The Elementary Musical

The last weekend in January, Mr. Ashley asked me and a couple other Help Desk students to help design and run lights for the elementary musical. This included coming in on the Wednesday and Thursday before the show to get a script and to watch the rehearsals to get a feel for the show. The day before the show we sat down with Mr. Ashley and the director to put the last finishing touches on the light design, but for the most part we were on our own.

Mr. Ashley wasn’t there for a few of the shows and rehearsals so we had to be ready to improvise when something went wrong, which included a missing cue, the lights not being the right color for the cue, the actor not hitting their spot, the house lights breaking, and many other problems. The whole show was a learning experience I haven’t gotten in high school shows, because there were always adults there to help when something went wrong. But for this show, if Mr. Ashley wasn’t there, there were no other adults who could step in and help us. We had to come up with a permanent or temporary solution ourselves. He entrusted us with a lot of responsibility which also included us talking to the director about his ideas for the show if Mr. Ashley hadn’t created cues exactly the way they should be. I had to create a lot of cues on the fly during the dress rehearsals or during the brief time we had between shows, or I just had to guess what cue to go to because there were several extra cues in the show or cues were written in my script that weren’t saved in the show file.

All of these things taught me how much attention you have to pay to the whole thing, and that it doesn’t magically all come together. In such a short show (the actors had under two weeks to prepare) you really get to see the whole process come together as opposed to middle or high school shows where the process is spread over a period of two to three months. The middle and high school shows, especially middle school, required significantly less time, work, and focus on our parts because everything was done by adults, but partly because we knew less about the lighting board and light design. All you had to do was follow along in the script, and sometimes you didn’t have to do that if you had someone calling your cues. In both of those cases all you had to do was hit the go button to advance to the next cue. “Monkey work” as it has been called. No brain power at all. However, the unpredictability of everything in this show taught me some backup strategies and teamwork skills that will help me be a better help desk student and theater technician.

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