Friday, June 15, 2007

Pillow Posts -- Day 25

If you know anything about me and theatre, you probably know that I hate projectors. Video projectors have a maddening tendency to be about ten times harder to get working than you anticipate they will be, and I have never worked in a theatre where they worked quickly and easily. The Gala show is no exception, except the thing causing problems was the screen, not the projector itself...

The first thing we did, naively, was to simply hang the projector screen from a pipe. That didn't really work, because with the weight of the screen and our 100-year-old fly system combined, it was impossible to move the screen with less than five people, and even when we did move it, it made a horrible grinding noise and you could hear lots of grunting and groaning from the people yanking on the ropes. Since it has to move quickly and silently in the middle of a show, that option was immediately disqualified.

Next, we tried rigging a fly system onto the fly system; we attached three pulleys to the pipe, and to them we attached the screen. So we had a screen on a pulley system on a pipe on a pulley system. That allowed us to move the screen more easily, but once we got the screen off the floor, the weight of the screen hanging off the side of the pipe caused the pipe to rotate inside the knots holding it up, which suddenly made it impossible to move once again.

We fixed that by attaching smaller pipes to the big pipe, which, when the big pipe tried to rotate, would smack into the ceiling and prevent said rotation. These smaller pipes, unfortunately, made it impossible to fit the big pipe in between several other pipes which were hanging on the ceiling. So then we got out two more pipes and used them as spacers to push the other pipes out of the way.

After all that work, we were finally able to get the screen all the way into the air, only to find out that it hung below the proscenium by about 1.5 feet, meaning it would be in full view of the audience. So we set about rigging a small curtain that would hang below the screen and block the audience's view when the screen was out. When we finally got that hung, it was too short, and wouldn't have blocked anyone's view.

That last setback happened today, after we had spent many hours over the past three days working on all those solutions to problems caused by prior solutions (I skipped a few, at that), so it was no surprise that Ben was about to jump off the top of the Shawn by this point. Finally, however, Jim French, our lighting designer and stage manager, suggested bringing in a smaller screen. This seemingly-obvious solution had apparently been vetoed by someone higher up early in the tech process, which is why we hadn't already done it. We brought the smaller screen in, assembled it, and had the whole thing done in under an hour, and it fit perfectly where the bigger screen had not. Beautiful.

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