Parlando: The COC Blog


Behind the Scenes with Barney: The Fly Floor

[This is the sixth in a series of guest posts by Barney Bayliss, associate technical director. This post was written Oct. 10. To see all the posts in the series, click here]

It is the fifth performance of Aida tonight, and we open Death in Venice tomorrow. Two weeks between openings is a long time to wait, but both shows are going well now. Each time we open a newly produced show like Aida, I produce a book with all the technical details of the show. It’s called the Carpenter’s Book, because it will be used by the head carpenter any time the show is remounted, either in Toronto or if it goes anywhere else.  Sometimes it is called the Bible.

One of the first things I do when I am writing the Bible is to visit the fly floor and compare my original Hanging Plot to what the head flyman actually has hung after all the changes that have been made during production. The Hanging Plot is a list of all the system pipes showing what is to be hung on each pipe. I have attached a PDF of our current plot.  (Click here to see the PDF.)

The Four Seasons Centre has a manual counterweight fly system. There are 86 system pipes running across the stage from the house curtain to the back wall of the fly tower. Each system pipe has a capacity of 2,000 lb. If you want to fly some scenery that weighs 500 lb., you bring the empty system pipe as low as it will go, about five feet from the deck, attach the scenery to it, then load the counterweight arbour with 500 lb. of counterweight. With this balance, one person can fly any pipe where it needs to go. In Aida there are many flying pieces: The three Act Walls, the fluorescent lights above the bridge, the three backdrops used in act II, are all moved manually by flymen during the show. Show trims and storage trims are marked on the purchase line (the white rope which controls the position of the pipe) with coloured fabric tape. Very low tech and reliable.


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Behind the Scenes with Barney: The Changeover

[This is the fifth in a series of guest posts by associate technical director Barney Bayliss. This post was written Oct. 8. To read all the posts in the series, click here] 

Now that Aida is open, we get into a regular rhythm of changeovers and performances. We spend a lot of time planning the changeovers, estimating how long they will take and how many people we need. Generally, the crew needed for a changeover is larger than a show crew. And changeovers take up to five hours. So from a financial perspective, we spend more time and money doing changeovers than we do on shows. 

The change from Death in Venice to Aida is complicated by the fact that we need to drain the Death in Venice pool. We do this by cracking open the Aida trap steps, which creates a slightly deeper area in the pool, and pumping the water out with two sump pumps. The actual pumping takes about 40 minutes, but the drying the top liner, folding it, and then drying the bottom liner takes a lot longer, up to an hour and a half. Clearing the Death in Venice set away does not take long, less than half an hour, so we should be down to a clean Aida floor in less than two hours. 


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Behind the Scenes with Barney: Water Wreaks Havoc

[This is the fourth in a series of guest posts from Barney Bayliss, associate technical director. This post was written Oct. 5]

I just got back from a meeting with Cecily and Jennifer about my blog. I have never written a blog before, though I have written letters to people, journals, and diaries, so I am not completely new to the idea. Jennifer and Cecily wanted to talk to me about where they should put my blog. We decided that it should be a feature of Cecily’s existing blog, named Parlando, but if I decide to keep going with it, they would consider spinning me off into my own blogspace, maybe calling it Barnando.

So Aida is open and we are spending a couple of quiet days cueing Death in Venice during the day and rehearsing with the cast and orchestra at night. Cueing is a time-consuming and important job in which the director, lighting designer, stage manager, and set designer step through every lighting cue so they can set the timing and the levels. English people often call this process “setting levels” which is more descriptive of the actual process. In order to cue a show properly, you need to have all the right scenery on stage, have the auditorium dark just like a real performance, and have the whole show crew available to set the scenery and props, adjust the lights, and so on.

On the Monday of our fourth week in the theatre, we cleared the Aida set from the stage and loaded the Death in Venice set back in from the rehearsal hall on Front Street. In order to clear Aida we have to land the 5.5-ton bridge onto eight dollies and push it by hand into the Stage Right wing. Then we pack the rest of the Aida scenery tightly into the upstage wing. Unfortunately, on this change we had to leave room for the painters to get at many of the Aida pieces.


Posted by Barney Bayliss / in Behind the Scenes / comments (1) / permalink

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Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001



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