Taking Stock of the designandtechtheatre Blog

Those who have followed this blog will remember that I am a faculty member in the Theatre Department at a small regional Liberal Arts College in central Iowa and that I started this blog as a way to share any discoveries and revelations that I hoped to make during my sabbatical during the spring of 2012.  That sabbatical is now over. While on sabbatical I researched a number of newer lighting technologies that budgetary, resource, and schedule limitations at my school prevent me from adequately exploring under normal circumstances.

I began this blog in December of 2010 in preparation for the then-granted sabbatical scheduled to begin January 2012.  In that first year I wrote 13 blog posts (a little over one per month).   By contrast, between early January when my sabbatical leave began and late June when I took what was to evolve into nearly a 3-month hiatus, I wrote 46 blog entries and over 3300 words.  I am surprised to realize that this amounts to an estimated 132 pages of text.

I am a firm believer in visual images.  As numerous contributors to the Stagecraft Mailing list (on which I am a continual lurker and sometimes poster, and about which I have written in earlier entries in this blog) have said: “If there aren’t pictures, it didn’t happen”.  With this in mind, most of the blog posts contain several images: process photos, research photos, photos of materials, products and tools, photos of productions and finished products, graphs, charts and drawings.  I estimate that 1/4 or more of the physical content of each blog consist of such imagery.  As I review the content of the posts since my sabbatical leave began, I find that they cluster into several categories.

Of these posts, the bulk, 23,  deal directly with theatrical lighting.  The Lighting posts cover a wide range of subjects.  6 posts cover introductory material describing principles and processes that a lighting designer must be familiar with.   A 12-post series examines a basic system for lighting a sample stage space and explains the logic, planning and paperwork used by me for each step of the process.  A 3-post series (this series is incomplete and will one day expand to 6 or more posts) examines the DMX protocol and some of the capabilities and gear used in the industry to allow lighting control, dimmers and fixtures to communicate.  One of the posts examines the step-by-step procedure for repairing the burnt-out socket on an Altman Q-light, while another examines the lighting aesthetic, gear and effects of a major rock concert that I attended at Des Moine’s Wells Fargo Arena during the sabbatical.

9 of them document the process of designing scenery for two different productions for two different community theatre organizations.  4 of these examined the design and production (including construction) of scenery for The Quiet Man for Winterset Stage.  4 more entries covered the design and production of the setting for The Divine Sister for Stage West at Des Moines Civic Center’s Stoner Theatre.  An initial post described the circumstance of engaging the 2 projects within hours of one another and briefly outlined each project.

8 of the posts documented the process of remodeling my kitchen during the summer of 2010.  While the work was long finished before my sabbatical, I was caught up in the challenge that I set for myself of trying to document the techniques and materials that I used for the project, and in doing so in a clear, precise way.  I also intentionally tried to draw a connection between the skills that our students learn in constructing scenery and how many of those skills can be translated into lifelong pursuits beyond the theatre application.  Incidentally, one of these posts received the only directl feedback that any of my blog posts has received when a reader wrote to thank me for explaining the installation of glass tile backsplash.

Among the remaining blogs were topics as wide-ranging as: the process of creating a prop telescope for a 2010 production of The Learned Ladies for Theatre Simpson, the repair of an antique Windsor chair, musings concerning sabbatical volunteerism and service to community and a travelogue describing my attendance at the annual United States Institute of Technology (USITT) convention held in late March at the Staples Center in Long Beach California.

As I reflect upon all that was accomplished in this blog, I am also reminded of the many things that were not accomplished or that remain unfinished.  In addition to the unfinished series on DMX 512, I have not documented much of the research that I accomplished in the areas of LED lighting technology, lighting control consoles, or of moving light technology.  I have not even begun to record in this blog the many worthwhile and informative workshops that I attended at the USITT Long Beach convention, nor the interesting and important things that I learned from them.  I have not written up the observations that came from attending 3 additional rock concerts (all featuring the same band) in 3 wildly different venues, and on the impact that those experiences has had on my regard for some of the technologies involved,  nor have I recounted the demo session that I attended at a local lighting distributer of ETC lighting equipment.  In short, there is a lot of outstanding material left to share!

Even though there is a lot going on in my department and at my school right now, I am making the commitment to continue this Blog indefinitely.  I can probably only commit to an entry a week (rather than the target of 3 per week that I made and regularly hit weekly during the height of my sabbatical.)  In future posts I hope to share some of the research and insights described above, as well as share any new and developing events and discoveries that may be made along the way.  I will continue to strive to illustrate my commentary with informative images and graphics as well as to populate the text with meta-links to salient interweb sites.

 That’s enough for now! Have fun!  Be safe!




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