When the stage manager sends in an understudy

Already Calm I'm The Stage ManagerSo I recently injured my back in a way which is not too serious (I hope) but it means I can’t really take any chances with it for a while either. Which means not really lifting anything and not camping on anything which isn’t as smooth as Anne Hathaway’s tummy.

Which meant I had to turn down a long-standing booking to stage manage some artistes including the Mediæval Bæbes at a summer jousting event lasting four days in all. It would have meant camping (on a rough forest floor) and lifting stuff on and off stage repeatedly. It’s an annual gig that I’ve worked before and I’m always delighted to be asked back.

But this year the sensible thing to do was to pass, rather than turn up and be useless, or worse, not be useless right up until the point that I was injured and then be a real nuisance.

I figured it was best that I give the organisers a brief run-down on what I actually do there so that they could draft someone in and give then a fighting chance.

It also occurred to me that Catherine was going to this event. She is normally next to the stage selling merchandise for the artistes, but when she’s not at this annual jousting event (or doing her actual proper job) she does know her way around a stage and is familiar with most of what I do when I’m SMing. Plus she has crewed on stage so is no stranger to the environment. So maybe, just maybe I should just send her in my place (I figured they could easily get someone else to sell DVDs and T-shirts).

She was convinced it was a difficult job. Until I gave her the briefing. This is the gist of it, see what you think:

What does the Woodland Stage stage manager do:

  1. The most important task is keeping everything running to time. This usually means rounding up the artistes in plenty of time, making sure the stage is set according to their needs (and swept) and getting them on on the dot of their allotted start time.
  2. It also means ensuring that they understand the importance of finishing their slot on time and being prepared to ask them to stop if they try and overrun.
  3. Timing is essential since large numbers of audience will want to move from the Woodland Stage area to the Jousting area and the timings allow for this, only if they are stringently adhered to.
  4. Preparing the stage can mean anything from just clearing everything off it and sweeping it, to a full set up for the Bæbes. With the Bæbes it is important to know what the differing requirements are for their two different sets (if doing 2). For instance different instruments in different positions. They will advise and help.
  5. Ensuring that the public and all those not associated with stage performances do not come back-stage. There is a dressing room in which artistes need to feel comfortable getting changed.
  6. The dressing room also need a certain amount of cleaning. It is particularly important to remove any leftover food or plates, drinks etc. to reduce the impact posed by wasps.
  7. Ensure that the dressing room is well stocked with water bottles which can be requested from control.
  8. Ensure the safety of performers whilst on or back stage. Pointing out trip hazards, making or requesting repairs when necessary.
  9. Be calm and soothe anxious performers. Help them resolve any problems as efficiently and as drama-free as possible.
  10. Ensure that all performers are thanked on leaving the stage and congratulated, praised etc. Performers egos can be delicate and your reassurance will be appreciated.

What does the stage manager need to have:

  1. If nothing else, they need a large easily visible accurate clock. I have one the prefect stage-manager’s clock which I sent with Catherine (or they can be picked from Argus for £20).
  2. A broom which can be supplied from the site crew. (Once acquired, never relinquish. The broom is power!)
  3. An up to date version of the running order, preferably written or typed out in large print and displayed near to the above-mentioned clock backstage.
  4. Notepad and pens. Things change. Messages will be left. Signs will need to be created on the fly. So have a portable stationery kit with lots of A4 paper and Sharpies.
  5. But most importantly the stage manager has to have an air of calm.

As soon as the event is over, I’ll add a note of how she did, but the first day has gone well, so I might well be out of a job!

Posted in Technical | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Sleeping on a welcome bomb

Oxygen Under The Bed!So it’s been pointed out to me that I’m now basically sleeping on a bomb. This doesn’t worry me, in fact it’s rather comforting. Now before those lovely chaps in black jump out of helicopters and land on the roof I should perhaps explain.

Or perhaps not if it’ll give the neighbours in my road some excitement.

Oh all right, I’ve teased you enough with a tasty crumb and so you deserve a hearty mouthful.

You see as one or two of you know, I get some naughty little headaches now and again. They’re actually called “Cluster headaches” and they’re evil little buggers. Think of it as a migraine on acid, or if that metaphor doesn’t help, then how about a heavyweight boxing champion, trapped inside your head and using the back of your eyeball as a punchbag. That one generally works for me.

