I Want to Introduce You to One of My Heroes

So, if you’ve been following this blog for a while, you would have probably (Hopefully) read my blog posts about Lighting Design and Teaching. Well, I didn’t end up where I am by accident. I got here by working hard and loving what I do. Technically my degree is in Creative Writing, so most people think I’m going to be an English Teacher or a starving writer, but I’m not really using it in either of my jobs.

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RUN DAVE!

As a Lighting Designer and a Drama Teacher, I am one of those few who can actually say that I make my money through theatre. I started my career in community college and had only briefly worked backstage in a high school production my freshman year. Well, Until I met Dave.

Dave was my Theatre and ASL Teacher in Community College and, the first week of class, pointed at me and informed me that I was the Stage Manager. I loved it! I ended up finding myself drawn towards the lighting aspect of the stage, though, and that’s now what I introduce myself as. I have thought about doing an SM job at some point soon… I digress.

Dave is so amazing, though, beyond just being one of my Teachers. He is Director, Actor, and Writer with titles such as Rescuing Awen, Guild of Immortal Women, and Angakok.

Oh and he likes to float around under water breathing canned air. I only make it sound strange because I am hugely jealous at what he gets to do and see when he is going scuba Diving. More amazing than that, Dave is a PADI instructor at Seattle Scuba who is gay friendly and will teach you in ASL if that’s how you prefer to learn.

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Damn you, Dave.

So, if you want to check out more about my wonderful, director, mentor, fellow actor, and friend, you can check out his website here.

For now, let’s dive into his actual brain in this entry of…

end of MY rope

with David Alan Morrison

1) What do you like to do with your free time?

I have a lot of varied interests. I wish i could chalk it up to being an interesting man, but the truth is more mundane…I’m restless and A.D.D. I spend a lot of time directing community theatre, line dancing and 2-step (country/western dancing). I used to do quite a bit of scuba diving, but a while ago, my apartment burned down and I lost my equipment. I still haven’t replaced it all.
2) Are there any creative projects you are working on right now?

I’ve been doing two things: 1) making edits to my middle-grade book, RESCUING AWEN and 2) outlining a new book I’m working on. Unfortunately it’s going slowly, though. I keep getting hung up on how much (and what kind of) sex to put into a “romance”. (Thoughts, readers?)
3) Tell me about your books.
I would love to do that! I have four books out: a middle-grade book, RESCUING AWEN, a memoire, TRAVELS WITH PENNY; OR, TRUE TRAVEL TALES OF A GAY GUY AND HIS MOM; a Magical Realism, GUILD OF IMMORTAL WOMEN; and ANGAKOK, a gay-themed suspense thriller. RESCUING AWEN is one of my favorites – it’s about a sentient planet that is dying from pollution and ecological disaster. She gives a young Earthling super powers in an attempt to heal her. TRAVELS WITH PENNY is a popular one with women – especially mothers. It centers around coming to grips with the definition of “family” and how it effected my coming out process.
4) Give me the craziest drama you’ve experienced in your theatre career.

So many! Probably doing an original one-act in a local pub – we used the alley in back as our dressing room. Not only embarrassing, but the night it rained, it made for a very wet evening.
5) What is your interpretation of Satanists?

I’m not sure. I haven’t had enough exposure to know. I don’t believe in “hell” or “satan”, so I reject the idea that it is worshiping some kind of “evil spirit”. I also reject that it is akin to what some refer to as “Black Magic”. I think of realists; those who understand that for every YIN there is a YANG and every good deed, there is a bad. Which means Satanists can see the order in chaos; the sanity within the insanity of today’s world. Rather than throw personal power aside and let “Jesus Take The Wheel”, they choose to exercise their power of choice and forge their own way amongst the fucked up-ness we see around us. Am I right? What do I win? (Five Starts for Dave: 𖤐𖤐𖤐𖤐𖤐)
6) Do you have a religion you subscribe to?
I follow a belief system most people call “Pagan”. It’s actually a combination of traditional Paganism and Taoism . I believe that there is a series of events that we have no control over, as life is a complex combination of the fates of all humans. That belief, mixed up a devout belief that humanity is tied to our Earth – makes for an interesting lifestyle.
7) Which celebrity (dead or alive) is your dream man?

I’m not too picky – I have quite a few of “wanna haves”: although I must admit, 1970’s Burt Reynolds was pretty hot.
8) Tell me your favorite joke.

I can’t – it’s a joke I learned in American Sign Language and has no direct English translation. Besides – jokes are so firmly rooted in culture, that while Deaf people may think it’s hysterical, Hearing people won’t get it.
9) What is the most amazing thing you’ve seen while diving?

