November 6, 2010

Surprise Blackout

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 8:31 pm

This afternoon we were having a leisurely Saturday matinee, maybe two-thirds of the way through our first act, when suddenly we had an OMG Surprise Blackout!

Artist’s rendering of the event:

Surprise blackouts are never fun, although they definitely help to pass the time!

The basic story is that the house’s light board crashed. We have kind of an interesting lighting situation here. Our board sends its cues to a submaster on the house board, which then sends the signal on to the lights. The house has a backup board, but because the cues are coming from our board, their backup board is kind of out of the loop. The house ME, Greta, is totally awesome, and as I have learned, decided to make the backup board somewhat useful by taking two of our well-lit cues (a daytime and nighttime look) and saving them on submasters on the backup board so we would have appropriate looks we could use in the event of a crash. We were in the blackout for about two seconds before the daytime cue came up.

Greta and I talked for a few seconds, during which time I learned of this rather impressive backup plan we were witnessing. The cue that was chosen was a very good stand-in for most of our daylight cues, that would not seem out of place in any of the remaining scenes in the act. Greta wasn’t sure exactly what would happen if she tried to unplug our board and put it into their backup board, and once she said the magic words, “I’ve never had to do this before…” I decided that this lovely daytime cue was perfectly fine for the rest of the act, rather than risking another blackout while the boards were swapped.

So I got to call the last 20 minutes or so of the act without having to call light cues, except for a manual fade to black at the end of the act. At intermission our board was plugged into the backup board and all was well in a few seconds. The main board couldn’t be reset because it would have taken out the house lights, so we didn’t have a backup for Act II. Which is OK cause usually you don’t have a backup at all, although the very fact that the venue has a backup board in such a state of readiness is perhaps not the most encouraging sign of the reliability of the main board. It’s a Strand, I’m not sure exactly what kind (ours is an ETC Express 250).

Thankfully all was well for the rest of the show! Hopefully that will be the last surprise blackout we encounter!

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