However a chance encounter many years ago with a tiny little baby doctor (she looked about 12 but I was sure she’d grow into her stethoscope one day) made me realise that oxygen was like a magic potion, giving almost instant results. Five minutes of breathing pure O2 was enough to relieve a pain that had gone on for days and was causing me to think seriously about head removal (which is of course pointless, since technically, one doesn’t chop of one’s head, one chops off one’s body. The head is still you. You’d go through the whole decapitation process and still have a headache). You see, I’d thought this through.

So anyway, all I needed to do was to get my GP to prescribe O2 and all would be hunky dory. Well apparently not. Some GPs think that they cannot prescribe O2. Some wonder if you’ve tried maybe taking an aspirin instead. Some like to ask if it’s tension. Some, unreassuringly reach for Google.

Eventually a few weeks ago I sat and chatted with a neurologist. I tried to convince him that they weren’t actually clusters because mine don’t really fit the standard pattern. He fired millions of questions at me and told me that they really were. And why wasn’t I using O2?

And then from out of the blue, just the other week, I was told it would be delivered the next day. No fuss, just wait in and a van will deliver two whopping great cylinders of the stuff. And it did. And once the first one is empty, I just phone or email and they’ll deliver more if I leave the empty outside.

Occasionally we have visitors come to stay and they use my bed. I think legally I’m now supposed to give them a Health and Safety briefing before bedtime. I foresee a PowerPoint presentation on the horizon.

Toodle pip.

Posted in Personal | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Time for just one more …

Tim Brooke-TaylorI was fortunate enough recently to be working at “An Evening With” type event, where a guest was interviewed in front of a mostly, alive, theatre audience. I was the venue’s sound and AV engineer for the event, not a taxing job by far; just two radio mics and two back-ups and a sequence of video clips to play on cue.

The interviewer was computer history nerd and That’s Lifer Chris Serle and the interviewee was the wonderfully comic entertainer, all round Goodie and regular I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue panalist, Tim Brooke-Taylor.

T’was a fascinating evening with chat and banter interspersed with wonderful video clips, some dating back to before I was born.

And of course the interval drinks were followed by a selection of questions from the audience. Now, being a public-spirited sort of chap, I didn’t want to run the risk of him running out of questions. It can be embarrassing when nobody actually asks anything. So, to be sure of there being at least something to answer, I jotted a couple down. Well three actually. I wasn’t particularly expecting them to be answered, it was more so that there was something to answer if they were in short supply.

My three questions were:

From a lifelong “James” who has never been a “Jim”, have you ever been tempted to adopt the far posher moniker of “Timothy”?
Or indeed, “Monica”?

Dear Bill,
During any of these fascinating ornithological evenings, have you ever been tempted to pose a question, as if it had come from Mrs Trellis of North Wales?

And that question comes from a Mrs Trellis of North Wales.

Do the all-too-frequent hikes in Samantha’s appearance fee, in any way cause an effect on the quality of the panellists afforded?

I needn’t have feared, for there was a plentiful supply of questions.

And they even picked out one of mine, the first one.

It later transpired as we were chatting afterwards, that he and I, not only grew up very near to each other, but also experienced a very similar educational start in life, by effectively being the wrong sex in an almost, single-sex school!


Posted in Technical | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ingress Portal : Tapsell Lychgate

Tapsell LychgateMy latest portal to be approved is this lovely Lychgate, which can be found at Church Walk, Weston Turville.

One of the last surviving gates of its kind this lychgate was renovated in 2004. Found mainly in Sussex, Tapsell gates were named after a Sussex family of bell-founders, one of whom (according to Wikipedia) invented them in the late 18th century.

Posted in Day out | Tagged | Leave a comment

Sometimes, I’m misunderstood you know!

buns with creamOccasionally, although very rarely, I mistakenly get misunderstood. It can happen very easily as the following example from earlier today clearly demonstrates:

Waitress :
(in the cafe where I was quietly enjoying a cup of coffee, who was attending to a food spillage at the next table)

Oh do excuse me, sticking my bum in your face.

Me :
(instantly and simultaneously realising two things, those being A) that she really did have a very cute little bum indeed and B) that it was imperative that any answer I gave shouldn’t come across as pervy or smutty. Therefore, and being quick of thought, I decided to completely redirect the course of the conversation, thus rather cleverly avoiding any pitfalls of smut. My chosen topic upon which to converse, was the nearby display of cakes. What could possibly go wrong?)

