Having an oppurtinuty to be on crew for school's production of The Mouse that Roared in 2008. Today I do lighting design at my school and have also worked with an area high school and community theatre.
When I was like 4 years old, my mom would watch these early '80's Def Leppard music videos. There were a lot of behind the scenes shots and I think that really piqued my interest. Then I saw Wayne's World, which also had a few cool lighting shots (well, they were cool at the time). Then I remember back as early as first grade noticing the 5 brown Altman360Q's and Altman 520 strips on the school's stage and thinking 'NEAT'. (I didn't learn the actual names of the instruments until I was acquainted with the internet in about 8th grade).
In 3rd grade, I was the only kid in my class who didn't want to be in the class dance (a dance in a school play), so they made me run lights (on an 8ch EDI Designer Series wallplate). I actually didn't want to do it at all because it was A LOT of pressure for a 3rd grader to handle, but I made it through. It probably looked really bad though. haha
I didn't really do much else 'till middle school, where I ran lights for a few plays and musicals. Their system wasn't much better. Still a cafetorium, about 7 Altman360Q's and 8 Par 64's front of house, 6 6" fresnels and a few more cans over the stage and an ALM Systems architectural board for control. I finally figured out how an ellipsoidal worked and what it did exactly (I've always been more in to the instruments themselves as opposed to strictly design, for some reason).
And the burning bush spoke spoke to me and said, " Anvil, take this 65Q and with it you must fulfill the prophecy."
And now on to the true story:
I have always wanted to make and do things that made people wonder how I did it and challenge them to think.
“Yeah, well we don’t really know how to make it work, but if you could figure it out that would be wonderful,’’ said my seventh grade drama teacher, Mrs. A. My teacher heard I was the resident computer geek and asked me if I would figure out how to work the light board for the upcoming show Into the Woods, since no one else including me had a clue about how to run the lights. For that matter I didn’t know where to begin, I had no direct experience with either theater, or lighting, and suddenly I was responsible for putting on a show.
So that day, I began visually inspecting this strange new object. I remember it as if it were yesterday. It was a Strand 200 series 24/48 with one DMXuniverse and 24 effects. At the time, it seemed huge and powerful with about a million buttons and sliders and a little screen. I turned it on and began pressing and mashing the buttons in a semi -respectful way that ultimately conveyed that I was desperately hopeless. Wait, hang on a second, what was that, did I actually get it to work? No, I did something right, but in my haste to get it to work was unable to reproduce my success. Slightly dejected but not deterred, I went back to my teacher and asked, “Are you sure that there isn’t someone here that might know how to operate the light board?” “Well, tomorrow, you can go see if Mr.B, the head of maintenance knows anything about it.” So the next day during class, I walked over to Mr. Blankenship’s office to talk to him. “Well, I don’t really remember how I did it, but last year we used the board for graduation, and I set it up. I don’t know how helpful I I will be, but I’ll see what I can do,” he said. We trooped back to the “gymatorium” and he walked me through a few functions on the light board. “Oh I see, the sliders are the individual lights and these buttons refer to the information on the screen,” I said. “You are correct. The one thing I am not sure about is recording, it seems like we used the feature on the last performance, but I don’t remember how it worked.” “Thank you for helping me I think I am going to have to look up the instruction manual for this board so I can fully understand how to use it,” I said. That night I went online and read the manual, and when I went in the next day I was armed and ready. I powered it up and started experimenting with it. I actually got things to work, Lights dimmed on and off. I told Mrs. A. of my success and she was pleased, “But that doesn’t mean I am finished, I still need to figure out the best way to set it up for the show,” I told her. I spent the next week trying to totally demystify the entire board. I became proficient but not a master, by any stretch of the imagination.