An ancient Sea Turtle who floated just feet from me, chowing down on some underwater plants. He seemed totally unfazed by me and my fellow divers. Such grace! The creatures are amazing.
10) What in your life are you most proud of?

I am *tremendously* proud of students who I have taught who have then gone on to great success. Whether it be using their theatre education, or sign language, I fill with pride when I hear from them and they tell me how I helped kick-start their future.

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Dave is really one of the best people I’ve ever met and can either be the nicest person in the world or a total bitch, depending on if he likes you or not. Or if he’s hungry… or hasn’t had a soda for a while… LOVE YOU, DAVE!

That’s it for now, kids! I’ll see you all tomorrow, a day further down the left hand path.

HS!

LH

I’m Having Some Issues at Work

Not because of my being a Satanist. Actually, the central issue in the argument has nothing to do with it, but how I am reacting has EVERYTHING to do with Satanism.

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From Church of Satan Website

I would like to draw your attention to rule 4: “If a guys in your lair annoys you, treat him cruelly and without mercy”. This has been popping up a lot in mind because of some drama going on at work with a coworker. Let’s call him Joe.

Joe works as the shop teacher there so is in charge of the Set Design for the school plays. As the Drama Teacher, I am in charge of literally the rest. I am having the students act as the Director so that they get as much experience as they can in each aspect of the theatre.

So, as we get closer to Open, Joe has been coming to rehearsal. I was fine with this until he started telling me what to do. Then, as I was working, he told me to stop and come do what he wanted me to do. After I nicely told him that I was going to continue what I was doing, he put my stuff away so that I had no other choice.

After we finished rehearsal, Joe then decided it was okay to tell the students that they weren’t working hard enough. This shocked me enough but then he continued. Joe then told them (The HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS) that they were going to put on “an amateur show” which was “going to be a disaster”.

Wow. You don’t even say that shit to professional actors, let alone students. This happened Friday. I decided to give him a day or two to apologize to the students since we work in the same school district. He didn’t.

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First picture in my office

Today was the last straw. Today, Sunday, he decided to yell at the students to tell them to be quiet. This doesn’t work in theatre because the actors think you’re talking to them and they’ll lower their voices. I was hammering on the set, too, because stuff needed to be finished so I was doing it. This is funny because HE is the set designer and yet I was the one doing what needed to be done. I looked at the kids and nicely said “quiet back stage, please” which is the proper why to address the situation. Then I started working again.

Joe the decided to throw a tantrum. He stood up, shoved his crap into his bag, and left, slamming the door on his way out. The room went silent. So, I decided to send the following email:

“I would like to take a moment to address your behavior over the last few days, as well as remind you, or teach you, a few things about how the theatre functions.
One thing I tell the students is that “There is no room for negativity in creativity”. This means that any issues we are facing should be dealt with in a way that is constructive. Telling these students that they are going to put on a show that is a “disaster” is not acceptable. A lot of the issues they are facing currently are from being nervous. Our job is to dash those concerns, not make them worse.
I would also like to remind you of the age of these students. They are children who are just starting out their acting careers. Telling them they are going to put on an amateur show is hurtful because they are amateurs and expecting any more than amateur work from them is asking too much.
Another issue I’m facing is how you have inserted yourself into rehearsal in a way that I am rather uncomfortable with. Now, I know that nerves are on edge as we get closer to open, but I feel that you are projecting these fears onto the students in an unhelpful way. As the Set Designer, I understand coming in and making sure the set flows well, but that is where your role ends. Stephen is the Director and I am the Producer, so if you have any questions or concerns, they should be directed towards either of us in a private manner.
Our job, in the end, is to guide them and be models for how they should act. The comments you’ve made during rehearsal, as well as the body language I’ve witnessed, has made the students uncomfortable. This means that they are not putting out their best work and not getting the most out of their rehearsal time. Since you have not, I feel as if I should prompt you to apologize to the students, because your words have had a negative impact that is hard for them to move past and I feel they deserve an apology.
All of these things in mind, I feel as if I have to ask you not to come to rehearsal anymore. We are very close to the finish line now and we need to be able to focus and feel comfortable in the theatre as we go into Tech Week.
Thank you very much for your wonderful set designs.
LH”

Now, I would like to bring your attention back to the Fourth Satanic Rule of the Earth. I know some of you are thinking that my lair is my house, but that’s not how I see it. Yes, he and I share a school district, but he is the shop teacher. We are in the Theatre. As the Drama teacher, I spend a lot of time in that theatre with those kids and we have ways of doing things that we are used to. More than that, those who are familiar with Theatre will understand that the Set Designer is near the end of the list of people who should be telling actors what to do, let alone stepping on toes.

I would also like to point out that I was very kind as I wrote this, but I did not show any mercy. I am not going to back down from this and if he does try to enter my lair again, I will get more stern. I hate it when people tell me what to do and I hate it when people disrespect those important to me. I hate it.

