The turntable set broke during the production of "A Flea in Her Ear" last Friday.
"If something is on stage you can't really stop it. You just do what you can," said senior theatre major Clarence Wilson. He operated the fly rail during the show and got an aerial view of the halted turntable. It broke after the second pivot it made that evening.
The scene design had two different settings, the home of Monsieur Chandebise and the Frisky Puss Hotel. In order to change settings, the entire set had to pivot on a turntable. This usually received "ooos and ahhs" from the audience.
After about seven minutes of delay, during intermission, to fix the problem, eight crew members, including Wilson, had to physically push the 8,000 pound set into its correct place. The turntable was fixed later that night.
Wilson, on the fly rail, has had problems of his own too. During a production of "A Flea in Her Ear," something on the rope of the chandelier caused it to snag. Because it was onstage, the entire audience saw and heard a jolt.
"There was nothing I could do once it got on stage," Wilson said. He also felt lucky that it was during intermission and hoped the audience did not pay too much attention.
Challenges of live performance are bound to happen, said the production assistant Joseph Samuel Wright. His challenges are a little different than the students that work on the show for class credit. He oversees the deck crew, communicates with the actors and works with others affiliated with the show.
In this position, he has dealt with a crew member not showing up for a matinee and several actor injuries. During a dress rehearsal James Carpenter was coming down a backstage ladder and fell eight feet onto his back. Wright said dealing with this problem was tough because he wanted to be present and help Carpenter, but unobtrusive while he was in pain.
"I think the challenge is being in a position that is partly leadership and partly subordinate." As a student starting his fourth year in the fall, he knows that he is in charge of many students, but has to answer to adults that have been doing this for years.
The scenic designer, Ron Keller, had a few challenges of his own during the build of the set. Head of Design at Virginia Commonwealth University, Keller traveled from Virginia to design the show for his old college roommate and director Calvin MacLean.
"The best part is meeting and working with new and old friends," said Keller. On the other hand, designing a set does not come without its challenges as well. The design had to be shrunk because it went over budget, said Keller. He said, even after that, the designers and technical staff had to watch every expense and make choices that were cost effective.
"Often times it is not that things go wrong, but the stress gets to everyone," said Keller. After a five month experience of planning, not including the planning that took place to pick the show at the end of the 2005-2006 season, all the designers and technical staff were ready for the production to have its run, said Keller.
During the rehearsals and run of "A Flea in Her Ear," both Wright and Keller had other theatre related things going on. Wright was working on his upcoming vocal recital and directing the "Vagina Monologues" for a production in the University Center. Keller was still busy planning for his upcoming season at VCU in the fall.
"You prioritize and make decisions based upon the priorities," said Keller. Like Wright, he believed that every production has its issues and you must deal with them.
"The show is like an organism and when a part of the organism is wounded, we all pull together to make it work," said Wright. Wright plans to participate in productions next season.
Wilson, a graduating senior, hopes to carry his knowledge of dealing with problems into his future. He said, at first it is nerve wracking knowing that something has gone wrong, but he knows how to better handle situations and hopes to do well in the future.