Monday of the next week arrived and the teacher announced the start of tech week. Originally, I was supposed to run follow spot and there were 2 girls that had kind of run the lights the year before who were going to be on the light board. However, since I was the only one who could really operate the light board to its full potential, I ended up joining them at the board for shows and to program it. My first order of business that week was to determine all of the different looks that the director wanted and then consolidate them. I consolidated them based on what lights were on the most together and then -programmed only one look that was common to multiple scenes. I did this because it seemed like the logical thing to do and it would save the operator time changing the lights. To my teacher that was like the cherry on top, because no one had ever done that and it made everything go so much smoother than normal.
I was the go to guy from that point forward. Everybody sought me out I was adored by the maintenance department and drama department alike. Even the student council sought my help when they had to set up DJ equipment for a dance.
This was my first time working as a Technician and I loved it. Looking back four years later it is kind of humorous to think of how I struggled with something that seems so simple and easy to me now, but you have to start somewhere and what better place than starting at the beginning.
It was actually my high schools production of wizard of oz when i was in 3rd grade. I creeped into the booth during intermission saw the light board and sound board and asked a ton of questions before my teacher found out where i was and ushered me back to my seat.
For me, it is several separate stories intertwined.
My dad was one of the two men who could "run" the sound board at my church. I would sit in the booth with him often, watching. When I was in middle school, I started doing sound for Vacation Bible School, since I was the only one there who knew anything about it. From there, I started occasionally doing sound on Sunday nights. Even then, I knew where everything was in the church, so I was called on to set up lights for special events. These lights included floodlight holders on blocks of wood, 2 pinspots, and a wooden box with 4 wall dimmer switches and 4 duplex outlets. To make a long story short, I enjoyed "playing" with this stuff and feeling important, but never really thought anything more of it. I also started designing the sets for Vacation Bible School around this time.
My senior year of high school, I was in statistics class, sitting next to a friend from band who was also in theatre - Elizabeth. She mentioned that they needed extras for the musical - Way Out West In A Dress (ugh). I thought that that might be fun, and I knew a few people who were in it, and marching band was done for the year, so I said OK. I went to the theatre after school and talked to the director. Everybody seemed nice enough, so I stuck around. My "extra" part turned into a minor part as people dropped out, and I had 3 lines. I sucked at acting, but I really liked everyone and liked being involved in it. That show came and went, and there was one more show that year - the competitive one-act play Defying Gravity by Jane Anderson (Texas UIL). I wanted to spend more time with my new Theatre friends, so I auditioned. Luckily, I didn't get a part.
The director was friends with several people at my church, and they had talked about what I had done and was doing there. My most recent project (during the musical) was designing set and lighting for the church Christmas cantata.
STORY 2 CONTINUED
The cast list was posted for Defying Gravity. I was in shock when I saw, at the bottom of the page, "Lights - Marshall Pope." I loved designing the show (closely overseen by the director) and, as it was a competitive show, adapting my design to 3 other theatres, in addition to our own. I even got an "Honorable Mention for Technical Achievement" at the district competition. Thus, my high school theatre career was over, except for the several shows that I have helped out with since graduation.
College. I signed up for the theatre practicum my first semester, but I had to drop it because of conflicts with marching band. Over Christmas break, though, I got an all-students email from the PAC TD, saying that he needed crew members for the spring semester. Heck Yes, I said. We met after break and he hired me, making an exception, because he normally doesn't hire people who are in in band because of conflicts, but I had experience and he was in a bind. I quickly fell in love with it, and still am the only person on the crew who is there for the sake of theatre and not simply for a job, and I have gained respect because of that, leading up to recently being "substitute TD" because there was a rental (a graduation) in the PAC and he was going to be out of town. It's nice to have keys.
So, that is my entirely-too-long story. All thanks to Elizabeth.
For me it was my wife "volunteering" me to help my daughters high school with a production of "Bye Bye Birdie" with a statement that I can do construction, electrical and plumbing, but only let me paint larger areas of a single color.
Since that time 4 or so years ago, I have built a castle ball room for "Beauty and the Beast", an emerald city for the "Wizard of Oz", and a junkyard for "Cats".
I have found it very rewarding over they these years working with the students and honestly get as worked up on closing night as they do when the seniors realize that this is their last performance.
The very first play I was ever in was a tiny little production of The Pied Piper of Hamlin in first grade. I was a member of the town council, and I remember feeling unhappy about the way I said my line. After that, I did plays in middle school, and was very interested in it, but I didn't really get a chance to do real theater until high school.
I was mainly a performer all through high school and college, but whenever anyone needed someone to do sound (putting together sound effects or editing music or whatever), it seemed like I was always the only one who wanted to do it. Our high school administration considered our theater program an annoyance more than anything else, so everything was done on a shoestring, but it gave our theater group a lot of opportunity to improvise and do whatever we wanted. This feeling of doing something just for the love of it has stuck with me ever since.
By the time I got to college, I was trying to do both audio engineering and theater performance. both were very time-intensive majors, so by my second year I had scaled back the audio work and was focusing on my theater degree. At that time there were only a couple of "sound design" programs in the country and my school didn't have one yet, so I ended up sort of making up my own theater degree with a specialization in theater sound. This entire time I was doing half performance and half technical theater, along with other types of audio work on the side like DJ'ing and running the boards for and performing in live bands. Since then, mostly because of time constraints and opportunity, I've found myself doing technical theater more and more, until just this year I've picked up an internship at a prestigious theater here in the DC area with a top sound designer that I'm very excited about.
I love all of the work I do with audio. I love experimenting and trying new things. I like the powerful effect just the right sound or music can have on an audience, and I love how theater involves a group of dedicated people working towards a common goal. It's so different from a standard work-a-day kind of job. I love what I do and consider myself very lucky to be able to do it.
Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I'm looking forward to doing the most ambitious work I've ever done in the next few years...
No one big thing, just a lot of little things adding up until suddenly I looked around and tech theatre was already my life, too late, no escape, I was addicted for life. The first memory I have of tech stuff was when I was about 8 or 9, My mom was working for the March of Dimes to combat Polio. She did a series of presentations touring Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma. A large number of them were in cafeterias, lecture halls and such. In 1953 schools didn't have commons with architectural dimming and such so we toured with our own dimming system ...... 6 one quart milk bottles in a plywood six paccarrier. A copper disc at the bottom and a 8 gaugewire on a wooden knob that you could slide up and down in the salt water in the bottles. The closer the wire and plate, the brighter the light. Salt water dimmers. After that I dropped out of theatre, became pretty much of a jock, wrestler and football. That is until I met Cheri Ingrahm. Gorgeous, red head, female. My three greatest weaknesses. Her Mother ran a dance school in Oklahoma City and Cheri was the star pupil and rightly so. One day she asked me if I liked her mom, and I did, everyone did, she was a real cool lady, so I said yes. Then she asked if I'd do her mom a favor, she was doing a dance program and needed boys......NO! NEVER, NOT ME!!! Blink, blink, little smile, not a chance, I was hooked. Then I discovered that dance was more rewarding and harder work than any sport I had ever done. I was back in show biz. When Cheri was 15 she got a tryout for the NYC Ballet and made it, and headed for New York. Her diary/bio became the script for the movie "The Turning Point" with Anne Bancroft, Shirley McLaine, Chelsea Brown and Michail Baryshnikov (pardon my spelling) We kept up a long distance romance (no such thing as e-mail or texting or cell phones. and she convinced me I was as good as any guy there, give it a try, so I did. I was a good dancer, got lots of work but a very average actor and I really don't sing. Never had to steal my dance card to know it said "Dance 10, Sing 3". I was always interested in what and how the stage hands did what they did and when my knees gave out, it was a foregone conclusion, theatre was my life, the only question was what I was going to do in theatre. No knees dancing was out, average actor, that was out, but I seemed pretty good at the stagehand/tech stuff. I said "I can do that! So I stayed the rest of my Life!"
