Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Button pushing for beginners

So, I took my first turn on the lighting board for the panto yesterday. Got in early to learn the ropes and watched the cast doing their very thorough physical and vocal warmup.  As always, it looked and felt like a small arcane world - craftsmen going about their business.  Very understated, very calm.

The lighting box is a great place to be.  You get the best of all possible worlds - the backstage chat, the show going on in front of you and the audience going nuts as well.  Sitting above the stage, you don a headset and listen for cues - punching buttons when you're told to and generally trying not to stuff it up.

Lighting board.  The One Button not shown.

This is made pretty simple, because there is just the One Button.  Should be easy.  Sort of is easy.  Except ...

What you hear is something like this:

Stage Manager:   Standby LX10-13, drop and there's a monkey
                           coming up your ladder
Me:                     Standing by ...
On stage:             Oooh, you are awful but I like you!
Audience:            He's beeehiiinddddd you!
Stage Manager:   Stand by stage right trap
Stagehand:           Standing by, trap open.
Front of House:   The missing school's just arrived, I'm sending them in.
On stage:             song about how wonderful Sinbad is starts
Audience:            *clapping along with increasing vigour*
Stage Manager:   LX10 
Me:                     Sta ...
Stage Manager:   Go.
Me:                     Hitting the One Button - Gone.
Front of House:   They're on their way.
Stagehand:          Monkey on its way down.
Stagehand:          Trap secure.
On stage:             as latecomers file in:  And what's your excuse?  
                           I hope you brought a note?
Stage Manager:   LX11 go
Me:                     Gone
Stagehand:           Stage right trap secure

For two and a half hours.  The big problem is that panto audience are vociferous.  It's an even bigger problem if they're not.  But it's dashed difficult to tell one cue from another when 50 ten year olds are bellowing "Don't DO IT DAME DONNA" at the top of their lungs.

By the way, theatre isn't glamorous, but it is immense fun.

(Also by the way - I'd love to know how to make blogger understand tabs.  Not lists, tabs.)

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