Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Huntington Theatre Company - Join the Conversation!: Jack of all Things Third

I was browsing the net during lunch today and came across the following blog entry:
Huntington Theatre Company - Join the Conversation!: Jack of all Things Third

The entry talks about the set and automation of one of their shows and is very well done, and the pictures are a nice addition.

Fabric Roller

For a recent project we needed to cover a series of flats in gray duvetyn. During a trip through the shop I observed how the carpenters had set themselves up and experienced an “aha moment” (otherwise known as why have I never done that).
What they had done to make the process easier was to set up two boom bases with pipe. A horizontal pipe holding the fabric was attached to the two vertical booms at the approximate height of their work space. They grabbed the cloth pulled it across the flat to size and then made the cut. It was an obvious elegant solution. As they say, sometimes the best solution is one so simple you can’t believe you have never done that way before.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Studio Areana Theatre

Studio Arena Theatre in Buffalo have shut down their doors, at least temporarily. The article can be read at:

It reminds me of the crisis that Paper Mill Playhouse went through last April. They are still currently open, but I don't know what their current financial state is.

While this doesn't directly relate to technical direction, I think that it still is important to learn what you can about the situation, and attempt to apply as much as that knowledge as possible.

In the business classes I took in grad school we often worked with case studies. These studies detailed an event or a period in a business. You could read and study the situation and then use that as a learning experience. I think this would be useful in a theatrical situation in many ways. Its another way of integrating book knowledge into action. For instance these finical problems could be documented for case studies. Other case studies could be about safety issues and help technicians navigate through charged situations regarding safety. The closest that I have seen would be the elegant solutions class where each week a technical challenge was presented and we would create a solution.


Working in a shop that has a cnc machine, it never ceases to amaze me how much 1 tool can revolutionize how scenery is built. As always labor costs more than materials. While the bulk pricing that we receive makes lumber even more reasonable. It is really the labor savings that using cnc made pieces worth it. Even factoring in the time to draft (which is increased in a cnc environment), being able to cut all Applicable pieces of a scenic unit which then only have to be assembled can be amazing. The cnc machine allows us to easily do complex shapes and objects easily. What gets me though is that having the machine goes much deeper into altering traditional scene shop methods. Doing plywood sweeps for stud-walls instead of individual legs, building boxes out of ply for small units, are some of the ways. Plus, the cnc can easily cut slots so that pieces can mate together simplifying construction and support. A project I did for an event on TV had a curved bench. All of the pieces were cut on the cnc to interlock. The stool was solid as a rock even when dry-fit without glue or fasteners.

I really have to wonder what the effects would be on theatre if the availability of cnc machines were better. People often talk about new technology and they reference lighting or automation or LED. For stagecraft I think the CNC is my pick. Now it just has to trickle down from large commercial shops and the few larger Universities that have one to the rest of the theatre world….

Monday, February 25, 2008

Leveling Rods

Check out the link above for a useful product for setting trims in a fly-house. While normally used for surveying, it is useful in theatre. The one shown goes to 25'. You can extend the top potion of the rod and at eye level a window will display the measurement that the total length of rod is at. So if you need a drop to be flown to 23'-6” you would extend the rod to that measurement and then compare that to the leveling rod. You can also use it to check the trim on something that is already flown to to check sightlines.

UK Ladder

Check out this ladder available in the UK:

Reports say that it appears pretty stable, but you might need to be good at working at heights. The ladder allows for great access to corners / walls and other locations that are blocked due to the spread of the legs at the base. However, they don't seem to be available state side for us.

Check out their website at:

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

NEC online course

While doing some research on UL listing for a current project, I came across a cource they offer on the NEC. While a course like this wouldn't be needed for every day shop functions, I thought it looked intriguing. ULuniversity has a variety of other courses and seminars as well.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Another fun site

Similar to or instructables, this site has alot of information regarding projects involving electronic devices. I found the most of interest in their past magaizines.

Entertainment Engineering

This a magazine that you can read online for free. While not exclusive the to theatre, I though the articles I read were interesting - and you sometimes find the best information in places you would never expect.

Monday, February 18, 2008

EProduction Theatre Management Tool

I have meaning to try out this site:

The site say this: eProduction is a free online collaboration tool intended specifically for live theatre. eProduction assists you in scheduling, managing the rehearsal process, rehearsal reporting, communication and more.

While it seems like this would be most useful to stage management or perhaps for producers or designers, I think it could be benificial for all. I can even see it in project management situations.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Future of theatre on the net...

The Artful Manager had a lot of good posts this week.

In one blog, he talks about creating a more active audience. I have to agree that most of the arts are becoming more interactive – from science museums and art museums to even audience participation in theatre. Yet you also have to question what defines participation. To think that silence is equal to inaction may be a mistake.