Michael Powers, Project Manager ETCP Certified Rigger - Theatre
Central Lighting & Equipment Inc.
675 NE 45th Place, Des Moines, Iowa, 50313
It's really all my dad's fault. He's an electrical engineer who was involved with lighting shows while he was at school, and before I was born he built a 9-channel dimmer pack with its own two-preset desk - it also has a built-in telephone circuit for basic comms! (It's still working today, although it does spend most of its time in the garage) One of his friends was the principal of a small independent primary school and Dad would go in and put in his dimmer pack and desk and hang some lights for their production each year, and I (for some unknown reason!) often used to go with him. So I had a taste for theatre from a very early age!
Once I got to high school, given that I already had a taste for it, I just naturally gravitated towards tech theatre - and missed quite a lot of class working on various productions.....there was one entire section in my final year chemistry exam that I left out because I'd missed that entire block of teaching! Once I was at university (studying psychology) I spent more time in the on-campus theatre than I did at lectures - I don't know how many productions I worked on. Somehow I managed to pass everything and ended up with a degree, when I realised that working in theatre that was what I really wanted to do. By that stage I knew little bits about lots of things, but I recognised that there were gaps in my knowledge, so I headed off to drama school where I had two brilliant years - and I haven't looked back since! Funnily enough, where I used to go home with questions for Dad, now he comes to me with questions...but I don't think he minds really!
I started out as a dancer. Which was kind of my first taste of theater. Then came the acting, which I continued taking courses in (see I'm only a high school student in the techie world). Then, as I became more involved in more professional productions. I was able to see the technical side some more. By that time I basically was in love with everything theater, so I did all I could to be involved. I worked front of house for many shows since I was not old enough to act in them. Then I was able to "shadow" some of the techies. They were such awesome people, and they were so welcoming even though i was such a young'in. They were just really eager to show me everything and how to do it all. I sort of just seemed to fit in with the technical side of theater. So by the end of the year I knew more about mics, lighting, the miracles of gaff tape, what is needed and when in the theater and when. Now I finally now get to be the techie that taught and inspired me. (Where has the time gone? lol)
Well, when I was in fifth grade I knew the person that ran sound at the highscool and actually I wasn't interestd what so ever in it. Later that year the fifth grade was doing a small, rather pathetic show which the name escapes me now. I made a slide show for this show and was also running 'lighting' for the show, consisting of 6 resistance dimmers hardmounted and wired to a very long single boarder light above the cafetoriumstage with I think 5-6 whatever wattpar lamps for each color red green blue and open (white). There was no sound system to speak of besides a single mic line to the speakers where I never did understand where they were. Hidden behind some mesh board somewhere in there..
Anyways, after I left the middle school I was then in Jr. HighSchool which is connected to the highschool. And that is the year, 7th, I fell in love with Theatre. I went into the 350 seat prosceniumtheatre one day to join stage crew for the Jr. High Drama production. There, I met one of the seniors who where graduating the next year and needed to find someone to take over light and sound for the following years. So I then assisted the small tech crew of 3, which where somewhat considered seperate from the stage crew of plays, as we had to do everything else the school did in there aswell. One lighting designer/operator, one sound operator, and one 'stage manager' (Only difference was he/she is allowed in the booth and gets the walkietalkie ).
And so I learned what I needed to know from the seniors, but I felt I needed to know more, so I researched all of our equipment read through all the manuals we had and then the rest online, got spec sheets for our fixtures etc. And so as it stands now, a few years later I am somewhat self proclaimed TD. I know all about our current equipment and can utilize it rather well, however I have no other expeirience outside our theatre so I am currently looking for a summer program to join or possibly an internship to get some real world knowlege.
We do 2 musicals a year, pushing to do more, so they are useally good as we take half a school year working on them. We do a fair a ammount of concerts, dance recitals, and the classes sometimes put on movie nights, talent shows etc.
