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This week, we are performing a small, student led version of Susan Hill's / Stephen Mallatratt's The Woman in Black. Without going into it, the story involves several dense fogs. Our problem arises as we were required to hire an additional smoke machine from Stage Electrics (who supply many professional shows). Due to their professional supply, they did not have the smoke machine we'd hired when we arrived to pick it up. Instead, we received a large (MASSIVE) one, which during tests this morning smoked out our hall, canteen and canteen extension.


We are concerned about this vast quantity of smoke overall – despite being water based, it won't be very good for asthmatics! Therefore, if there is any way of limiting the amount that leaks out into the auditorium, this would be helpful. However, it should also look good.


Due to the date of the performance, I will detail the equipment we have, and I ask that you bear in mind we can't hire / buy anything else.


We have a large gauze hanging across the middle of the stage, a haze machine, and a much smaller (and ridiculously ineffective) smoke machine. The current set up is to have the haze machine SL, the large smoke machine SR (both just behind the curtain and in front of the flats), and the smaller smoke machine in our makeshift "pit" – a hole in the stage extension – pointing up at the stage (along with several 'footlights').


The plan which is most likely to go ahead, unless there are radically better suggestions, is to focus the industrial machine backwards, towards the gauze, to limit the amount of smoke leaking forwards. Conveniently, the first and most major instance of fog is just before the interval, so perhaps the curtain closing could allow us 15 minutes to clear the stage with industrial fans?


However, I wondered if it might look interesting to position the most powerful smoke machine behind the gauze, and set it off early. Thus, the idea is, smoke would both bleed through the gaps in the gauze, illuminated by the down-lights which render it opaque, and perhaps around (due to its not being very wide). I wondered – would this technically work, and would it look good? We have a tech run of Act I tomorrow, but it is unlikely we will even use this smoke machine, let alone test this method!


Any comments on either of the above plans are welcomed, as are other suggestions which are viable with our equipment.


Thanks for your help!


To clarify, I said “ridiculously ineffective” – this is hyperbolic: it’s merely very small output, but given that it’s outputting in front of the actors, this isn’t a bad thing!

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The thing with smoke is that the effect can be so different in the same venue, depending on airflow and what doors etc are open... let alone different venues! I think that this is one of those things that you'll have to try out to see how it works.


I think you're on the right track with pointing it backwards, and using the industrial fans though.


Perhaps you could try firing the smoke machine through a fan to disperse the smoke and make it a bit thinner also?



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Out of interest...do you have the rights for this? It's just that I was looking the other day and the rights holders website says...



Unreleased Titles


Although we have acquired the amateur performing rights in the following titles they are not yet released for amateur performance within the British Isles.


Full Length Plays




The Woman in Black Adapted by Stephen Mallatratt from the book by Susan Hill

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Firstly, all "big" smoke machines are variable output. So you should be able to get a trickle of smoke out of it if you want. If you post what it is, someone will be able to tell you how to do it.


But secondly, you need to create the effect of a "dense fog" without actually making a dense fog, cos if you do that nobody will see the actors. You really need a very light haze to suggest the fog, and some good acting. If you shine backlights through the haze towards the audience, this makes the haze much more visible.


Your problem is to fill the stage with haze, then get rid of it instantly when it is not needed ( which is impossible). The use of backlight, then not using it in scenes with no fog, can make the haze "disappear"...

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The best thing is to experiment, make sure you set yourself enough time to do it. The best option I found was to point it upstage and start trickling it out slowly (you have to get your timing right) then when the smoke is ready to make its entrance, it should work well.



We had a gauze screen CS (dance show) with only the cyc light first while the dancers were in silhouette then gradually bought in some back light.


Like others said, you should be able to change the output on the machine. Not like ours where it set off on its own a couple of times, luckily it only happened in rehearsals!








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I saw an am dram company have a Gem Glaciator (Mahoosive low fog machine!) behind a gauze and then just as the show started they flooded behind the gauze (about 2-3ft on the floor) with low fog which then started 'oozing' (no better description!) through the gauze so the audience could see.

Really nice and eerie effect (I think in this instance it was in a forest scene...).


It made me jump as I was stood SL filling in a show report..turned round and saw this thick white fog just coming out the gauze! Probably by far the coolest (no pun intended) effect I've seen! http://www.blue-room.org.uk/public/style_emoticons/default/biggrin.gif

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