Another of his blogs, he writes about wikipedia and hints of web 2.0 environments. I have been doing a lot of thinking around web 2.0 and I haven’t yet been able to make many resolutions in my own head. I like the theory behind wiki sites. Yet, it is possible for errors to be made. Popular knowledge is not always correct. Just because more people believe x is true and not y, doesn’t really mean that y is false – or that x is true – just that public perception believes these things. Yet, consensus enables ideas that are broad and potentially better. Web 2.0 is pretty all encompassing – from blogs, to wiki’s to social networking, just to name a few, and these all have various benefits and drawbacks. I know I posted a while back about making these tools work for theatres and to help with audience development, but I have begun to think that there is a lot more that these environments can provide, even for technical theatre. For instance, I have been thinking lately of a wiki-like open directory for sources. Anyone can enter or correct a source – and there can be categories for all types of technical theatre related products. Perhaps it can combine a wiki like site with a networking site where recommendations and such were allowed. I know several people who have in depth link pages on their websites, but it is up to that person to source and update. A sight like the one propose would allow the community of users to add and update. Check out the blog that got me started :

A Blog to look at

While I have often gone to backstage jobs looking for recent job postings, I hadn't realized that there was a blog as well. I was checking it out today and it has some good stuff on it. I thought the blog about vendors was particularly good.

Check it out at:

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Lyrics from “Popular” in Wicked

“To think of
Celebrated heads of state or
Specially great communicators
Did they have brains or knowledge?
Don't make me laugh!
They were popular!
Please -It's all about popular!
It's not about aptitude
It's the way you're viewed
So it's very shrewd to be
Very very popular”

In business speak they call it managing perceptions. There’s also something to be said about managing expectations. The point being that an idea could be brilliant, but unless its perceived to be brilliant – it won’t get anywhere and the disparity between what is and what is perceived can be a vast ocean. Unfortunately, just doing a good job isn’t enough, one must manage others perceptions of the job. The other downside, is that someone who is good at managing perceptions, may actually not be so great at their job – but others may believe they are much better than they are.


In a book I am currently reading the topic of Kaizen was talked about and I thought it was interesting and useful. The English translation (it is Japanese in it’s roots) is continual improvement. While it can (and I think should) be used for personal development, it is more commonly seen as a work place quality control device.

The general idea is that you take a system, determine how the system works against the way it should work, make small improvements on the problems, standardize the system, and then repeat.

To make this work there are three principles:
Process and results are both analyzed.
Systematic thinking is required (so a benefit in 1 part of the process doesn’t become a liability in another part).
The environment must support learning and be non-judgmental and non-blaming.

I think the idea of this plan – and it makes more sense in many ways than spending large amounts of time and money to research and develop new methods of working, to then have them fail during implementation. I also think it’s a great personal philosophy.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Pricing Book

One of the things I have started developing is a pricing book. My version has categories for lumber, metals, plastics, paint, soft goods, rigging and hardware, and foam, as well as some other specific products and areas. Some of the prices come from stock that is kept on-hand, and these prices are updated fairly regularly. Some comes from commonly used items that aren’t kept on hand and are ordered on an as needed basis. The rest are prices obtained through quotes that are more specific – items needed for a particular project, but kept as reference for future projects. While these quotes will eventually get old enough to no longer be accurate adequate to price from, at that point I would still have the information about the company to get a newer quote. This is my first resource when assembling an estimate.I also have a series of materials binders that resemble the categories in my pricing book, though some categories have multiple binders. These binders have reference information, articles, specific product details, catalogs and such. Unfortunately I don’t have a great organizational system for catalogs. A few are in binders, organized by category, but most just hang out on the shelf. Idea’s anyone?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Quote of the day

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.
Albert Einstein

Monday, February 11, 2008

Fly Pen

I have been playing around with a product called Fly Fusion & with the Fly Pen. Essentially it is a pen with a camera and limited memory that connects to your computer and works with specially purchased notebooks. It is made by Leapfrog and is the market is aimed for kids for homework help. Mine came with a Spanish calculator and basic math functions, a mp3 player and some elementary sound capacity.

Its cool, I like it. You can write text in the book and then import it into word. It does fairly well – but I would definitely proof read anything critical. You can save anything you put on paper as a word document or an image. This is where I think its an interesting too for TD’s. During a meeting, or even when budgeting, you could sketch out a quick idea on paper, and then quickly transfer that to a computer without needing to scan anything.

You do have to buy special paper for it – pads seem to run between 6 and 8 bucks each.

And I’ll tell you – there has already been a time I could have used it – I did a quick step unit a week or so ago and gave the carpenter my only copy. Now, it would have been nice to look at that paper once again to confirm what was on it, but of course it’s gone. Had I used my pen, I would have had a digital copy!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Site about Technical Direction

I have used this site as a resource several times and the past, and it has recently come to my attaention again. I agree with the concepts proposed and the way it is broken up into the catagories of artistic, craftsmanship, leadership, and management.

Take a look at it here:

fun for the day

A Rube Goldberg inspired ad:

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Football meets automation

Well it seems as though even I can't resist passing on something that relates to the superbowl. I read an article about the field in Design News and thought I would pass it on. Its pretty incredible that the whole field moves - and that the game is played on a false deck!

Check out the article at:

Friday, February 1, 2008

shipping materials

While shipping stuff isn't a mainstay of what we do - it does occassionally happen. While searching for the air or foam expandable packs I ran across the following site that was helpful in terms of finding what I need so I thought I would pass the link on.

OSB Board

I have been looking into OSB board for use instead of playwood in areas where what the piece looks like isn't important. I thought the following link was kind cool.

The site also has a variety of info about osb board as well.