“Creative Conners, this is Royal speaking. How can I help you?” That was Wednesday morning at our Rhode Island workshop. Fast forward 24 hours and we find Royal crossing the Hudson on I-95 headed for Delaware with a 5hp motor, shiny red gantry crane, crates of tools & parts, and a directive to help The Resident Ensemble Players (REP) smooth out the kinks in their automated set for Faust.
Loaded Up in Rhode Island
In just one day our Product Engineer went from a phone call about a bigger motor, to next day on-site motor delivery and 2-days of hired technical support. By the end of the second day, not only was a 2hp motor swapped out for a 5hp older sibling, but also a solution to a seemingly insurmountable noise problem was found, as well as a thorough re-cueing of the show to achieve more accurate positioning.
We wouldn’t do this kind of last minute hustle for just anybody. Well, okay, the truth is we do this whenever possible, but we are particularly happy to help out our oldest customer. The REP at the University of Delaware placed the very first order with us back in 2005. Still getting good use out of the original Stagehands and Pushsticks (cue applause), the REP production staff installed the gear to automate two wedge shaped wagons around a circular center stage platform for their upcoming show, Faust.
Faust Set at REP
A clever set design, yes, but the devil is in the details, and in this case Mephistopheles showed himself in the form of friction and noise. At load-in Keith & John, Technical Director and Asst. Technical Director, discovered their smaller 2hp motor was not up to the task, and wisely initiated the distress call to us with a rush order of the 5hp motor, but soon added a request for in person assistance trouble shooting potential Stagehand problems as well as an overview of the entire rig.
Panels Open to Access Pushsticks in the Pit
Upon arrival, and after a successful motor transplant for the Pushstick, Dr. Royal determined the Stagehands were fine, but the rig of the wagons had a distinct devil to exorcise: noisy bearings which had been over stabilized to the point of creating too many friction points. Keith and John had been on the right track to replace their wire rope with something that would generate less friction, but unfortunately the product they picked wasn’t as smooth as it needed to be.
New Tek-12 Rope Descends to the Pushsticks in the Pit
Royal recommended switching to a high strength, low stretch, urethane coated Tek-12 rope in addition to reducing the number of the bearings the rope contacted. This combination successfully cast out enough evil friction spirits that the 5hp motor could easily overcome the remainder.
Saturday morning, while watching the automation operator, CJ, go through the cues in Spikemark to test the new quieter and less stressed motion, Royal observed that the cueing could be reworked to become both simpler and more accurate. Never touching the keyboard himself, Royal guided the operator through re-cueing the show from the ground up. He advised the best practice for setting up the show in Spikemark, where to call zero position, and clarified the details of position scale. The operator, experienced in Spikemark, absorbed the advice quickly and had a new show file ready to run that same morning.
A scene from heaven. Faust at REP.
So while God may not be entirely pleased with actions of Mr. Faust, the good people at REP can take comfort knowing the only devils in this production are embodied by actors, and not in their stage mechanics.