What is That Burning Smell?

It's 10:30pm and time for photo call. We're just had a lovely performance of a wonderful play that is getting great reviews and has a really stellar cast. I love working on this show. Yes it may be prop heavy, in rep with two other shows, and require the hanging of many many curtains over and over, but it's a great play and the people never complain about anything.


So it's time for photo call. We have about an hour to do about 14 or so shots. Photo calls are almost always after a performance. They usually consist of key moments of the play chosen by the director to archive the production and to use as future promotional material.

We're working hard, setting up props and scenery, trying to rush through it quickly to get the actors out of there so that myself, the stage manager and the production assistant can go ahead and pull down the curtains and head on home. We've got two more shots to go when someone notices a funny smell. It smells like burning gel.

We've had the lights on for longer than normal and these instruments are getting a lot of use, since this show reps with two others. It's entirely possible that a gel is getting all melty. First thing we do is kill the lights, then pull out a 15 foot ladder and the stage manager climbs up with a flashlight to look at the grid. We can't see anything wrong, so I run up to the booth and bring up the lights. We can smell the smell, but we can't find it. We've been holding photo all for 10 minutes at this point and everyone is looking at their watches.

So here are our options. We could stop and try and get the two shots tomorrow after we find out what is going on. We could scrap those shots. Or we could risk it and keep going, and make it as safe as we can.

So we surround the stage with fire extinguishers and we keep on going. I'm on stage right, ready to spring into action, while the PA is on stage left, and the other actors are hovering around ready to help if something goes horribly wrong.

The rule of theatre is that anything that can happen, will happen. But that night we got lucky. We snapped the last two shots, killed the lights, reset the five fire extinguishers, and headed on home. They never did figure out what caused the smell.

Tools of the Trade


16 comments:

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The life of a backstage theatre worker is often filled with insane stories, divas, injuries, freak outs, stage blood, quick changes, disasters and epic tales of success.
I get to live this life, moving from theatre to theatre, show to show. This is my diary.