Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Last Friday, the Artful Manager delivered another insightful email linking to his recent blogs. Basically he spoke of an issue that I fully agree with – that if you want to have innovation you need to take risks. If you take risks, you will have failure. And that failure is a measure of success.

I do think that it is intriguing about what the definition of failure impacts risk taking. If you take a risk where the failure means extinction, true risks are very difficult to take. Sure you might have much to gain, but losing everything isn’t worth it. This can be seen in many arenas – the stock market comes to mind. In this case, risks, in my opinion, need to be defined and explored. Perhaps a theatre can’t change its programming all at once, but 1 small scale show in a different genre could open a window. One small risk at a time, building on failures and successes. Its important because I think it can be easier to seen what you did wrong, then what went right – or at least easier to plan according to what was wrong in the past.

Fail early, fail often
Philanthropy 2173


I was a bit under the weather last week, and wasn't able to post.

Now that I'm feeling better and back into service, I thought I would pass on the following website / service: http://www.callsteward.com/

The site allows you to schedule calls, and get confirmations back from those called. You can get a free demo on the site. I could see a use for this in a variety of situation, above and beyond union calls. Check it out!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Toggle Clamps

I visited a metal working company while I was in grad school that had an awesome system for welding – They had these huge table that was a steel grid on about 3” centers. Where the framing members joined there were holes available for hold down clamps. While I haven’t yet created a plan to build a table like this in the shop, I was browsing the latest copy of Machine Design and came across a company that has a wide variety of clamps. As there are a variety of other theatrical uses for these clamps I thought I would pass the link on.

Carr Lane

Their site also has a variety of useful reference material available here

Thursday, May 15, 2008


One of the big catch phases of the day has got to be branding. From major brands, to small businesses and even individuals – everyone must have a brand to succeed, or at least it seams. Brands used to be a static message that the corporation delivered to the masses. While people have always held opinions, and probably aren’t more vocal today than they used to be, the methods of sharing those opinions have vastly changed, mostly due to the internet. There is a plethora of websites that you can voice your opinion on without creating a community. Plus there is another vast amount of places where you can voice your opinions within a community (or multiple communities) that interest you. For something theatre related, for example, I could express an opinion not only on my blog, but also on my facebook theatre groups, appropriate myspace pages, LinkedIn groups, and on the stagecraft mailing list. Additionally I could be asked about a product through all of those methods as well. Thus any individual’s distribution ability is much wider than it may have been previously, and longer lasting – blogs don’t expire, mailing lists can be searched. An off hand comment today may influence a future purchase 3 years down the road.

This availability has though, I think, increased the desire of the consumer to communicate their experience of a product or event. This is a result of the desire to want to have the experience in the first place. There have always been brand identification, and peer pressure with regard to brands, but there seems to be more of a trend towards identifying with the brand. Its almost like a brand needs to create an experience that makes mini ambassadors for the product. The catch to the company is that they are not able to streamline their image the exact way they want to, but the experience is much more authentic.

These ideas have been spurred on by the article “O.P.E.N. for Business: The Future of Branding in a Web-Made World”, published in the April 2008 issue of Event Marketer.

Theatrically speaking, I think these thoughts can go into 2 different directions. The first is to confirm, create, or develop the product (the show) into something where your audience has a meaningful experience. This is inherent in every show, yet something we don’t play up – while the movie theatre industry makes much more of this situation. Secondly, I think we need to help our patrons to form and/or participate in communities that support their experiences and let them talk, discuss, play, create, and in general be active in regards to their participation with our event. While I think it is important to note that much of this may always be independent – I think there is a lot of room for the theatre community to facilitate as well. And, happily, I thin this is starting to happen – for instance it isn’t uncommon for a theatre to have a blog (even if it isn’t updated much), or to have a facebook group. The issue that I see with what they are doing is that it isn’t kept up to date enough, and it isn’t done with the full authority behind it so it looks limited. But at least it is something – and I will continue to anticipate future developments.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Plastics Resource

Designing with Plastics is a newsletter published by IAPD that I thought would be helpful. Several of the old issues are on their website and it covers acrylic and uhmw-pe. Check it out!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Maker Faire

“This, From That” in today’s New York Times was an interesting read this morning. It was ironic as I was in a bookstore last night and I was looking at a couple of books that discussed the change from a society that made things to a society that bought things. Make, Instructables, and some of the other places discussed in the above article I think is a reaction to this in part. I say in part, because I don’t think the love of tinkering really ever goes away. However there are a few issues in our world today that make it a little harder. Safety concerns are a lot different from even when I was a kid. Kids are more protected. Lawsuits are more of a potential. Risk management is a real concern. Instead, I think the Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn Iggulden ought to be required reading.