Joe is about to learn what it means to mess with a Satanist.

I hope you all enjoyed this and I would love to hear how you would have handled the situation. Especially you, Reverend Campbell.

HS!

LH

 

(PS- My car is an extension of my lair. Don’t fuck with shit).

I’m A Teacher

I’ve always wanted to be a teacher since I was in High School. I always dreamed of being the cool teacher who students like to hang out with during lunch. I thought I was going to be an English Teacher one day, since my BA is in Creative Writing, and I may move into that field at some point.

It wasn’t until later, while I was attending Skagit Valley Community College, that I found out my love for theatre. While I was getting my BA at WWU, I also took theatre classes that focused on technical side of theatre, accumulating enough for almost a minor. Almost. Like, if I take one more class, I will have a theatre minor. Why didn’t I decide to stay in school one more quarter and just finish off that one credit? Well, because I got a job offer.

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My $22,000 piece of paper

It was last summer during the off-season at Western when I was working as a janitor. I was taking my last break, which was at 1:30 in the afternoon since I got to work at 5am, and I had a text from my mom to come down later for dinner. So, I did. That’s when I started speaking to my mom’s friend who works at the school. She started asking me if I wanted to be a drama teacher. I thought she was joking, so I said that yeah, one day, I would love to be a teacher. That when she looked at me really seriously and said

“No, now”.

And that was that! I went home and filled out my graduation papers, which they had to rush for me. Then I paid what I needed to pay, filled out my application and waited. And waited… Then I waited a while longer. Apparently, they liked to keep me waiting because I was about ready to give up. My stomach turned each day, wondering if I was going to get the job. So, I did what any rational Satanist would do. I performed a ritual.

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A photo from before our first ritual

I decided to do a compassion ritual because I was worried that they maybe had multiple people to decide from or were unsure if they wanted to hire me or not. I have to say, I did feel better afterwards because I felt as if I had finally done everything in my power to sway the outcome. Afterwards, I turned my energy to different things. I started looking at Masters programs and tried painting. I looked for other jobs, too, in case they decided to hire somebody else. Well, a few days later, I received a call. I was being asked to come in and interview! They ended up hiring me on the spot, which is good since school started the next Tuesday.

From then on, it’s been nothing but a dream. Yeah, there are some times when I get stressed and find myself wanting to bang my head against the wall, but I’m happy more often than not. They are all so smart and funny and I love each of them for who they are and I hope I’m still around to see them graduate.

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One of my Favs at the gun march (Used with permission)

When it comes to being a Satanist and being a member of the Church of Satan, I keep that on the DL. If they ask me if I go to church or believe in god, I tell them to ask me after they graduate. Sometimes they debate religion while we are working and I’ll listen to make sure that everything is fair and factual. I’ll chime in as soon as the conversation begins to get personal or if somebody says something inaccurate. This means that I’ve corrected them about the beliefs on some Christians, Hindus, etc. And yes, I’ve defended Satanism.

A real life example: One time a student said that Satanists sacrifice animals and children. Obviously this is crazy and I corrected him. I’m a teacher, which means I am here to teach. I don’t want to create little Satanists, I want to create good people. I want to make sure that these children get thrown into the world with the ability to fact check and question everything.

I do, though, weave satanic sentiments into my teaching and class rules. We respect other people’s time in class, which means knowing when to work, when to chat, and when to listen to Ms. Hippenstiel. This means that nobody should expect to be listened to if they can’t take their eyes off their phone while others are presenting. I also get them to try to work out their own issues before coming to me because I don’t have time to split up fights about desks. But I don’t try to turn them into Satanists. It’s against my religious beliefs to indoctrinate people.

The biggest rule in my class is “Get Over Yourself”. This is important in the theatre because if you spend too much time thinking about how silly you might look, you will never give a good performance. Hell, I was in a play where I played an evil preacher that came back from the dead to yell at gay people who were also dead because they had died of AIDs. It’s called Elegies for Angels, Punks, and Raging Queens and it’s FUCKING BOMB. If I had gotten too worried about what I looked like, I wouldn’t have been able to get audience members to hiss at me when I finished my piece.

I have the future of the United States of America in my hands every day. All I want is for the students to leave school one day and be able to enter the next step of their life with confidence. I was a pretty bad student back in the day, so I understand what it’s like to have a teacher change your life, as my high school English teacher did for me.

I hope they feel safe and loved in my class. If these things hold true, I’ve done my job.

Enjoy the rest of the day, my Lovely Leviathans

HS!

LH

I’m Working a Show

It’s called Always… Patsy Cline and it’s at a really cute little venue about an hour away from where I live. It’s a very country-artistic place that has live music downstairs and puts on concerts and plays in the loft of the barn the bar calls home.

