect.

    I would modify your statement to say that if any element, design, acting, or otherwise detracts from the effect and experience of the show, then it's a failure. ;)

    Art
     
  11. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    Part of my training Art was our professors telling us from the beginning that it is not about us, it is about the actors telling the story. First day of lighting design 301 was making the point that without the actors we would be useless, but without us someone would light a candle and tell a story. They pretty much made us feel useless about our "art" (to the point of dispelling any illusion that what we do is "art") before buliding us back up into artists.

    Now there is a time and a place for lights to say "HEY LOOK AT ME!" But a theater production is generally not that time (a rock show is more that time or a theater show pretending to be a rock show). Now I did say generally.

    But we must always ask ourselves "what does the play want" and we must error on the side of caution when answering it.

    I too used to bristle about it being about the actors. But after that experience it doesn't bother me anymore.

    Each artist in the theater has their own struggle, but my point I guess is that we can not be so attached to our "art" that we refuse to cut elements that are distracting or detract from the experience of the audience.

    Mike
     
  12. midgetgreen11

    midgetgreen11 Active Member

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    Esoteric-- all I have to say in response to that is: "An actor without a techie is a naked person standing in the dark trying to emote. A techie without an actor is a person with marketable skills."

    And to the previous post, the director did not have the technical specifications or rules when she chose the play. We received no plot, no channel hookup, only a magic sheet/diagram of the acting areas which were numbered 1-15.
     

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