Monday, October 25, 2010

A Fantasmic Night!

Last week I was an extremely happy and lucky guy: I got to sit in the control booth during a performance of Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios!

It was definitely an out-of-this-world experience. The stage manager could not have been nicer when I met her the previous week, and when she offered me the opportunity to sit in with her during a show, I knew it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up.

I arrived at the Fantasmic theatre at 6:30 for a 7:00 show. I met the stage manager near the control booth at the back of the theatre. Inside the control room, I met Adam (in charge of show control,) Mike (in charge of fire,) Steve (in charge of lights,) as well as Dan (who is usually a spotlight operator.)

The control room itself was very cool. There were video screens and computer monitors everywhere, tracking everything from lights, temperature, wind and humidity. They check all of these things to make sure everything will be safe when it comes to all of the pyro and fire effects.

At about 10 minutes before showtime, the stage manager did a headset check to make sure everybody on headset could hear her. She also did a spot check to make sure all of the spotlight operators were in position and ready. Dan, who was supposed to be spot 4, sat in the booth because the instrument wasn't working.

The stage manager then waited for a call from the backstage manager that the green room was clear. Looking at the stage, the SM could tell that it wasn't quite dark enough yet for Mickey's entrance to work, so she held for 5 minutes. She then called places/5 minutes to showtime.

Soon, the show started with that famous musical intro everybody knows. Mickey popped up onstage, and the fun began. It was really cool to see the show with a perfect view of everything, as well as to be able to look at different backstage and onstage views from various cameras around the theatre, on screens in the control booth.

The SM's job was mainly to warn and call spotlight cues. The sound, lights and water effects are all pre-cued in the show control system, and it was Adam's job to make sure everything was synced up. Mike controlled all of the pyrotechnics and fire effects, following his own prompt book.

During the run of the show, I did witness some conflict resolutions. At one point, it appeared that one of the monkey performers fell down on the floating barge, so the SM called backstage to find out what happened. It turned out to be a costuming issue, and was nothing serious. Other minor conflicts that arose were also due to costuming issues, so the SM made notes to try to fix these problems before the second show that evening.

I did learn that the SM is trained backstage first, so they know how everything works. There is a lot to coordinate backstage, since many of the show's effects involve safety precautions for both actors and crew.

The show finally came to a close, and it was pretty much a smooth, flawless run (minus a few costuming issues.) The dragon worked, and all of the sound and lights were on cue.

I am most definitely thankful to the wonderful stage manager who helped set up this amazing opportunity for me. It was a night I will never forget!


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