Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I wrote this piece while "Light Walking" for the opera Regina at The Lyric Opera of Chicago. Light walking takes place when lights are being set for an upcoming opera and people are needed on stage as stand-ins for the singers to make sure the lighting effects work successfully.

• • • • •

The fire curtain goes up. The house lights dim. The auditorium black. 

Stars twinkling in the heavens ... exit signs at the back of balconies one and two. 

Six stippled red rivers flow ... main floor aisle lights on alternating rows reflecting on the carpet. 

Count the burned out yellow with red lettered EXIT lamps. 

Count the burned out orange lamped wall sconces. 

Will be working by opening night. 

Shadows of seats and rows, the audience yet to arrive. 

Reflection of directors booth, lighting booth, sur-title booth at the rear of the Artis Kranik Theater.

A makeshift desk with several computers, dim lamps, telephone, microphone at the center row on the main floor. 

Seated there, the stage director, assistant stage director, lighting director, set designer, costume designer, stage manager, assistant stage manager.

Center Stage. Apple red, glossy grand stairway. Flared upstage center, curving and raising stage left, narrows up stage some thirty steps away and exit stage left. Grand stair handrail runs the stair up stage but not securely. Hold to guide you, not support you. Some twenty higher rise steps down the escape stair off stage. Enter, exit, GO! Up the center of the stairs, at intervals, three chairs next to three tables holding three lamps. Caution taken but safe.

Up stage. Three levels of louvered windows five across each level. Level one windows raise to meet the rake of the stage. Level two windows eighteen steps off stage right. Level three windows twenty eight steps off stage left. Tall rise steps. Watch your step. Shaky but secure. Narrow walkway behind each level of windows. Narrow, watch your step. Shaky but secure. Each pair of windows secured with a bolt. Slide back the bolt. Open the window. Floor to ceiling view available. Careful. Then notice two cables from door jam to door jam to guide you. Not support you just guide you. Caution taken but safe.

Floor canvas. Wood grain painted panels, one width, double width, triple width. Randomly arranged. Blue in some light, black/gray in other. Slippery. Watch your step. Raked. Watch your step. Will work on roughing up later. Don’t fall into the pit ... or the tuba! Caution taken but safe.

Fire curtain goes up. House lights dim. A hush. Auditorium black. The conductor enters, spot light, applause, dim. The conductor raises his baton, “Michael, enter at top of stairs and slowly walk down. Up stage at rail. Or closer to center if you are comfortable. GO. Michael, sit in the wheel chair holding the bank box in your lap. Stage hands secure the wheel chair. Don’t forget the rake. Raise the wheel chair foot rests. Feet flat on floor for support. Just in case. GO.

Angela, sit in chair stage left. Go to the lip of the stair landing stage right. Face down stage. Three quarters body front. Look back up stairway. Exit stage right. GO. Jim, enter third level windows stage left, stand by center windows, open windows, close windows, open windows, close windows.

The lights circle the stage searching you at just the correct angle. Lights from stage left, stage right, up stage and down stage. Each item lit to perfection. Each item aglow (or shadowed in the dim.) “The stage will go to black out. GO.” In the fly, electricians adjust lights. At the makeshift desk with several computers the people make notes, discuss, decide, make notes, pick up the microphone, say GO.

Light walkers stand and wait until the next GO. Twelve in the afternoon until ten at night, fifteen minute break every two hours, two half hour dinner breaks. Four dollars an hour ... but done for love not money.

And finally ... light walkers take a bow and thank you.

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