13 Feb 2019

The School Musical – A True Story


The School Musical – A True Story

by Stephen Dean.

The school has booked the venue to do their annual musical, the sort of affair where it is important that the parents see and hear their little darlings. The only problem is the teachers directing. Yes, I said teachers, plural – who have no experience. Several teachers all directing by committee of sorts. This means you get different directorial inputs for the same thing. Agreements are few and far between.


Now they did ask for advice. On the day of the bump in. It becomes a rush to get more radio mics to ease the belt pack changes through the show. Sound check then becomes a very short affair, as again this was scheduled as part of the run-through.

The technician tries not to lose their cool as the day progresses, as they are handed a USB with slides for a projection. So, they plug it into the computer, only to discover the images are PDF and are not all in landscape mode.

Time to drag out our own laptop and convert and edit files to something PowerPoint can be happy with. Time is running away. There is a backing CD, as it is a junior Disney production. At least that is one less job to worry about, mic’ing a 20 piece primary school orchestra.


The radio mics are ready, the kids have been stopped from playing with them. The slides are working to the client’s satisfaction. Now time for the lighting, which is going to have to be done on the fly.

It will have to be programmed as they rehearse, plus the audio levels will need to be set. Remember they only want one tech to be around. A teacher was going to help with the audio; pity they freaked when they saw the digital console.



Now they are backstage helping with the radio mics.

The Stage Manager has never learnt how to call a show, and constantly drops the headset without muting to help a child, or yell at them. Oh, look the SM is on stage suddenly – that is an interesting cameo role.

The tech is now running on caffeine fumes, wishing for something stronger. Lunch was a distant memory of a half-eaten sandwich. The client has become very cool on the idea of using the standard lighting rig with its nine specials. It was a good thing that the venue keeps this in place, correctly focused and gelled. A colour gel change may happen, let’s hope the venue have a client friendly colour and the vertical lifter is charged.



One of the set pieces is drooping, the glue is not holding up to the weight of the students it seems. Nope; it is the adhesive – it does not like a lot of warm lights. The tech puts away the sidelights, which did help make the show look interesting.

The theatre is starting to smell funny – old socks and something undefinable. Turn up the air conditioner. Only a couple of hours to go before the first performance before an audience, so why are there lots of them around in the foyer with bags of food?

They are feeding the students in shifts, so the tech rehearsal can continue without a break. That also explains the multiple directors. The tech’s stomach smells the food and grumbles.

Audience are seated, the ushers trying to keep them from sitting in the aisles. It seems they have oversold. The tech will not allow the show to continue until cleared. The announcement is made about cameras and phones. Lots of flashes still happen, and the tech watches the eerie glow of light on the audience’s faces.

The show staggers to a start. And settles into an uneasy rhythm, the audience seem to enjoy it. A parent walk outs after their child has finished performing. Phones are busier than the ushers. Interval arrives, batteries changed and a quick coffee and Mars Bar.

Second act starts with a missing child, parents have taken them home. Thunderous applause signifies the end. The audience are happy, the kids are hyper with happiness. They hug on stage, trampling sets and getting in the way of staff trying to tidy up.

The show will happen twice more on the next day. Then the alarm sounds. 6.30 AM. Was it a dream? Or the upcoming day? Groan.




Article from CX Magazine – February 2019CX Magazine is Australia and New Zealand’s only publication dedicated to entertainment technology news and issues – available in print and online. Read all editions for free or search our archive
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