Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Reading Material for the Masses

Over the years I've written a few articles and blurbs that people find interesting, and they were something that I've had to e-mail folks as they request them.  Not any more.  I've posted them online at two sites where you can download them for free as Adobe PDF documents.  Cool.  More free stuff.  You can fetch them at:

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Boxes full of booty (no, not that kind of booty!)

As I perused the Stage Manager's exhibits at the theatre conference I found some other items of interest, too.  Most of the kits had some sort of First Aid section, and several had Flash Lights and/or Spare Batteries, and a few had Chemical Light Sticks stowed-away.  All good things to have if the lights go out.

However, what was really interesting was that all of the portable kits I saw were BLACK.  All black.  Barely a fleck of color anywhere.  It reminded me of the picture below:

"Polar bear in a snow storm"
Now I know that black is the color of choice for all things theatre, but this doesn't make any sense.  It's not like you don't want to be able to find your tool box.  It's not like your tool box is going to be flirting around the wings and might be seen by the audience.  And guess what?  If the lights go out - you wouldn't be able to find your flashlight or Calume light sticks!  A black box in a black backstage environment with the lights out is nothing but a trip hazard or shin-buster.

Not  black ? Sacrilege!  Keel-haul the scallywag! At the very minimum, place some photoluminescent marker tape around the perimeter so that you can find it when the lights go out.  A bit of highly reflective (i.e. retroreflective) marker tape along side the photoluminescent tape would be a good idea, too - this way if you shine even the weakest of flashlights in the general direction of the toolbox, it'll light-up like a fireworks display and you can grope your way toward it a bit easier.  There is a reason that Firefighters and Liferafts both have SOLAS* type marker tape on them - so they can be seen under the worst of lighting conditions.

*SOLAS - Save Our Lives At Sea - Solas type marker tape is commonly used on road signs and highway barrier marking because it does such a darn good job of blinding you with your own headlights.

So, how about some alternatives?  OK. Lets try these:
DuraTool D00403
DuraTool D00407
Stanley 2-in-1 Mobile Work Center
(a bit black, but nothin' a bit-o-tape won't fix either)

Stanley 3-in-1 Mobile Work Center

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Stage Manager's Ready List

I recently attended a theatre festival that had many great portfolio and model set presentations by Directors, Stage Manager's, Sound Designers, Lighting Designers, Set Builders, and many other talented individuals.  It's great to see such a high level of creativity by those coming into the business!

Of particular interest were the presentations by the Stage Managers.  Each had presentations of check-lists, pre-show make-ready items, post-show to-do lists, and every other kind of list imaginable, except one: Emergency Procedures.  So the next time you're "making a list and checking it twice," take a moment and think about what you might / should do in the cases of:
  • Extreme weather conditions (flood, tornado, hurricane)
  • Injuries (both to crew and performers -- and to audience members)
  • Security (campus lock-down or evacuation)
  • Building Emergency (fires, earthquakes, broken water pipes, roof collapse, power outage)
  • Equipment failure (fire curtain comes-in accidentally, or maybe won't go-out, tripped sprinkler head - do you know where the shut-off valve is located?)

If you don't have a plan, then it is quite typical that you may end-up with total chaos on your hands.  How you handle an emergency can greatly influence the likelihood of injuries being sustained by the building occupants as they try to deal with the situation.

Have a plan (actually, several plans).  Post them.  Practice them.

Good places to hang-out:
Control Booth:
Stage Manager's Association
Production Manager's Forum

Friday, March 26, 2010

In God we Trussed - all others pay $4.99

Xtreme Structures (Sulphur Springs, Texas) (  has introduced a new iPhone app called iTruss.  It provides simple weight calculations for trusses with various loading configurations.  It's always good to check your load calculations thoroughly.  Nobody wants to call an aMbulance.

Also see the TheatreSafetyBlog entry for the iRigging app: