“and the pinches from the stagehands, it’s the only quiet thing they do!”
Ready Follow One
Today we embrace the passing of old knowledge. Little bits and details and tricks that were learned before technology improved our situations and are no longer needed.
Back in the olden days, I ran a follow spot for rock and roll shows. I started as a diagonal back light but eventually got known for being pretty good and I moved up the ladder until I was Follow One, the main light on the main singer.
The light back then had a cool name: Strong Super Trouper. It could throw a beam of light one hundred yards, though we didn’t need to do that very often. Before the designers learned to flip a chain motor, these were the only front lights in the show.
Carbon-arc produced the light by pushing two rods together and they would arc with a bright light, just like a welder. Every thirty minutes, one had to replace the rods as they were reduced to slag. Today, there is a short-arc lamp inside the follow spots. I would sniff at how easy it is these days! These lamps last 2000 hours.
Skills no longer needed and gone, it is cool to remember how challenging it was to do the job.
I don’t think anyone will call the side wings in the theater “tormentors” any more. That slang goes all the way back to vaudeville when strippers used to torment the audience by hiding behind the side curtain, pretending to be naked. The top masking was called “teasers”. One might see it on old architecture blue prints but those days are gone.
Did you know that if you were unwind a rope made of manila that it would have a paper strand in it? It had the date and place of manufacture, so you knew how old the rope was when it got sold off of the docks from India or the Philippines. Those days are gone, rope is now synthetic.
Some thought that “theater” was the building and “theatre” was the activity. Maybe it was the US vs the UK. It was never settled, I doubt anyone is so romantic about it.
Once upon a time, it was bad luck to whistle in the theater. This might have two reasons: one, when we had gas lighting in the 1850s to the 1900s, if a flame went out it could be super dangerous and would make a whistling noise; the other was that sailors were often hired to fly the scenery and they used whistles to call things in and out, the same they used on the boats. Whistling in the theater at one time could mean dangerous things!
All those things are gone. Easily lost in history. Some might embrace the lore, after all theater is thousands of years old; certainly older than rock and roll.
Here is an old theater joke:
I begged and begged and finally got a part in the play. I had one line, “Hark, I hear the cannons.” Practicing all day, I tried, “HARK! I hear the cannons!” and “Hark, I HEAR the cannons”.
Finally the big day came and I made my entrance. BOOM goes the sound effect. And I said, “What the hell was THAT?”.
Break a leg and merde!
One thought on “Ready Follow One”
I absolutely love this essay! So fun, well-written, lots of lore and lingo, personal story. Nice!
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