September is World of Wearableart month in Wellington. Of course WOW, being one of NZ's showcase events for all things wearable and arty, not to mention theatrical and choreographical.
It hasn't seemed like a year since I last posted about it but it's a case of time flies when you're having fun and my life sure is fun so time tends to fly by.
Staged in the TSB arena on Wellingtons waterfront, WOW makes for a pleasant walk to and from the apartment they fly me up and put me up in for the duration of the preproduction and show. Having the sea at your doorstep for work somehow has a calming effect on all involved in what could potentially be a stressful month of relatively hard slog.
My job this year was in taking over head of rigging and flying. That entails working with the creative and artistic team in realizing their vision for all things related to the suspension of people and set.
This year saw us flying a brass bed replete with wings from which underneath was gathered a mass of fabric that spread out to form a tent as the bed rises. From inside this tent emerges a set of monsters not unlike those from that classic "Where the wild things are" book. At it's height we had to disengage the tent , haul it over the handrails and lose the bed in the sky to accommodate the other flying elements such as the chandelier.
About 2.5 metres wide and about 3 metres deep, this thing just wanted to clatter around and shake as it was transferred from its storage position to its final postion. Imagine an upside down layer cake of illuminated crystal and chain hanging 14 metres above the stage which on cue needs to descend 10 metres to hang above a courtesans banquet of mirrored aristocrats and attendants. Scary but fun.
My favourite bit of set was, 650 kilos a side of replicated cathedral like, aged, stained glass windows that needed to be suspended and tracked on stage via a pulley and trolley system my good friend Mikee and I had to cobble together from various bits of kit left over from previous years.
In between the acts which these pieces formed a central aspect, we flew about 18 people in various costumes and who at various times needed to ascend and descend in perfect accompaniment to the action, lighting and sound on stage which forms the visual feast that is WOW.
For example in the "white section", so named not for any racist reason but that every garment in it is white, we lowered 4 people wearing long concertinaed 'condom' costumes bungy style off a single wire to the stage to pick up a huge funnel like fabric chalice that then needed to be secured in the roof, and in kabuki style via an electronic quick release system, then got sucked down a centre hole in the middle of the stage to reveal a spinning aerialist, while confetti snow cascaded around her.
Quite a problem in terms of logistics to realize the vision especially when the creatives really have no idea how to make it work or the risks and inherent dangers in what they propose. Imagine also that most of these flyers and pieces were crowded around the centre of the stage and that you cant fly more than one of these things at a time without moving another out of the way.
Enter me and my handpicked team of rigger/flymen/rockclimbers/circus performers to do what we do so well.
I could go on in boring detail of the logistics involved but really it's nothing more than a balancing act between us as human counterweight and the performers, along with a custom installed theatre flying counterweight system to deal with the heavier set pieces. Oh and about 160 metres of high strength trussing, 1.3 kilometres of steel cable, 50 metres of suspended aluminium track and acres of fabric.
Needless to say the whole operation is fraught with problems on a day to day basis which we need to troubleshoot and overcome to ensure a smooth, safe and believable effect is achieved for the benefit of the overall show.
And it doesn't help when you are surrounded by beauty in the form of the talented dancers, models, dressers, wardrobe, hair, makeup, stage management, production, catering and admin personnell all striving to perform their duties in the arena as well.
So perhaps I should regale you instead with stories of drunken nights out til 6 in the morning and endless cones in the apartment after a hard days work, meeting strange people involved with the show, befriending them and realizing you're just as strange as them and that the average person attending the show would have no idea of what it is we do, climbing round the roof, hiding in the shadows all dressed in black.
But NO. Somethings are better left unsaid because to be honest, it's all about the show and in that respect it's better the audience remains ignorant lest they wish they could be one of us too or conversely be scared shitless and of course we also have our secrets...hehe
BTW this was the winning piece this year.Yeah, it's sheep inspired made from wool packs and designed and built by a couple of auckland lasses. So what ???
We don't have a problem with it. We like sheep and riggers have great, if slightly twisted senses of humour and a unique outlook on life that comes from looking down on things and thinking. I believe I can fly, I believe I can touch the sky :)