A shot of the lighting

Well, I just saw something really cool: somebody crying. This might not seem AMAZING, but it is for me because I’m the lighting designer and operator, so seeing this emotions means I’m doing my job correctly.

Basically, if my lights were bad, people wouldn’t like the show or wpuld be distracted. Plus, if I’m really bad at my job, I wpils end up making the actors look weird, which would lower the quality.

That’s all, my loves. Post on Depression coming later.

HS!

LH

I Am A Lighting Designer

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a Middle and High School Drama teacher in the Pacific Northwest, but that doesn’t really pay a lot, especially since I’m only a part-time teacher. So, on the side, I also work as a Theatrical Lighting Designer.

“What does a Theatrical Lighting Designer do, Lauren?”

I’m glad you asked.

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Me working as a Light Board Operator

Well, a Lighting Designer in a theatrical setting is responsible for, well, giving the show light in a way that is artistic, but doesn’t distract from the play; giving basic light to the show, but without making it boring or flat; trying to manage complementing all of the costumes, sets, and actors while also matching the tone of the script as well as the Director’s “vision”.

So, the first thing I do when I get a script, is read it three times. The first time, I read it to enjoy it. I just want to go through the story and read it. NEVER watch another production this early in the game because you don’t want to be influenced by another Lighting Designer’s design for a specific show.

The second time I read through a script, I read it for comprehension. I want to find out what is going on below the surface of the characters and the play itself. Something that is important is how characters relate to each other and how they feel about the environments they’re interacting with. Are they in a spooky forest with their lover? Is this character alone in their childhood home? What if that home just burned down? All of these things will inform your design.

The third time I read the script is my technical reading. I want to see where the scene changes are, where any blackouts should be. Pro Tip: Don’t use too many blackouts, because when the stage goes dark, it’s a really powerful statement. I also look at time of day, what kind of building they are in, what time of year we are set in, as well as time period. Why? Because a Denny’s in 1980’s New York City at 11:30pm is going to have different lighting that a cabin in the mid 1800’s at high noon. Dig, dog?

Well, all of this also has to match up with the Director’s “Vision”, which is their idea of how the play should look when presented opening night. This can either be very, very easy or absolute HELL to work with. It all depends on the Director. If you find a good Director, stick with them. If they like your work, or like working with you, you’ll always have a job and they’ll push to get you paid more if they can.

Why does this matter if YOU’RE the designer of the lights? Well, because you might be doing the classic Our Town, but your Director envisions it taking place in a world where humans evolved in caves. These would require two very different designs.

The nest thing you’ll do is find out what kind of lights you’re going to have, how many the theatre has, where the lights are located in the theatre, and what kind of board they have.

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Average Light Board

You need to know these things because you have to prepare to price, purchase, rent, design, focus, hang, and go into dress rehearsal. Producers and Directors will want you to go in and purchase exactly what you need so that when you get into the theatre you can use a team to move the lights where they need to be moved right away. This also includes adding gels. Gels are these very thin sheets of colored or textured plastic-y material that change the color of the light. You can also use these fun little things called gobos, which are these little metal or glass discs that are used to sculpt the light into a design that can be seen on stage.

The faster this is done, the faster you can move into writing cues. This just means you go onto the light board and tell the computer which lights it should turn on; how quickly they should rise and fall; how bright they should be; and, if you have LEDs, what color the light should be. LED lights allow for amazing color variety and this allows your design freedom that traditional lights don’t provide. Sometimes, like in the show I am currently working, you’ll have multiple light boards with no computer to write cues into.

After all of this, you’re ready for the cue to cue. This means that the actors put on their makeup and costumes and move from each scripted cue, such as entrances and exits, and technical cues, such as light, sound, and set cues. This is just a good way to make sure there aren’t any design issues in the show. It’s a good way to see how the light works with the final colors on stage; see any shadows or bright spots; and make sure your design fits with the Director’s vision.

If all of this goes smoothly, you give the cues you’ve written to your Stage Manager (Aka God of the Theatre) and then hang out until the end of Hell Week to make sure the Stage Manager is calling your cues correctly and they’re coming up at the right times. You’ll also be asked to train or manage the Spot Light Operators, telling them where you want them to focus their beams and, if you have multiple SPOs, who should take which character during scenes where they both need to have their lamps on.

Once the show opens, you’re done and can take a long break… sometimes. Other times, especially in small theatres, you’ll be asked to run the light board, too. This will be the case more often than not early on in a career. You won’t often get paid more, if you’re getting paid at all, but you’ll get a good reputation and that is far more valuable in the theatre world.

Well, there it is! I hope you have a wonderful day, Thespians!

HS!

LH