Sunday, October 26, 2014

Fall 2014

Finding Neverland closed a few weeks ago at the end of September. What a ride! After months of technical rehearsals, previews, and performances, after weeks and weeks of drilling the routine of this show into our heads and getting to know the cast and stage management, we closed the show. It was a long, stressful summer but the response was amazing. Neverland will go to Broadway next spring.

After Neverland's last performance at the Loeb Center, we started strike by wrapping and packing all of the props and furniture for the show. We removed all of the black masking drapes around the set, cleared the deck backstage of the large pieces like the bar and dining room table and fences, and stored our house costume booths, props racks, etc. Next came the surround walls, which made up an almost trapezoidal shape that encased all of the scenes, and the walls embedded that spun to reveal different faces. Those came out easier than we expected: they were, after all, only connected by a central pivoting point. With enough hands, even the largest pieces are easy to move. As we moved on to the many flying pieces onstage, we had people from the scene shop and our crew, assisted by overhire freelancers from the area, also continuing to pack and wrap pieces. Even the walls had delicate pieces on them, so lots of foam and large plastic cling wrap were used to store and ship them safely. 

The last few days of strike involved packing trucks. Although I was there for one of those days, I also had a family member pass away (in fact right near the end of the last week of performances, I was out for a day or so to be at the hospital) and left for a funeral. It seems that September 2014 was destined to be the end of many things. 

When I returned to work, we were starting 2 weeks of badly needed maintenance at the Loeb stage with staff and one or two extra hands. It was originally scheduled for the spring, but with Neverland coming in hot there was no time to clean and organize our tools and hardware and do annual checks on our rigging gear and more. We started with cleaning the stage and inventorying our tools and major hardware, which was a challenge because as we cleaned and other departments (lighting, sound) cleaned up from Neverland as well, tools and such came trickling back. 

We moved on to winch maintenance, which was an interesting learning experience for me and perfect in repetition and muscle memory because we have 29 winches to inspect every year. These winches can hold around 250lbs. They are very, very old, and controlled through a giant board we call the Dinosaur. We use them often to haul tools and equipment up to our 60' grid, and to dead-hang (that is, hang and not move during the show) soft goods like borders, legs, and other masking. We used them during Neverland to fly the dining room table and bar during Intermission for the acts they weren't used in. Maintenance involved greasing some of the shafts that turn when the winch is in motion; checking each aircraft cable (which is about 80' or more) the entire length for dangerous kinks and wear; listening to the motor run; checking all of the attachment points and cable terminations. It was a good experience to start learning more about motors and such, and I'm certainly looking forward to maintenance in the spring where we will inspect our chain motors, which are newer and more heavy-duty. 

Other tasks over the past two weeks have included cleaning out the trap room where the orchestra lived during Neverland, where we stored a lot of gear during the show that wasn't being used. This was particularly good for me and some of the younger overhires, as we were left in charge of that room and did some major organizing, and learned about some of the gear we didn't even know we had. We cleaned our crew/locker room, we cleaned the scary places below the stage elevators. We also worked a little with the HRDC students who have the stage currently for their student shows. All in all, a relaxing yet educational couple of weeks, and a great relief from the hectic run of Neverland, for all of us. 

Next up is OPC, a show by the author of the Vagina Monologues that promises to be witty and interesting for those of us invested in saving the environment. We've heard rumors of the set the scene shop is concocting, it will be an experience for sure. Until then, the stage crew has some time off, during which I'm picking up some freelance gigs (after all, it isn't like I'm not used to piecing that kind of work together) and visiting home in VT for a solid amount of time :) 

Thank you for reading!

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