At any rate I think that a successful TD must have ability and desire to tinker, think outside the box, and play around with ideas and odd parts. And the ability to go to an event like that one discussed in the article sounds like great fun!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Stage Flying

I just finished reading Stage Flying 431 B.C. to Modern Times by John A McKinven. It was an interesting read. The text was a little dry at times, but worthwhile. It was particularly good for the history behind flying from the Greek period through the 19th century. I think it is always amazing how many technologically advanced techniques theatre has employed through the ages – especially because some of these effects are only done today with a significant amount of planning and financial capacity.

Besides having a wide variety of historical information, the book includes lots of illustrations, and patent drawings. It’s a worthwhile read.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Social Innovations

I was browsing the Internet and found this site: http://sic.conversationsnetwork.org/

While it isn't immediately relevant to technical theatre, i think its still relevant for most people who work in the theatre. Why? Because we typically work in not-for-profit situations, innovation is necessary and important for keeping theatre relevant, and the art form must speak to today's relevant issues to name a few reasons.

The site offers podcasts of discussions and talks with the mission of delivering information to those who wouldn't otherwise be able to listen and learn to current important thought leaders.

Besides being an interesting site, I think its an interesting concept. There is a change occurring in media from a print based to a video and even purely audio based experience. I'll admit that I like to read the news - not listen to a pod cast - or watch videos of it online, but in the last year or so the increased amounts of video news has seemed to increase exponentially. However, I think video and podcast can be very useful, and think that there are very useful applications for these resources that should be further explored.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Prop Drinks

Speaking of prop drinks, here is an article that I wrote for Stage Directions last month. I was pretty excited by it – so I hope you enjoy it.

Don’t forget that you can subscribe to Stage Directions for free if you are a member of the industry by clicking here.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Prop Shop

If you come across a prop that you are having difficulty finding you should take a look at
Barnard Ltd. They have an array of props (fake food, fake drinks, and d├ęcor. They are located in Chicago, IL.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


In the Jan 2002 issue of Remodeling there is a short article that I thought was interesting:

“Six Tips to Boost Referrals”

- Create a detailed spec sheet. Spell out the scope, define finishes
- Keep the Job Site Safe and Clean
- Project a Professional Image
- Communicate
- Reward
- Follow up

Change Orders

I have been thinking about change orders lately. I think that it is interesting is that change orders are handled different depending on which project manager you deal with and which company you deal with. Some places will (and this is traditional practice) give you a low bid, and then the change orders generate profit. While I understand that this came to be because of fierce competition to get the job in the first place, I prefer to only do change orders only when necessary and due to expanding client needs and desires.

I read an article in an old edition of Remodeling (Jan 2002) called “Be Ready for Change Orders” that discussed these issues a little. He talks a little of the problems: difficulties in getting sign offs and time that it takes to create the change order, and order materials. Also, change orders may not benefit from bulk pricing that the original job may get. I thought two things the author, Walt Stoeppelwerth, mentioned was to not just say as necessary – Include an amount, and don’t just sat match existing – qualify the match, for instance: “match existing as closely as possible from existing local sources of supply”.

I think communication is the biggest part of the process – certain problems and conditions cannot be predicted from the beginning and can be charged via change orders. Also upgrades and options can be offered. Sometimes these can also be allowances – so that an actual amount can be billed at the end, or an adjusted amount can be quantified later in the process once more detailed information is available.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Coped Connectors

When you are working with pipe to create a structure, one of the choices is how pieces are joined. While some large shops may be able to machine the required notches, the machinery is not typical in most shop settings. Doing it by hand is possible – I have done a few myself, but it is tedious and time consuming. Often the choice is made to buy structural fittings (like Kee Klamps) to create the needed structure. The fittings are reusable, and it is easy to build up a stock of pieces, though there is some initial outlay of cost. Today, when I was flipping through the new McNichols flier, I came across another potential alternative – Coped Connectors. You can take a look at these to get an idea of what I am talking about. I think it’s a great idea. The connector fits into the pipe on one end, welds on, and then the opposite end is coped to fit the necessary pipe connection. While the connectors are not reusable, they do eliminate the bulk of the fittings we typically use. The fittings, for steel, range between .74 cents and 2.68 per, with bulk discounts available. This pricing would make these product feasible in many situations, particularly if the required kee klamp fittings would be a purchased item as well.

Technora Rope

One of the jobs I recently bid specified technora rope. Below is a picture of a sample. It has a few interesting characteristics. The strength of the rope is amazing. In the picture you can see that the rope looks angular. Once the rope is under load it becomes more circular in shape. This feature makes me wonder how the rope would react to knots, going over sheaves and other conditions typical in our environment. My concern is that if different loading conditions changed the shape of the rope, would it effect the capacity of the rope. You can go here for more information