The Jewish Humor Festival is over, and what an event it was! Comedians from all over the Twin Cities and beyond came to perform, and I was in the booth for most of their shows, running the lights or sound. My senses of accomplishment and satisfaction right now are, I think, greater than they’ve ever been before. I mean, really. (Except for the closing cabaret. I mean really, that was the least technically interesting event of the whole week. But I got a lot of laughs out of it.)
I’ve been working the festival for 12 days—though I shouldn’t include last Saturday because I wasn’t involved in that event. In that time, I logged many, many hours in the booth. Time in front of both boards—light and sound—was part of it, but much of my time was spent in front of the JCC‘s ETC Express 24/48 DMX control board, writing lighting cues for the shows from scratch. I didn’t design the pre-hung general plot (set up to provide flexibility for all the different types of performance), but even working within the limits of what was available I still felt like I was designing the look of every show. Really, it’s amazing what one can do with just combinations of warm front light and blue down light.
With some of my free time during sparsely-cued shows, I availed myself of the Express’ “Help” button, which helped me to learn new abilities as well as remember forgotten knowledge. Most significantly, I learned how to use the “Sneak” softkey to bring channels in and out slowly enough that the audience (hopefully) wouldn’t notice, and I practiced writing effect cues.
The last two things I learned about were cue “Wait” attributes and dimmer profiles. I knew there had to be a way to tailor the upfades and downfades to the behavior of a particular instrument, and I found it by poking around in the setup menu. So if I ever need that feature, I know where it is. I also added a very useful “Wait” to the downfade of a cue in the short play Toast1 by Monica Raymond, just in time for the final performance, which worked perfectly. 😀
For one of the shows—arguably the most frustrating, on account of its 7th- and 8th-grade cast—I was responsible for flat-out designing the whole look with no input from the director other than approval when it looked good. The show—called A Purim Spiel—used Star Wars characters to tell the story of Purim, and included a couple lightsaber fights (because how could it not?). Despite being only 25 minutes long on a good day (20 on a bad one), I wrote more cues for that show than I did for any other. It included the only effect cue of the festival (flashing lights are always good for party scenes :D) and had me glued to the board so I didn’t miss a cue. Some of them were literally ten seconds apart, and I wasn’t ever allowed more than a minute to “rest”.2
I spent a good hour or two outside of the three 90-minute tech rehearsals for A Purim Spiel cleaning up and improving upon the cues I’d written, including a session between the two daytime performances last Friday. The last show would have been the best run technically if the two narrators hadn’t decided to switch sides without making sure I knew. Because they failed to tell me, my cues lit Narrator #1 when Narrator #2 was speaking and vice versa. Fortunately I overshadowed their faux pas by running an “immediate” (0-second fade) cue from bright to dim lighting by accident. Thank goodness for the Express’ “Back” button! That was a good-sized FAIL.
Beyond A Purim Spiel, my most significant lighting work was on So Kiss Me Already, Herschel Gertz, a one-woman show by Amy Salloway. Her script included descriptions of the five general “looks” that her show required, and we spent the better part of an hour at the start of her tech rehearsal working out what those would look like. I ended up running sound for her show because Amy was uncomfortable (and I don’t blame her) with the idea of having one sound op tech the show and another run it. The sound cue timing was pretty sensitive, and I do agree that someone who hadn’t teched the show would have been lost. So I taught my fellow technician for that rehearsal to work the light board and copy the looks I’d programmed into subsequent cues. I hope Troy won’t be as intimidated by the light board in the future. He did good work. 🙂
While Troy was intimidated by the light board, I am intimidated by the sound board. Sound operation continues to be something of a mystery to me. I don’t know what to do with all the different knobs, nor do I know how to eliminate feedback or keep a mic from popping. However, I’m hoping to get some advice from Breton Parks, the sound designer who worked on the shows I teched last summer. (Yes, that post is still coming. I might give up on getting that last photo…) Learning to adjust more than the fader levels will probably come in handy if I continue working as a generic technician, since I never know what I’ll have to do. So I kind of took too long to begin the process of getting advice, but it’s not like I had much time online to do it before last Saturday. 😛
I hope I do get some advice from Bret soon, since I’m moving on to be a sound board operator for the upcoming Theatre Or production of Jack and Rochelle (which starts teching tonight, opens on Friday, and runs Thursday–Sunday through March 28). Tonight I’ll find out exactly how much I’ll need to do. Hopefully it won’t be anything with which I haven’t had previous experience…
In addition to running sound for Jack and Rochelle, I will continue playing violin in the GSVLOC pit orchestra until the end of March. Next month, I’m working on joining the pit orchestras for Carnival at Concordia University and Cinderella with the Morris Park Players.