Jump to content

Differences over the Atlantic


Recommended Posts

Hi guys,


So, I was watching Legally Blonde on Broadway (Actually a pretty good show), and got to thinking - What major differences are there in putting on a professional show (let's say a musical) in the USA compared to the UK, if any?


Obviously, the difference in voltage will be quite a big one, but any others?





Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lots! Where would you like me to start? I'm in Canada, not the US, and I don't tend to work in the "Broadway Musical" end of things, but most of the same stuff applies.


Some stuff that springs immediately to mind:


Voltage is obviously different, so that's not just an academic difference. The cables are necessarily made of heavier cable, so there's a lot more copper to lug around. The connectors are very different - you'll usually see Stage pin or Twistlock connectors on dimmed equipment. (Which is a bit of a personal preference thing, but apparently, Stage Pin is an "East Coast" thing and Twistlock is a "West Coast" thing, very broadly speaking.) And of course regular power (non-one understands "mains") is on Edison connectors. It's worth noting that all of these connectors are considerably flimsier than their UK counterparts - Stage Pin least so, but still not very "positive" feeling.


Everything is measured in feet and inches (even in supposedly Metric Canada).


Aside from power, there's a lot of minor terminology differences. Prompt-side and OP are unused, it's all Stage Left, Stage Right. You hang lights on a Pipe, not a bar. Scaff is not the same thing as pipe. At all. You use wireless mics, not radio mics. There's loads more - I'll post again when I think of them.


Culturally, the whole "theatre" experience is perhaps a little more formal and even "old fashioned" (in a good way). The unions have a stronger hold, so multi-skilled technical labour is much more rare - you'll find the LX crew doing LX and not touching Noise, and so on.


As I think of more stuff, or if you have more specific questions, I'll post again.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm currently in California, and I'm a college environment doing mostly live music shows so things are perhaps a little different from the real theatre world anyway, but names and terminology is one of the big practical differences I've found...


I was stage managing a rock show soon after I came out, and I wanted to talk to the lighting guys, I picked up my set of cans, and called for 'LX', I flashed the call light a few times, and called again and again, by this point getting a little bit annoyed that they were apparently sitting in the booth not wearing their headsets.


Eventually I gave up, and decided to walk up to the booth to talk to them and 'persuade' them to keep an eye (ear?) on the comms. As I walked around the stage I passed the monitor desk, and the stage tech looked at me and said:


"Did you manage to find Alex....?"


I put my headset back on and feeling slightly embarrassed I called for the "lighting guys" and there they were.....


I'm not sure whether that was just a 'local' thing or a genuine international difference, or indeed just my accent...but a lesson learned for me anyway!



Link to comment
Share on other sites

From what I remember from workign with the US and Canadian production company that was on one of my ships...


A revolve is a turntable

Fly Bar is a Line Set

They insisted on continuing the numbers on the front of the stage to zero on the centre line, instead of just a line

The automation position they called rigging


There were loads more, can't remember them now though.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some more stuff...


I might even write all of this up some day soon into a more comprehensive guide....


From a lighting tech point of view, one of the biggest changes will be getting used to the C-clamps they use over here instead of hook clamps. This isn't a difference in terminology - the C-clamp is an entirely different beast to the hook clamp, with advantages and disadvantages. The main advantages are that they fit any size pipe that they'll fit on (down to, and including, broomhandles!) and you don't touch the bolt that fastens it to the yoke in order to pan the fixture. The downsides, well, they are much less secure when not done up, so the chances of dropping a light before you get it done up are much greater, and you need a wrench (not an AJ - nonone understands that term at all) to do any kind of rigging. No "winging" it.


Also from a lighting point of view, the mix of lanterns (they don't use that term, by the way...they use lamps which makes me shudder) will be different, especially in in-house stock-lists. Fresnels are less popular than they are in the UK (the venue I'm in right now has none at all) and will be unfamiliar in design - Strand make an entirely different fresnel for the US market that I've never seen in the UK. Zoom profiles are also less common (again, this venue has none at all) so fixed beams are the way forward. Noone understands "profile" either. They're either lekos or ellipsoidals.


Access equipment is somewhat different, too. Along with the usual Genies and scissor lifts, many theatres will be using these ladders in the same role as a tallescope might fulfill in the UK:


They're generally mounted onto a dolly of some kind and wheeled around with someone at the top. And when I say at the top, I mean: people climb to the very top, and then sling a leg over the top rung, so you have a leg either side of the ladder, basically sitting on the top rung. Look ma, no hands! The one pictured is a very small one, too. The best part is that apparently Tallescopes were banned for "being dangerous."


Consoles - you'll find much the same mix of consoles here, although out West, ETC have the edge over Strand in terms of installed base. I've no idea about the East, but anecdotally, Strand have a better foothold there. GrandMA seem to dominate the "wiggly desk" market here, but you see Hogs around, and I did a show last week with a Compulite Vector (PC and 2 wings).


The person in charge of the technical aspects of a show or venue is the Technical Director, not Manager. TD for short.


Freelancing is a little different here in Canada - I'm not sure about the States, but here you are pretty much forced to become an employee on a casual basis - it makes things a lot simpler, but means that you're on a hourly rate, not daily. In general, I've noticed that there tends to be slightly more crew on a job over here than you would expect on a similarly sized job in the UK. This is probably due to the limited multi-tasking they ask for.


I was going to say that the gender mix was better over here, but apparently that's a Vancouver thing, rather than a North American thing. Vancouver is pretty much 50/50 male/female, at all levels, which is a great thing.


Any questions?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Also, the Zarges-style extending A-frame ladders that we use so much in the UK are actually illegal in the USA.


The ladder Bryson pictured above is the closest equivalent.


To be fair, they are very stable and it's easy to securely 'lock' oneself onto the top just using ones legs, to leave both hands free - something that could not be considered with the kind of extending A-frame ladders that are common in the UK.


On the other hand, they are much less manoeuvrable than a Zarges - the base is much larger (for greater stability), and it's much more difficult to put them 'over' something.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.