Hello Smirkus Family,
Today the Troupers added evening rehearsals in addition to all of their day classes. However, believe it or not, this post isn’t about how hard Troupers have been training (though they are training incredibly hard) but rather the scoop on a behind the scenes thing that you might not otherwise get to see: lighting. Lighting illuminates the dark, directs focus, and can change the whole mood of a tent. Yet, with troupers training in the Chapiteau from early morning through to the night, it can be difficult to find a time to get the lights set up.
That’s why yesterday, as Troupers were headed off to their trailers, the tech team headed over to the Chapiteau to begin unloading lights. Des Brownlee, the lighting technician, harnessed in and began climbing up a long rope ladder to the tippy-top of the tent. Here, in the cupola as it’s called, she would stay for the rest of the night as she worked to hang the lights. The cupola is located at the center of the tent, 30 feet above the ground. From up here, all she can make out is the tops of the far away heads of those below her. Someone who is afraid of heights or tight spaces might consider what Des does crazy, but she’s afraid neither of the height nor the close working quarters. In fact, Des says that she has worked on lighting grids that were much higher even than this.
Once Des is securely in the cupola, she lowers down a rope. On the ground, people work to clamp the first light to it and attach the safety. Then, it is slowly lifted up to her using a pulley system. Anthony Powers, the lighting designer, works from the ground to direct Des in correctly placing the light. This will go on, light by light until all of the lights have been hung. Finally, around one in the morning, they are done with their work for the night. But that’s not to say they’re all done; the lights still aren’t attached to power. Tonight, this will happen as the lights are attached to cables and tomorrow night will be spent focusing the lights. It’s an intensive process but luckily it only happens once a year. With each raising and lowering of the tents as we move from site to site, the lights are left in the cupola and move with the canvas.
Lights are just one aspect of all of the work that goes into creating a show behind the scenes. Props are being constructed, costumes sewn and trucks readied to head down the road. Demonstrating their many talents, Troupers often pitch in with these tasks in between classes, doing some stitching here and some painting there. Putting a show like this together is truly a group effort. Each person brings unique skills to the table, working their hardest with those skills to make the best possible show!
That’s all for now,