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Late hours, early mornings. How'd you get into it and why?

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by LightingPenguin, Jan 18, 2009.

  1. LightingPenguin

    LightingPenguin Active Member

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    If you're on this board, we know you love theatre, and specifically lighting. But it is often the unseen art. It often comes last, when everyone is gone and you're the only one in the theatre focusing, hanging lights, dropping gels, and then coming in early before all the actors.

    So, how and why did you guys get into the business? Give us a nice back story about your journey into theatre

    For me, its because I love it. plain and simple, I would never want any other type of job
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2009
  2. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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    AV "Club" in 8th grade (1968), mostly to get out of class so I could deliver and set-up AV gear - 16mm film projectors, slide projectors, overhead projectors, tape recorders - all stuff you never see these days. Then I got "invited" to help hang lights for the "SENIOR" play, which was FOR seniors, BY seniors only. I was in 10th grade, so it was a real honor and my first stage lighting experience. I read the only book on Stage Lighting in our school library - "A Practical Guide to Stage Lighting", or some such book written by Joel Rubin and Lee Watson.

    Been doing it professionally since '74, except for a brief stint as a TV cameraman, as well as working at the outdoors store Eastern Mountain Sports.

    I spent last week as the Lighting Designer for NYC Mayor Bloombergs State of the City address at our facility. One of the many pinnacles of a long career, but still rewarding for how good it looked and a reminder that it's still possible to get better with age.

    Steve Bailey
    Brooklyn College
     
  3. juanboquin

    juanboquin Member

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    i get in to it because its fun to see what effects you can create and see peoples reactions to our effects. Its great to see the people respond
     
  4. ScottT

    ScottT Lighting Programmer

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    Thats exactly why I joined, and is probably the same for most others, seeing as the pay is not amazing. Being paid less to do what I love to do is better then being paid more to do something that I would hate.

    I got into it when I joined the tech crew for the Middle School play at my school. I was the youngest (6th grade) and steadily worked my way up. Wouldn't have ever done it any other way!
     
  5. soundlight

    soundlight Well-Known Member

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    Way back in 5th grade, it was a way to not have to be on stage. It slowly evolved from running an old Dove Scenemaster to me spec'ing out a sound system upgrade for the K8 school I was in (boy have I learned a lot about spec'ing sound equipment since then!) to me running the HS auditorium tech crew and constantly complaining yet enjoying our lighting system made up of 30 year old Century Strand dimmers and Lightronics dimmers that had a tendancy towards power supply failiure on a yearly basis. Then I got to college and started using moving lights, and haven't been able to stop since - I do light shows whenever possible and work at the theater, the performing arts road house/orchestral concert hall, and the campus nightclub/small band venue where I'm in a constant love/hate relationship with the MLC16.

    Then I did lighting for a concert over winter break with 6 bands local to my current hometown with some cool stuff from my place of employment and am now determined to do lighting gigs for some of those bands this summer.

    Basically, yeah, I love it.
     
  6. mrtrudeau23

    mrtrudeau23 Well-Known Member

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    it started for me in high school. sophomore year, my school did the sound of music and i kinda joined the tech crew unofficially, ran the light board for the shows and fell in love with it all. as the year progressed, i took over the lighting duties from the graduating senior before me and started designing our annual musical. by my senior year i couldn't see myself doing anything with my life, so i applied for college, got accepted, applied to interview for uw-stevens point's BFA design tech degree and got accepted to the program where i am currently in my sophomore year and loving it still.
    one of my friends put it so well this past fall when we were in the theatre working on lights for Hair. "If you can go through all nighters focusing lights and writing cues, and go through tech week and come out the other side still loving what it is you do, you know you picked the right job." i couldn't have put it any better.
    after working road crew for shows, designing both sound and lights for shows, getting paid or volunteer work, i love it all.
     
  7. mrtrudeau23

    mrtrudeau23 Well-Known Member

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    i think my college library still has this book.... :)
     
  8. Esoteric

    Esoteric Well-Known Member

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    I got into it because I was recruited into the theater program at UT after I took an introduction to technical theater class (I was an EE at that point).

    Now after six years of college, numerous regional and national tours, and hundreds of designs and installs I love it every time I sit behind the desk as much as I did the first. The rush is something akin to sky diving.

    Mike
     
  9. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    Rubin, Joel E. and Watson, Leland H. Theatrical Lighting Practice. Theatre Arts Books, 1954. 4th Printing, 1968. Only 142 scant pages, but at the time, second only to McCandless' A Method of Lighting the Stage. Still available used, from $9.95, though today recommended only to the collector, for its historical perspectives.

