The past two weeks have been as tiring as they have been inspiring.
For the second week of the DC Ballet's rental of Harman Hall, we had to strike most of the soft goods used for the first performance. The next performance needed very minimal set pieces. The one big piece was a GIANT red/white stripe banner that was much bigger than they thought it would be. It was 72' long and the flyspace in the Harman was only 55' from batten to deck. We had to fold the bottom up and tie the extra 20ish feet to the batten so that when it was flown out, it was not bunched up on the floor. For the performance the banner needed to be flown all the way into the deck so that it could fly out slowly to represent a flag being raised during the last thirty seconds of Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever". There was a hanging star drop that represented the stars, and the stripes flew behind it. The arbor was about 350 lbs out of weight when the piece was brought in, so it took four of us to overhaul it into the deck during intermission. When the cue was called, I had to hang on to the wrapped purchase line and more or less "hand brake" the line as the arbor slowly came in over the course of thirty seconds. I only had a couple rehearsals to practice the move, and I only got it right on the last three performances. It was hard to find a good speed for the fly, and it was so hard to set up that we really only had one shot to get it right. This made me realize that in the business of road house shows, art is fleeting.
After the final performance of the ballet, a strike crew was called in and took everything off the lines. We stripped the theater down to bare battens and deck so that the space would be ready for the shop and lighting crews to load in the “rep shows” Coriolanus and Wallenstein. I have to laugh a little bit because both shows are using the same set, and only the props and some hanging goods such as a chandelier are changed. It is nothing like the changeovers we do at OSF. The deck is screwed down to the floor using toenailed 3" screws. They make the floor secure, but I imagine that strike will be very difficult.
On Tuesday, I worked a screening of a documentary about Joe Papp, the man who started the "Free for All" performances in Central Park and went on to be one of the biggest names in theatre history. After the screening, another stagehand and I cleaned the facilities and prepped for the shop to come in with their set. The rest of the week was spent digging in to various stage operations spaces such as the tool room and paint room and cleaning the holy heck out of them. It was very gratifying to get in there and make the spaces usable again after many years of catching dust and debris. I was glad to leave my mark, however temporary, on this theatre. Next week, I will send in some pictures of the set and explain the tech process here at STC.