Technically Speaking: All of the Lights

First a confession: I went to prom all four years of high school. I was a player.

But enough about me, you want to hear my sage advice about how to handle pulling the lights for your next improv show. I’m going to be honest, the scariest part about working tech is knowing when to end the set. But let’s go over some quick tips and tales that should make you feel more at home when darkness falls.

Tip #1: Watch more sitcoms

Seriously. The two best examples I can think of are Saved by the Bell and Degrassi: The Next Generation. Pulling lights requires the tech to judge the natural moment when the set is over. In your typical teen show, this is accomplished by a freeze frame.

Learning to find the right moment takes practice, but can typically be accomplished listening to the audience. A big laugh can be a simple cue to pull lights. Also be on the lookout for patterns and callbacks. Ending the show on one of these can highlight the structure of the set and makes the folks onstage look like geniuses, WHICH IS YOUR #1 GOAL.

Tip #2: Keep it simple

You may or may not have a light board at the venue your teching. If you don’t, great. If you do, ignore it. Come in before the show and have all your lighting in place early. That way, pulling lights is all about turning the lights on and off. Fade-outs rarely work and confuse more than excite. There should be a black-out or blank switch on your light panel, use it like you would an impressionable young med student.  Most likely you’ll be handling music at the same time as lights so you want to reduce the amount of button and clicks you need to 2 or 3 at most.

And now a story.

I was handling tech at the Shadowbox theater in New Orleans for the Megaphone Marathons. On stage were Milo and Shyla, a troupe I adore and the inspiration for the troupe I’m currently in, Vietnomnomnom.  They were reaching the end of their set and had just had an insanely madcap scene involving some nasty sex stuff. The scene after that was pure silence. For three minutes Milo and Shyla stared at each other to increasing laughter from the audience. I was freaked. The set was going out of time and at this point in my tech “career” I was always looking for a laugh line to end the set on. But this WAS the end of the set. The perfect emotional conclusion to what had just transpired.  But I just couldn’t do it. They did another scene, found a great laugh point, and pulled the lights.

Which leads me to my final tip…

Tip #3: Trust your instincts

This is not a science. If it was I probably would have failed it by now. You have to remove the fear of screwing up the show from your thought process. Be prepared for your first few cuts to be off the mark, but with time and trust in yourself, you’ll be pulling lights like a rock star in no time.

Mikey DoDo out.