Friday, October 08, 2004

Channel Surfing

Quite a bit of excitement during the Thursday (10.07.2004) performance of Bat Boy: The Musical. Our erstwhile hero's mic went dead. No real harm at that moment because he was in a scene that didn't require him to speak or sing. Of course, that also meant he was on stage and we couldn't get to his mic pack before his first big number!

Let me set this up for you a little better ...

For those of you who don't know me -- or who may not be keeping up with the posts here -- I am the assistant sound tech for this musical. Sue Conner is the sound tech; she does the actual knob-twiddling and volume monitoring that make everyone sound so good every night. My job is to monitor the mic signals (are we getting a signal? how is the battery level?), dial-up the sound FX that Sue wants to apply to the sound system for different songs, and play sound cues (thunder, explosions, etc.) through the band's sound system because the band is too loud for our standard FX system.

Well, I was doing my regular check of the mic signals, and I noticed that we lost the signal for Joe's mic. Joe is Bat Boy, so this is a pretty big issue. I inform Sue about it, and then turn my face completely into the little corner where I sit behind the sound board and FX racks -- so as not to disturb audience members -- and quickly use the stage headset to alert the backstage crew and track down Joe:

ME: (whispering as loudly as I dare over the headset) Nancy! Could someone find Joe and check his mic pack?

After a few moments...

NANCY: (over headset) Um, he's on stage.

ME: (Looking up from behind the FX rack) Oh. Eff!
[Author's Note: I really did say "Eff!" Seriously. I did not use the "F-word".]

Upon hearing me say "Eff," Sue -- who has been trying to follow my backstage conversations -- can no longer stay silent.

SUE: (only slightly frantic) Did they find Joe? Where is he?

ME: (A slow point to the stage)

SUE: Oh!

OK. So, Joe is on stage right now, and we cannot access his mic pack or even tell him about it. Well, that's not so bad. Joe just sits in the cage for this scene and doesn't say anything. However, he has a big, fairly important scene coming up, the one I refer to as the "My Fair Lady" satire (song: Show 'Em A Thing Or Two). Maybe we can get the mic fixed during the scene change ... Then again ... maybe not.

ME: Can someone check his mic pack when he goes offstage?

NANCY: Anthony checked. And it was on.

ME: I still have no signal.

NANCY: Maybe he needs a new battery?

MICH: There's no time to change it ... he has to go out soon. He'll just have to sing loud.

ME: Does he know that??

MICH: Well, Hope told him just before the scene, "Um, Joe, you're gonna have to belt this one out!"

ME: Oh n i i i i c e.

Over the headset -- I guess somebody is speaking behind Mich in the booth -- I hear a question, "Well, can we swap his mic pack with someone during the quick costume change?

ME: When they put the cap and gown on him? I doubt it.

MICH: No way! They barely have enough time for the change as it is. They can't swap the mic, too.

At this point, I'm wondering, "Just how many people can talk about this at once?!?! Mich (Lighting Director) and Nancy are in my right ear via radio; Sue is speaking in my uncovered left ear. Mich hears me and Nancy in her right ear, and Hope (Manager) in her other one. Aaaaauuuuggggghhh!


Joe makes it through the song. The kid has a set of pipes, and he gets a little help from everyone: Sue mutes all other cast member mics, and the band plays at a lower volume than usual. So we all get through the scene unscathed. But once he is safely backstage again, a new wrinkle develops:

NANCY: We changed the battery. Anything?

ME: I still have no signal.

NANCY: Hmmm....Hey, there's an "E" on the display.

ME: (shocked) There's an "E" on it?! Sue, There's an "E" on it!

SUE: (shocked) There's an "E" on it?!


NANCY: I take it that's bad. What does it mean?

Sue and I knew exactly what this meant. JJ (Shelly) knew, too, and almost missed her next entrance cue because she tried to explain it backstage to Nancy and the others.

JJ: It's not the battery. I know. It has to be reprog...

CAMERON: JJ. Shouldn't you be going onstage now?

JJ: What? Eff! (runs off)
[Author's note: "Eff" is used for general reaction ... This is not a direct quote.]

JJ knows what's wrong here because it had happened to her on the final song during last weekend's show. The "E" indicates that the unit had been bumped just "right" and was now on the wrong channel. It was no longer transmitting on the same channel that it's receiver needed. Joe's mic had to be reset...

SUE: I can't do it. I can't do it. I mean, I can do it, I just can't leave the board and go do it.

NANCY: Can anyone else fix it.

ME: Yeah. Gerry can, but he is currently playing guitar on stage!

MICHE: So now what?

Or ... we could replace it...

NANCY: Can we give him a handheld?

ME: No.

NANCY: Why? Don't we have any?

ME: It won't work.

NANCY: Hope, do we have any handhelds?

ME: It won't work.

HOPE: Yes, should I get it?

ME: It won't work!!


ME: Because the handheld's receiver isn't setup. Sue just confirmed it for me: There is nothing for the handheld to transmit to. Doesn't matter how many handheld mics we have, wireless or otherwise, they are not configured right now.

NANCY: Ooooh. Eff.

MICHE: So now what?

ME: We have to swap his pack with someone else. Who is our best candidate?

NANCY: We gotta swap?

ME: Yeah. Who's our best candidate?

SUE: Jonathan. Get Jonathan's pack.

Meanwhile, Anthony is shouting behind Mich, "Hey, he can have my pack. I only have two lines in the rest of this act, and I can easily belt them out."

ALL CREW: Ooooooooo.

ME: Sue, what about Anthony?

SUE: I don't care.

ME: Jonathan or Anthony?

SUE: I don't care! Just tell me whose pack you use so I hit the right volumes.

ME: Mich? Get Anthony's pack over to Joe and Nancy pronto.

Nancy gets the pack from Anthony, plugs it in ... we get signals from Joe.

ALL CREW: Yea! It works! The show is saved! (or something like that)

JOE: Hey, I'd love to stay and celebrate, but I've got a song to sing. Give my love to Anthony. (or something like that)

And that, my friends, was only ACT I last night!

Post date/time reflects the original posting at the now defunct phillyblogs. Posted here on Aug 2, 2005.

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