Sunday, September 20, 2009

Lighting Boards, Breakers, Blackouts Oh My!

I think one of the greatest fears of any stage manager is losing electrical power during a show, or not necessarily losing all power, but only losing some of your electrical power. When I think about it losing all electrical power would I think be preferable. At least then the audience understands what's going on...if it's the stage lights that go, you turn on the work lights (those ugly florescents that make stage not pretty) and keep going. Losing only half of the stage lighting that becomes a problem. Now the audience doesn't know if this some bizarre lighting choice, a stage manager screw up or something completely out of anyone's control.

Tonight I lost lights not once, not twice but six times. Yes, six...and not the full blackout we blew breakers. What that means is that some of the lights worked while others didn't. And the best part of that is that you never really knew until you bring up the light cue which lights aren't going to appear. I know you're thinking just flip the breaker switch and carry on with the show. If only it was that simple. Because we are in a charming converted storefront in North Hollywood and not a well thought out and practically designed theater space, the booth where I spend my time during the show and the breaker box are not even remotely close to each other. In fact to get to the breaker box I would either have to A) walk across the stage mid-show or B) go outside walk around the block, (yes the entire block) and enter through the back door, flip the the breaker switch and walk back around. Not exactly practical when you have to run lights and sound from the booth. So I have to rely on my lovely and talented cast, who do a great job at switching the breakers on, but they shouldn't have to do that on a continuous basis.

It does make you stay alert though. No daydreaming allowed. I'm constantly reworking lighting cues to make the stage bright and also praying that not everything goes at once. It did once tonight, we had about 2 seconds of complete loss of light and sound. You know it's bad when you lose both :) Fortunately the theater gods smiled upon us tonight, the lights and sound came back and began behaving properly for the last 4 scenes of the show and we finished well.

The old cliche - the show must go in is most certainly true in live theater. And we will, the breakers and the lights won't get the better of us. I will however, start researching sacrifices I can make to the breaker box, maybe I can bargain with it, offer it something in return...

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