Of course those buns would look lovely with a big dollop of cream on them.

I have no idea why she gave me the look that she did!

Posted in Personal | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Backing up my MySql data

Please excuse this rather uninteresting blog post, I just wanted somewhere to store a copy of this bash script which backs up my MySql data.

# *=================================================================*
# * Filename : backupsql.sh *
# * Purpose : To backup all MySQL data to file 'backup.sql' *
# * Author : James McCann *
# * Last updated on : Monday 13th December 2014 *
# * Last updated at : 22:45 *
# *=================================================================*

echo "===================================================================================================="
echo " M y S Q L d u m p "
echo "===================================================================================================="
ls -l -ltr *.sql
echo ""
echo "Below, enter the MySQL root password."
mysqldump -u root -p --events --ignore-table=mysql.event --all-databases > backup.sql
echo ""
ls -l -ltr *.sql
echo ""
echo "===================================================================================================="
toilet "* * * F I N I S H E D * * *" --gay --termwidth
echo "===================================================================================================="
echo ""

Please try not to be too distressed by the “toilet” line, it simply prints text using large characters made of smaller, pretty characters, as in this example.

Quote | Posted on by | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Crafty Paper Chains for Christmas

I know!! Me, doing an “arts and crafts” blog post!! “How ridiculous” I hear you scream into your morning tea as you dunk a Ladyfinger and I thoroughly agree with you. But bear with me, let’s see where this is going shall we?

As a child, one of the things I loved about Christmas was paper-chains. We used to buy those packets of gummed paper strips that you licked and stuck together. Of course the glue was always too weak or one licked it too hard and the chains would break at some inopportune moment. But then I realised a much better way to make paper-chains and it is this method which I shall now describe to you.

What you’ll need

The basic material is simply rolls of crepe paper. I used to buy these as a child from Woolies, but they are a little harder to find in the shops and so of course I turn to eBay.

The rolls I bought are called Streamer Serpentin and come from Unique Industries of Philadelphia. Each roll is 81 feet x 1.75 inches (which is 24.6m x 4.45cm for those who care about the metric system. For what it’s worth, I do not.)


They used to only be available in the primary colours plus yellow and white, but now there is a whole range of colours, even black, as that last link should show you.

IMG_20141125_172111You will also need a ruler, pen or pencil, scissors and a stapler.

I chose four: Hot Pink, Baby Blue, Lime Green and Hot Yellow (basically red, blue, green, yellow) with each one costing me £1.23 including postage. Out of the packet they look like this:


What you’ll do

IMG_20141125_172548Select one of the rolls and simply mark every eight inches. For speed, I put a correction fluid mark on the ruler eight inches from the actual end of the ruler. This makes for much fast marking.

IMG_20141125_174709If you want to, you can do this on all four rolls, but I only marked one.

Then you simply take the ends of all four rolls and cut at the marks.

IMG_20141125_181150This should leave you with a large colourful pile of eight inch strips.

Next comes the hardest bit, deciding on a sequence. I’m a little bit CDO (it’s like OCD but all the letters are in alphabetical order). You could of course choose to do a rainbow, but that presents you with the problem of what to do at the end (repeat or reverse the rainbow)? I opted instead for a sequence that simply looked nice.


Then just staple your first chain link and start adding to your chain. You could use sticky tape or glue, but I’ve found a stapler to be far quicker and the staples hardly show.

Remember to stop and measure how much you’ve done from time to time. 4 x 81 foot rolls will give you 81 feet of chain so you might want to make shorter lengths. Some of mine will be going around a child’s bedroom (she doesn’t know it yet) and some around mine for old time’s sake.

And there you have it.

The Health and Safety bit

  • The crepe paper will choke you to death if you eat it.
  • The packaging will suffocate you if you hold it over your face.
  • The ruler hurts if someone whacks you on the bottom with it.
  • The pen will indelibly mark your white walls and you’ll have to move house to escape it.
  • The scissors will stab you if you let them.
  • The stapler will never make you a goth no matter how many staples you put through your fingers.
  • The paper chains will burn your house down and you’ll all die if you put them near hot lights or naked flames.
  • And the tea will instantly destroy your Ladyfinger if you attempt to dunk it and will equally destroy any other Ladyfinger that you use to try and get the first one out.

Enjoy Christmas responsibly and fit a smoke detector.

Posted in Personal | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments