Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Pillow Posts -- Day 8

Strange as this may sound, I think that one of the things that is going to be most educational here at the Pillow is how low-tech everything is; we're running a world-renowned dance festival using, in several cases, 1930s theatrical technology. We have better lights, better sound, better electricity, and better lighting boards, but the stage, the rigging system, and the real guts of the theatre are almost exactly the same ones that Ted Shawn and the Men Dancers would have used 70 years ago. The stage is a bit bigger, and a lot of the equipment has been replaced (70-year-old curtains, anyone?), but our work is still, in essence, an exercise in putting on a world-class performance inside of a heavily-modified barn.

This situation allows me to get a really good look at the fundamentals of theatre tech; tomorrow, for instance, we are creating a lighting system from scratch, from the dimmers on up. We don't even have fixed circuit locations--we have to create them by running multi-cable from the dimmer room to various locations on pipes. We spent today labeling all of the cable that was shipped to us so that we will know where everything goes. In many theatres, cable is seen as semi-temporary and changeable, while dimmers and circuit locations are mostly permanent. In the Shawn, nothing is permanent, so we have to re-create everything anew at the start of the season. I'm confident that I'll be able to build a complete lighting system out of almost anything, in almost any space, by the end of the week.

I would also like to say that it is finally hitting home how important this festival is; we watched a video showing Alonzo King saying that he has always wanted to make a "pilgrimage" to Jacob's Pillow. I'm doing tech at the place that Alonzo King considers the dance equivalent of Mecca, and that is simply amazing to me.

Lastly, having a competent (and large) tech crew is a thing of beauty. We had a lighting class today, and the final project was to hang, cable and rough focus four lights. We have all worked extensively with lights before, and I would guess we had the lights up in a minute or two, and down in 30 seconds. That's much faster than anything I ever saw at WashU where it was just me and Sarah working most of the time. Even during strike, when we had lots of help (usually), everyone else was so slow that things still took a long time. Obviously not their fault--they're actors and dancers, not techs. Having a crew of entirely tech people is incredible and wonderful.

We have been absolutely tearing through the work they have assigned us, to the point where they started assigning us random odd jobs to do today because we finished all the major work they had planned. That's how I know we've got a quality crew. Beth (a fellow intern) commented a couple days ago that she wishes we could stay together as a crew, and I agree that we would make an awesome tech crew; we have a ton of knowledge, and I think this summer is going to be excellent because of that.

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