Hi my loves and happy Thursday!
When brainstorming content ideas for the month I thought of a new series for the blog called SM Stories. With theatre being MIA for the foreseeable future, I thought this would be a good way to keep theatrical content in the mix as well as recount some of my favorite theatre bar stories from the comfort (and safety) of my own home.
So without further ado...this month's SM Stories is on my experience with power outages as an ASM.
This story starts off in the middle of nowhere Indiana- where the weather is hot and the thunderstorms are frequent.
It's a perfectly clear day during a performance of Nunsense when the power went out. There were a few storms the night before and apparently they were working on cleaning up from the previous storms when they knocked it out. At first, it was only a partial power outage so after a brief hold, we continued the performance in emergency lights and work lights. Eventually the power went out all the way and we got the actors offstage and made sure they were comfortable before helping with the audience front of house. This power outage lasted a while but eventually it kicked back on and we finished the show.
The second power outage happened later that summer at a different summerstock on opening night of Murder for Two. It was a dark and stormy opening night (#YayHamlet) and I sent a text to my PSM (honestly an epic moment of reading each other's mind) since we had never officially talked about a plan. Moments later, the power went out. Marisa (the SM intern) and I each went out with our flashlights, grabbed the actor closest to us (it was a cast of two) and promptly escorted them offstage.
While the power had already turned back on by the time we got offstage, we had to make sure all things were working on the technical side before we started back up again. So we made sure the cast got water, was comfortable, and got to use the restroom (a luxury in this normally straight 90 minute show) while we waited. I turned the AC's back on because they didn't automatically kick back in when the power turned back on. We also let one of the actors go on and "vamp the crowd" while things were getting kicked back on.
The third power outage happened at the same theatre as the second, a summer later. It was a two show day at the Grand Hotel and I knew this one was coming. The crew was positioned offstage ready to grab the 20+ cast members onstage. Luckily we made it to intermission and everyone was safely in their dressing room when the power went out. Except this time it stayed off. And then it came back on. And then it went back out. We finally called the show and the cast was getting out of costume when it eventually came back on for a while. However, a huge tree had fallen on a power line and there was no telling whether or not it was staying on so the call remained the same. We left, the crew hit up Moes (in a downpour) and then we got the call they were cancelling the second show of the day as well.
So as you can tell, I have experienced my fair share of power outages and tbh I'm sure I'll experience at least a few more in my career.
Here are the lessons I learned and how you can prepare for a power outage during the show.
Always expect a power outage could happen -especially with bad weather.
Always have a STRONG flashlight on you (that's isn't your cellphone).
Always have a CHARGED phone on you and necessary phone numbers already in your phone-most headsets will go down so this was how I got in contact with my PSM. It is also super useful having all of crew's numbers in my phone and not having to try and look them up quickly in an emergency.
The small things matter. When the power goes out, the AC goes out. Offering cold washcloths to the cast goes a long way.
Talk about a plan before hand as much as possible with your entire crew (and cast if necessary). During Murder for Two, it was a small cast so the SM intern and I were able to get the cast offstage by ourselves. However, in larger musicals you might need additional help from crew. The cast usually knows to stay put if the power goes off, but it never hurts to remind them! Also don't forget about the orchestra who might be trapped upstage on a platform!
Be ready, be safe, be efficient. We made reviews with how fast we got the actors offstage during Murder for Two. You want to be safe but don't let the actors be stranded for any longer than they have to be.
Have you ever experienced a power outage during a show? Let me know your best tips in the comments below.
Much love always,