    /end hijack
     
  10. LX23

    LX23 Member

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    I guess i got into lighting as soon as i was tall enough to reach a light switch. I would run around my house (and others) flipping light switches and seeing what light turned on. I guess i was facinated at how that little plastic thing on the wall was able to create light! lol. (at least this is what my mom tells me)
    but I didn't really get into theatre until grade 10. I loved the idea that I could make cool looking effects / moods that would make people wonder how it's done.
     
  11. rochem

    rochem Well-Known Member

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    I was really into acting, doing 4 or 5 shows a year from age 5 all the way through 12 or 13 years old. Then I dropped out of it for whatever reason, and got involved again in my sophomore year of high school and landed the lead role as a sophomore who didn't do the show the previous year, both of which were highly unusual. Having been really involved in theatre in the past, I was surprised at the lack of energy that people put into their work, and I couldn't understand how they could have such a coveted (in my eyes - not theirs) position and not put everything they had into it. Like for Beauty and the Beast, I couldn't understand how you could have one lighting system, for all the happy, sad, daytime, nighttime, small solo, whole ensemble, and everything else that happened, and they only cues were "Blackout" and "Lights Up". I started to casually read some books on lighting, and then i got a call from an old friend at another school who needed some help with his show - just some manual labor to help hang and focus. After that I was hooked. I read everything I could get my hands on, and got to design a show over the summer. Not counting rehearsals and tech week, I spent over 500 hours in the theatre just focusing things and experimenting, so when I finished that show I was way more improved.

    This was only just over a year ago, but I've learned so much about lighting that I can hardly understand how. Since then I've worked on 18 shows, done major lighting work on over a dozen, and designed for 8 shows. It's weird right now, because I'm seeing everything from the other side of things. Rather than worrying about memorizing lines or getting down blocking, I'm trying to finish my design and get rental paperwork drawn up. Rather than being "that annoying actor who comes in here and touches everything", I'm now the most knowledgeable person on our crew, and even the SM will come to me before our adult TD with questions on how to do certain things. I worked another show with that same friend who I gave manual labor to last year, but instead of him telling me what to do, I was teaching him how to run the board and effectively designing the show. Looking back, it's been such a wild change, but I cant imagine going back to life before technical theatre.

    Why do I keep doing it though? I have spent more than one night in a theatre after working till 4 or 5 AM and knowing that I would just have to be back there in 3 hours anyways. And my pay is absolutely nothing - I'm lucky if I don't have to provide my own gel and gobo purchases. And it takes many sleepless and horrible nights after sitting at home and reliving the most painful memories that I have blocked out, simply to capture the emotion of a scene. But when I see someone leaving the theatre with a tear in their eyes, and them telling anyone who will listen that they were moved to tears by the color and shape of the light, then it makes it all worth it. I hope that feeling never goes way until I stop designing, which hopefully won't be for many, many years.
     
  12. waynehoskins

    waynehoskins Active Member

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    That sounds like a chapter right out of my own story, for the most part.

    I got into all this technical stuff because, when I was growing up, my dad was a sound guy at church (he's a EE, and that gene runs in the family). I started doing stuff there with the youth ministry when I was a "yute", and once high school rolled around I took Technical Theatre because I thought that what I'd been doing at church might be useful there, and I might learn something and have fun too. My first year, I did sound since that was the extent of my background thus far. By the end of that year I'd learned to do everything possible on our lightboard, a Producer/2 (this is in 1997). Standard tale of seniors graduating and the passing of the torch and all: at the end of that year I asked our director who'd run lights after the guy who'd been doing it graduated, and he told me that I would. At 16 and virtually brand new to lighting, how cool and scary was that!

    Those last two years of high school I lit probably half of the shows we did, and was involved doing sound or helping with lighting or something of the sort. Nothing much more elaborate than basic visibility lighting, though at some point I figured out that there's art in it too.

    I always knew that, engineering being in the family and having a knack for electronics, I'd major in EE at the local university (known for having a good engineering college). I started off there and too Stagecraft my first semester -- both as 3 hours of elective and as a final good-bye to my friend the theatre. I also had continued to do technical stuff with the church, becoming an intern with the student ministry (the tech intern) after high school.

    A year later, busy with everything at the church and such, I took a semester off from college, and a church friend of mine who had decided to major in theatre gave me a call one afternoon: he had been assigned to design and install and run sound for that first show of the season and needed some help. I came out one afternoon to help out (and a couple of other times that semester as well), and despite my best efforts the theatre bug bit me. I switched majors that fourth semester, and I learned a ton in the following four-and-a-half years and had a blast doing it.

