Lighting Cue 167.3 (Confessions of a Theater Kid)

My name is Konrad. And I struggle remembering anything besides my own coffee order, where the GO button is, and where my cues are. Now, out of season I’m a great student, and basic math doesn’t leave me completely dumbfounded. But when the time comes to sit behind my trustworthy ETC Express 48/96 for more time than I spend in my own home, nothing stays where it should. My other abilities include being able to sing every song from every musical I’ve ever seen, as well as the ability to every task imaginable in complete darkness. If we’re talking about darkness, I own more black clothing than every other color put together. Now here’s my story. The short three months of preparing for seven unimaginably fun and exciting showings of Ghost Bike.

When you’re one of the head lighting designers, it’s somewhat hard to get anything done when you’re arguing with the other head lighting designer. It’s also problematic when there are more new people who don’t know anything than people who know how to do things. So welcome to the first day of the production process for Ghost Bike: the Call-Out Meeting: Basically an open call for anyone who is interested in joining the process to come out and find out about what it takes to create a play, what they can specialize in, and how they can take the first step to joining the process. All the chiefs take a brief time to explain what they do, and await to see how the crowd reacts to their explanation. Lighting Design doesn’t usually get a lot of people to join. What’s more exciting than hanging heavy pieces of metal and then sitting behind a giant keyboard-like panel and putting in percentages and levels? For most people, anything. For me, nothing. Five people signed up to partake in the adventure that is lighting Ghost Bike. This doesn’t seem like many people, but keep in mind that most of the years back, the entire crew compromised no more than 6 people. Now, we have about that many new people. Three seniors, one junior (welcome to my life, I’ll be here all year), and a whole array of underclassmen that are usually there for no other reason than to learn and do petty tasks.

Fast track to about two weeks later: The start of production. The first assignment that I, along with my co-designer, Mary, gave out was to read the script. Surprise Surprise, a solid half of them did not read more than a page of it. How can someone work to design a whole play from the grounds up, when they haven’t laid the foundation to even starting: reading the actual script. My new least favorite member, Shannon, gave no response to my question of why didn’t she read the script other than “why would I do that?”. At this point, I was weary of assigning cueing work to any of them. Working as the head designer, any mistake that would occur would go down on me. Anything light that was improperly hung would be my fault. Any missed cues or confusing cueing would be no one’s fault other than my own. But “the show must go on”, or in this case, the production process must go on (?). Every crew member was assigned a list of scenes, and after the next production meeting, created became the treasure of the Lighting Designers: The Preliminary Cue List. The basic planning was done, all that had to be done now was a couple of edits, changes, and additions to what has already been done.

In the meantime, the more fun tasks where left to Mary and I. That included lighting rentals, new equipment, and creating the rep plot. Welcome to the education system of America, where god forbid the arts be sponsored with nearly enough money that they would need. Instead, welcome to my school, where we paint the gym every summer, because athletics are more important than anything else. Most of the working equipment has been scraped down to PAR 64’s, a rather useless light, purely for the reason that you can’t focus it to a defined area or anything. Most spotlights that we own, Strand Coolbeam’s, are older than me, and a true miracle happens when they actually work. Meetings with the director, an outside lighting designer (thanks Jake), and never-ending phone calls to every rental place affiliated with the school took up more time than I ever thought it would. Where can we get the better deal, where can we save money, and how can I use the least amount of money to make anything and everything work. The hardest thing with going through this process, is that for whatever trust issues, no one ever gives me a budget for which I have to fit inside of. What would be my proposed rental list is nothing more than a “wish list”. Instead of  being trusted with figuring out what I need and what I can get, I have to rely on what my director, who has no idea how to design the lighting, thinks is rational to use for this production.

For those interested in the technical side of theater, rentals came out to:

  • 4 Elations 5R Pro Platinum
  • 8 Leko Source 4 19-50 degree
  • 4 6′ Phillips ColorBlaze
  • DMX Splitter
  • Hog 4 PC Lighting Console
  • 2 CityTheatrical Dry Ice Machines
  • more cabling than my heart could ever desire

With this, we were ready to start with everything that we needed to do before programming and tech week started. The excitement was only to begin.

Thanks for reading guys, I will be writing about this entire amazing process for the next couple of weeks. Like and comment what you think, I really appreciate it! Have any questions or comments, shoot me an email at!