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The Next Generation

Luke Drinkwater

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I'm 15, I've being doing it about a school year. My knowledge is fine, I can be part of the crew no problem, but the 3 guys who have been doing this longer than me and taught me everything have just left our school for good. This leaves me to be in charge. The problem gets greater, it's only me, so I also have to pull together a new team, and train them. I also have the problem of; The head of Drama can be a bit of an asshole and hoards a lot of the LX equipment, so have that obstacle too.


ARGH! Help! Please!

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Don't call the head of Drama an arsehole on a public forum where everything you post can be read by your teacher would be a good start.


E2A: Especially when with a quick Google I can find your schools website, contact your school and inform them of the above post.


Hint: I removed my schools Identity from my Profile, I recommend you do the same. Whilst you're at it, add a vague location as this will help us in the future if you make any requests for help that require your location.



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1. your not in charge, anything goes wrong it the teachers head.


2. its not your equipment so dont winge when your not aloud to use any of it.


3. if your going to call everyone an arsehole who dosnt give you what you want. you ain't goona last very long.

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Welcome to the Blue Room.


First error has been pointed out by one of your closer contemporaries - and a point well made I'd say.


Next - the best thing to do - especially here in a forum populated by many experienced professionals and am-drams alike - is NOT to make the mistake of calling yourself a 'head' or 'in charge' of anything at your school.

Regardless of your presumed status as 'The only one who knows anything' there, you are still a minor, and as such NOT able to take any real responsibility (or indeed liability) for anything. And that, to be frank, is how it should be.


By all means get involved, learn about the kit and how it works, BUT always remember that that responsibility/liability lies with the teachers at your school - that's what they are there for - and it matters not how much or little they apparently know about technical stuff. They are the adults and are in the frame - full stop.


So - how do you learn more if you have no-one able to teach?

Well, you have a couple of options. At 15, you're only really going to be able to do anything regular with the help of a local am-daram group, so I'd start there. I'm sure there will be several groups in the area - is there a local theatre as well?

Contact them and ask a) if there's space to get you involved - even in a small way - with them and b) if there are any experienced techs who might be able to assist at school.

I personally work with several schools in our area, either by supplying and setting up basic lighting for their end of term offerings, or by a more direct route when they use our venue for bigger shows. Where possible we try to get interested students involved. My own daughters, for example, can both handle a followspot, and have more recently moved on to running lighting and sound desks (they're 15 and 12).


As for not having access to the kit at school - there may well be a very valid reason for this - theatre kit can be expensive and potentially easily damaged if mistreated. I'd expect any shool to guard carefully any such kit until such time as a student has proven fully that they're capable of using it with care and knowledge.


The key is to know that you don't know everything (in fact with respect you know very little in comparison) but if you're willing to learn, then the world is your oyster.



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Hey, I was sorta in your possition about 3 years ago! I am guessing your in year 10 or the equivelent! I was in year 7 (11 years old) when the heads of LX and FX left as they were in the same year. Basically, youve just got to plan out what you going to do. When to train others up, the logical thing would be to train up the newly arrivals in the school that way, there will be there for a while. Another of your problems that I share is the 'borrowing' of equpment. well, at the end of the day, it is the drama dep's kit so you will just have to ask for it when you need to use it.

Hope this helped,


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I won't do the usual comments, but here are a few things to think about.


You need to do a skills audit.


This means sitting down and realistically looking at what you already know, and then checking that you know it correctly. If you are all doing this yourself, with no proper training, then it's probable that some things the kids who left taught you, were wrong. When people teach themselves, there is a great tendency to concentrate soley on equipment that you have in school. This is unlikley to offer much scope as to range. So probably some Fresnels, maybe even without barndoors - some profiles (which could be excellent or old and tried). Maybe a few PCs, possibly some floods. Some schools have a few moving lights, rarely good ones - just budget kit with basic features. Control varies from manual desks of the twin preset style with things like Frogs popping up more often nowadays. What about other kit you don't have? With no experience of it, you are working with a limited range of available kit. It's a bit like saying you are studying painting, but the school only have a very small number of colours to choose from.