    In college I ended up going back to the old stomping grounds, the high school, to design lights for shows. I did that for two years and had a good time, and learned a ton there. It's a really great environment to experiment with design, because no matter how bad the design turns out, it's never any worse than a stereotypical "high school play".

    I get my six-year bachelor's degree and then I realize that the guys who have been lighting local theatre here for the past 30 years are still doing it .. oops. I take a job as a website and database guy at a place I'd worked earlier in college, and three years later I'm still here and loving it. Great job, great people, decent pay, and decent flexibility. Now I light shows here and there on the side, for the fun of it, because the theatre bug still has me.

    Long story, about fifteen years in the making, but there you go: that's me.
     
  13. avkid

    avkid Not a New User Fight Leukemia

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    I guess it started off with wanting to do something for the last talent show in middle school, I ended up running a spotlight.
    The next year in high school I ran a spot and after that I ran the lighting dept until some "things" happened and we parted ways.
    I did a little bit of lighting in community theatre.

    My last job I was hired to do sound, but since I knew more about electricity than all but one other person I became the ME for several venues.
     
  14. David Ashton

    David Ashton Active Member

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    I basically got into it for the girls, theatre was the one subject shared by the boys and girls grammar schools, and in the sixties I would work in ballrooms where all the rock bands would be every weekend, Who, Stones, Kinks, etc etc and it was the best fun place to be and lots of girls.
    Then I got hooked on touring, seeing the country and getting paid for it.
    I guess I wasn't cut out for a real job, I did the apprenticeship in electrical engineering as a back up and it was useful but not as a full time job.
    Basically theatre is not a career I can recommend to anyone, if you don't "have to be in it" then it's not for you, more a vocation than a job.
     
  15. thommyboy

    thommyboy Active Member

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    THANK YOU! I just finished reading the posts and was astounded that I might be the only one to say I got into theater because of a girl! Got me to audition for a show...spear holder #3 in the Mouse that Roared. That let me "play" with cross bows, long bows, spears and armor. Asked the director if he needed some help building a set for the next show, his response: How would you like to be in the show. From that show on I auditioned for, built, lit, painted, performed and struck every show I could get around. Come graduation I hated the way that my theatre teacher ran his program so I was going to school to be a better theatre than he was. Come college I heard the most sage advice that I pass on to this day...If you can see yourself doing ANYTHING else in the world do that. Now I am lucky enough to be sharing my passion for this most collaborative of arts with an ever growing crew of high school students.
     
  16. BillESC

    BillESC Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    In 1965 my Aunt asked me to help at a new community theatre that was being built and behind schedule. They put me up in the rafters building the catwalks followed by installing pipes, then hanging lights and running cables. I worked there three seasons before going off to college.

    When I returned I got a job at Times Square Stage Lighting in NYC and worked there for a year. After leaving TSSL I shaped up with Local One working on Broadway and in the major TV studios. In 1973 I started Entertainment Systems. The rest is history.
     
  17. Lightingguy32

    Lightingguy32 Active Member

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    Started back in 5th grade when I volunteered to work lights for a middle school production. Now I find my self the president of our tech club (we do all the tech theater stuff for shows) and working at a local University's theater department.
     
  18. NickJones

    NickJones Active Member

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    hehe, my first "technical" (I use the term looseley) was with a cd player, 2 4 channel chaser's (more of 4 lightbulbs in a box that sortof went to the beat of the music) and a microphone that went on 96.4 Mhz id tune the cd player to it and "Radio Nick" would start. Then I turned about 6 and we got our first computer, (still got it runs my DOS OLE's) and I spent most of my childhood years on that. Some went outside, skipped through feilds, I wrote my first peice of software when I was about 10. How nerdy am I! hehehe, then in year 7 I descoverd how by pointing a FS it got you out of class, then I descovered how much more fun it is doing desk, and that's the end. Theres sumthing fun about it, I just love it. :)
     
  19. MSLD

    MSLD Active Member

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    Getting into the industry

    This question was asked on another website im a member of and it was "How do you git into the industry?".

    I was 5 years old and my dad said we have to go install a sound system and we ended up being the tech people at the theatre. I didnt know much of anything at the time but how to run the console. Now i am the LD (reason being why this thread is under lighting) at our new community/school performing arts center.


    Im just curious to find out how you got into the industry and your story.
     
  20. icewolf08

    icewolf08 CBMod CB Mods

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    Re: Getting into the industry

    It wouldn't surprise me if a search turned up at least one other thread that asks the same question. Might be worth looking before this thread takes off (or possibly also why no one responded yet).
     

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