I remember the first planning meeting for the WTF. I thought, this sounds wonderful, but is it possible. I knew we had an abundance of actors, but what about the technical crew? Do we have them? And if so, where are they? So, once the classes were listed, I was pleasantly surprised to see the wide array of workshop offerings. I wanted to take them all, but I knew the one I needed most was the Paint and Power tools workshop. I signed up and waited. Then I visited the WTF site. Quite often. I tell you I must’ve visited the website at least a hundred times before Friday, checking to see if it were really going to happen. “Surely, they will cancel it.” I thought. “Surely they will.” I checked and rechecked, but no changes were made. For the record, I’m not a pessimist; not by a far stretch. But the truth is, I had never been at any time in any shop with a female technical director…ever. Yet, on Friday, I attended a workshop with three Technical Directors and Set Designers, Jenni Becker, Ami Kirk Jones and Miyuki Su.
Day 1. The production meeting.
I arrived at the Studio Theatre on the campus of Meredith College and after the introductions, we had a production meeting with Alyson Colwell-Waber, who will be performing in the NC Dance Festival 2016. Alyson explained the vision of the dance. And while we were in the space, she marked the dance, which proved quite helpful. We discussed her needs and what materials we felt would be sturdy enough to maintain its shape, yet light enough for Alyson to lift and pull around the stage. After we discussed several sketches, we agreed on one that we felt would do the job. That was the end of day one.
Day 2. Rails, Stiles and Toggles. Oh my!
Do you know what rails, stiles and toggles are? If you’ve performed on a stage and stood on a platform, you do. We talked in great detail about their differences and why it’s important how they are built. On Saturday we built the platform. We learned the proper way to use the cordless drill. We also learned to use the miter saw and table saw. That’s what we used to cut the wood. You can never measure enough. And no two measuring tapes are alike. Use the same measuring tape/tool each time so that your numbers are accurate. I didn’t know that before, but now I do.
Day 3. Overcoming fear
We cut a steel pipes today and learned how to use the welding machine. This sounds easy, but I promise it is not. We discussed safety precautions at great lengths before we plugged in any of the tools. We had to wear long sleeves, high collar, leather gloves, safety glasses, safety earmuffs, and a clear shield face mask to use the saw to cut the metal. Speaking of gloves, did you know that some gloves are not made in women’s sizes? I wonder who decided we didn’t need proper fitting gloves. Probably the same person who decided we had no business in the shop. We need while welding, we used a welder’s hat. I might also add that we had to know the location of the fire extinguisher just in case. Ashley went up first. Measured and cut the pipe. I wasn’t nervous until I saw all those sparks flying around her as if she were a center piece on a cake for a July 4th celebration. Then just as I was about to exit for the bathroom, Ashley said, “Robin, you’re next! You can do it!” So I stepped up and tried it. There were indeed golden sparks flying all around me along with the support and encouragement of everyone else in that shot. And I did it. We did it.
Although, it was a lot of information packed into three days, I’m so glad that I was afforded the opportunity. I learned that being a woman in a shop isn’t easy, but it is very rewarding. We encouraged each other. The time flew by as we worked and talked about stockings, electrical current, protective hair styles, and correct terms for “thingy”. We laughed quite a bit at inside jokes that we all understand, but importantly, we celebrated the fact that this was a first for everyone. So if you happen to attend the Dance Conference and see Alyson on the stage, just know that we did that. Together, we built that!
On my way home, I shared my excitement with my husband. And I asked him if he understood how much of a game changer the festival was. WTF is not only a game changer for us, but it changes the game for everyone in the Triangle and beyond. We are here and we can do everything required to put up a show from page to stage. Imagine that!