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Setting the stage for a night at the ball with Cinderella

Setting the stage for a night at the ball with Cinderella

By Evelyn Ryan
Dominion Post Staff Writer

LIGHTS AND AMPLIFIERS come with the band, but it's up to local stagehands to make sure the equipment is in place before the show begins.

At 11 a.m. Tuesday, you could spy four men in the catwalk above the WVU Coliseum floor, stringing lines that would suspend the lights and the amplifiers 40 feet high for the Cinderella concert that night.

That's not as easy as it might sound.

The weight must be carefully spaced to prevent the catwalk from twisting. And it must be balanced oIT speciOc points along the catwalk, 90 feel above the Coliseum floor, so that it's not too heavy at any one place.

Specialists known as "riggers" handle the job, nonchalantly strolling around the ceiling-high catwalk or crawling up a narrow ladder (that moves with each step) to the compression ring at the very top of the arena.

They appear very at-ease in this lofty atmosphere, but carefulness is part of the job description. A metal connector dropped from this height would leave a noticeable dent in the, basketball court (or fellow worker) below.

Members of International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 578, Morgantown, (IATSE) perform this breathtaking task at each of the concerts West Virginia University sponsors in the Coliseum.

Rigging, IATSE Vice President Bob Samuels reports, is not as easy as it sounds. You have to have a good head for heights, be able to handle the equipment, and be able to follow explicit instructions for tying off a suspension line.

That may sound simple.

But for Cinderella's concert, the sound equipment had to be a specific distance from the stage. But there was no way to just hang a line from the catwalk and tie the equipment on board. Instead, a Y-shaped rig was used to put the amplifiers in the right spot.

The IATSE local had six riggers working to get the ropes just where the lights and sound equipment needed them. Four worked under the roof, two on the floor. It took several hours before everything was sel. After the show, the lights and sound were dismantled almost before you knew it.

Between 30-40 local members were on the crew that got the show ready to go. Others crawling around the equipment were "roadies," traveling with the band. One roadie spent the concert atop the center light grid, providing special effects.

Four local members also spent the show aloft, sitting on the rear light grid opera ling baby spotlights. Six large spotlights back in the audience provided accents from the front.

"It really hasn't been a bad show to put together," Samuels said. The problems develop in moving the equipment from the seven tractor-trailers outside, since the trucks are too big to drive into the Coliseum.

The solution is to reload the equipment into smaller trucks, drive them into the building and unload offstage.

All of the rigging arrangements have been worked out before the equipment arrives, said Dan Batson, WVU physical plant estimator/coordinator.

"Dave Dial, our engineer, assesses how the rigging is done, where the weight-bearing points will be and determines where the lights will go," he said. "Every set-up is different."

Because of the way the Coliseum is built, care has to be taken not to overload any particular weight-bearing point. he explained. lf the plan won't work based on the Coliseum's structure, then changes will be made so the show can go on.

Light equipment can be strung from the catwalk, but sound equipment is generally anchored from the lop compression ring because it is heavier.

During a concert. the physical plant has specialists available to provide assistance. For example, an electrician is on stand-by in case of trouble.

Batson said people are not aware of the amount of electricity it takes lo present a show such as this one. The power demand of the lights, electronic musical instruments, sound equipment and control panels is high.

"The concert has to be aesthetically pleasing and it has to be safe," he said. "This is a cooperative effort between the university, the physical plant, the union and Eric Andrews' (concert) office."