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Best Little Followspot Op in Texas

Richard Cadena • Answer Box • June 6, 2007

I’m a pretty good followspot operator but I’m not a very good mind reader. During a production of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas in Austin, Texas the stage manager was calling followspots in rapid-fire succession as the girls descended the matching grand stairways stage left and stage right at the top of the show. We had a second or two to locate our target on a very busy stage, pick her up, and fade up on cue. A second or so later we had to douse the followspot and start searching out our next target, again picking her up in a very short span of time. Two spot ops were alternating fading up and down as the cues were called. Never having had the opportunity to read the script, much less put names to faces, neither I nor the other followspot op had a clue who we were supposed to pick up when the cues were called. Consequently, the first couple of rehearsals were probably the biggest train wreck I’ve ever been associated with.

That night we worked until after midnight, and even though we had a 6:00 a.m. call the next day, I couldn’t sleep at all that night. I was too upset about the day’s events. Then, at around 3:00 a.m., the solution popped into my head. I hopped out of bed and went to find my video camcorder. I plugged it in to make sure the batteries were charged.

The next morning I took it into the theatre and set it up on a tripod right next to my followspot. At the first available opportunity, I videotaped the part of the rehearsal in question. At the next available opportunity, I got the other followspot operator and the stage manager together and we watched the videotape. We played it back repeatedly and dissected the cues. In about 15 or 20 minutes, we managed to do what the director had neglected to do — get the names, faces, and cues matched up so that everyone knew exactly where their subject was at all times.

The very next rehearsal, and in every subsequent runthrough after our meeting, we nailed every followspot cue. It felt good to be in command instead of in a fog  

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