I am very happy that I get to have as much hands on expierience as I do and get to take the role of pretty much everything to know what I really want to do later in life.
I am happy with how things are going now and am looking forward to bigger better things after highschool : )
Wow, I guess I never realised this, but theatre is the same for everyone, reading other posts, . You can't just do it, you love it, and put your whole life into it.
Whoever mentioned shoestring budgets and doing something for the sake of doing it,
I feel the same, we have slightly more backing in our situation but a lot of small things I and other techs have brought in just so we can see the show be better. (Tape, adaptors, lamps, other supplies etc.)
I'm not sure if I "love" theatre, it is just such an integral part of my existence I can't imagine not doing it. Maybe "addicted" is a better word. I tried to get out a couple of times, it just didn't work out. The first time was a brief SE Asia Vacation, courtesy of my uncle, Sam that is. Two years in Nam. Actually learned a lot of things that have served me well in theatre. I was an engineer, combat battalion, learned to drive most any heavy equipment and how to blow things up. My first job back as a civilian was with a Pyro FX company in California working movies, lots of black powder gasoline lifts and one really cool tree slicing sequence. My heavy equipment experience allowed me to assist the designer of a West Virginia out door drama, stack two ton boulders with a backhoe to achieve the "look" he wanted. Thirty five years later I had kind of a "burnout" period and "dropped out" for two years to drive OTR (Over The Road) long haul trucks. If I'd landed a job with Clark "We Get The Show On The Road" Trucking, I might have stayed. But I found I just couldn't NOT do theatre. Hmmmmm, maybe I do love it. I love the feel of a bare, dark stage after a strike, a new canvas to paint on. I love the sudden intake of breath and instant of silence from the breathing audience when the curtain first goes up or the first light cue reveals the true look of the set during/at the end of the overture. I love the experience of standing out front as the audience files out and hearing how the show changed their viewpoint or seeing a young couple walking away hand in hand, did this show create "the moment"??? Yeah, I confess, maybe I do love this job, this life, this world.
Michael Powers, Project Manager ETCP Certified Rigger - Theatre
Central Lighting & Equipment Inc.
675 NE 45th Place, Des Moines, Iowa, 50313
I was involved in technical theater all through High School. I went to UNM to get my degree in Theater Education. Unfortunately, the program was not very "working student" friendly. I was required to audition for all shows and when I made one, I was expected to show up for rehersal 5 nights a week. I worked full time and was unable to do it. I dropped out of the program and became a health education teacher. Over hte past 14 years I have taught everything from Heatlh, to Science, to History. I started teaching Architectural and Engineering Drafting two years ago and was offered the opportunity to become the Technical Director of our brand new state fo the art 500 seat Performing Arts Center. I jumped at it and can't wait to get started.
My friend's sister was my ride to and from school, she was in the spring musical, it was do nothing for hours on end, be in the cast, or join the crew. I was very reluctant to choose any of those, however the stage crew seemed the most fun. If it weren't for her (and numerous other women in my life) I'd probably be doing something with computers or woodworking. I just can't help it though, I have always been attracted to females involved with theatre. Sadly, my fiancee is no longer active in theatre, but at least she sort of understands the life (once in a while), but that also means I get my alone time. Umm, back on topic now, after that first year I just went back because that group made up my only real friends and from there I have always had very good friendships as a result of theatre from high school to college to now. Theatre people are just a good bunch. Later I realised that theatre could basically incorporate almost (I still haven't found room for fine woodworking in theatre) all my hobies into one awesome job. So yeah, why not enjoy doing what I love? The icing is that I've never done the same thing twice (ok, not the exact same thing).
back when i was in 6th grade i was in my schools newscast program and i designed the lights for the studio because i thought it was fun and the schools director saw me doing it and asked me to design them for their play and ive been in tech crew ever since