So - you look at what you know really well, and summarise it - what can you actually do. Then look at what you've seen other people do, that you cannot. Books, and I mean real books, not internet sources, is the next step. Pick some books like those written by Pilbrow and Woodroffe. How they do things and see if they make sense with your knowledge in it's current state. Some things won't. Then do the Francis Reid books, get the basics in your head - then revisit Pilbrow and Woodroffe and see if it makes more sense. It will. Then you need practice. Focusing is the next step. Can you really control the things. Beam angles, barndoors, shutters, peak/flat fields. Imagine being at the top of a ladder and doing the LDs instructions - can you actually do what he is asking. Do you understand why he wants things done this way. Move onto a bit of design. Can you take a stage area and break it into sections, ensuring that each one is adequately lit. Can you do this from a plan - and at this point ask yourself if you can actually cope with scale plans? Forget computers at this stage. Can you draw an accurate plan of your performance space? This is where trigonometry comes in - how's the maths. Can you do basic electrical calculations, can you understand spreadsheets enough to formulate hire documents that you can give to the teachers.



Forget all about titles - they are handed out willy nilly with little thought as to how each person can do the work. Somebody has to be (if your school are daft enough to use this system) Head of Lighting. If you weren't there, somebody else would get it. It has little to do with skills. It's just an allocation of work area with no responsibility at all.


You need to soak up as much information as you can. Knowledge is the key. Makes, models, types and facilities need to be in your head to use as tools. I really think product knowledge is the key to making sensible decisions.


Is this enough to get you started?

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A mistake I feel I have made (as someone who's just left school leaving behind a crew I have tried to train to the best of my ability. (not every school has good support for its technical theatre students)) is that I encouraged people to specialise so much into lighting and sound that there was eventually competition between the two groups.


We had about three year 7 students, and all but one wanted to do sound (something about the DJ thing). There was then more work going for less people on the lighting "department", so the sound people didn't get to do as much. It didn't help that most people were okay with the stage so long as it was lit, but were cross when the couldn't hear they're little darling properly, or we had the screech of feedback through the system. We were therefore more cautious letting the year 7s go on sound then letting them have a play with the lighting desk. Add to that the different capabilities of the students (A* material vs. Special Needs) and we had a bit of rivalry going on.


So my advice would be to make sure that everyone has a good grounding in several aspects of technical theatre before encouraging them to specialise.


Once you've got yourself a good grounding* in the subjects, as Paul suggests, there are several threads about passing that knowledge on. Keeping it practical is always a good way to go. Planning hypothetical shows is another one, which can slowly build up to them planning the more simple shows with you watching, and then onto planning for the major musical of the year (or your nearest equivalent).

A good exercise I read about (on here somewhere), but failed to implement with my crew, was to get them to design the lighting for a scene with just a PAR can, Fresnel and a Profile.


*Sorry I sound really patronizing. It's not intentional and I'm really not better than you.

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Looking back a bit, this does all rather sound like what is happening is the lighting and sound version of Dumbledore's Army. Maybe I've lost the plot, but so many of these stories start out with a a few comments (often removed when people realise what would happen if 'people' actually got to read them) stating how useless/helpless/clueless their teachers are, that they have to teach themselves. If your school has teachers who don't know essential things, perhaps a meeting with the head could be useful. If you have no teachers or technicians who are interested or know anything about technical theatre, then I guess doing it yourself is probably sensible. The only real snag is that you get put into positions where your lack of 'the correct way' holds you back. I sent somebody up a ladder to focus some profiles, and shouted "shutter it in a bit - stop it landing on the pros". It went left and right a bit, no shutter. In the end, I discovered the school profiles had lost their shutters years ago, and the bloke didn't know profiles actually had them. It's this kind of error that happens when you do it yourself!
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