LD On The DL: A Little Light Humor

As many of you know, several months ago a Northwest flight overshot its intended destination by several hundred miles. The NY Times did an article about this, click here to read it. I copied the NY Times article and changed some nouns and adjectives. Below is the result.

It is work of fiction, and in no way details actual events.

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Experts Puzzle Over How Show's Lighting Stopped

New York - On Friday, investigators sought to explain why a Light Board Operator and his Assistant running “Carmen” at The Metropolitan Opera stopped initiating cues in the middle of Act Two when they should have during Wednesday night's performance.

The board operators said they had been involved in a heated discussion about union policy and lost track of where they were in the script.

Skepticism about the explanation resounded through theatre and opera circles, which collectively wondered whether the pair had fallen asleep.

“What did they say? What went on? What was the subject of discussion — or weren't they talking?” asked Andron Icus, a veteran Italian general and chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts which often sponsors such performances.

“I can assure you none of us was asleep,” one of the Board Operators told NY1 on Friday night. He declined to comment further.

Two officials from the MET said that Wednesday's performance had been the first of the day for both operators, who had not been on the clock for approximately 17 hours.

Instead of initiating cue 24, which begins the famous “Flower Song” in Act Two, the lighting, a rig with about 144 lights and several moving yokes, remained the same for the duration of Act Two and Three despite repeated calls from the Stage Manager and other Stagehands in the area as well as e-mail and text messages from the union dispatchers. Finally, when the opera was half way through Act 4, the Board Operators responded, according to the show report from the MET. The cue sequence continued and ended safely, a full 90 minutes after the actual curtain call.

The Board Operator and Assistant have been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.

Both passed breath analysis tests to check for alcohol, according to the show report. When the cue sequence finally ended, the report said, the Assistant turned to a waiting Producer and gave a “two thumbs up” sign through the light booth window.

Officials at the National Endowment for the Arts said they gave a preliminary listen to the show headset recorder on Friday afternoon, but that may not provide any answers. The recorder, which runs continuously throughout a show, has only 30 minutes of sound at any one time, and records over itself. The officials said they would interview the individuals over the weekend and would have something to say as early as Monday.

Officials said that the last communication with the Board Operators was at 7:46 p.m., Eastern time, and communication did not resume until 9:14 p.m., a gap of 88 minutes, a long time for a commercial performance in the continental United States that has not had a system failure or whose wireless headset is not tuned to the wrong frequency.

Board Operators normally wear headsets with microphones, or they transfer the Stage Manager's audio to a loudspeaker. Unless the headset was tuned to the incorrect frequency, “if you're awake, you're going to hear,” said the former crew chief of a major union Local, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

More than a dozen Stage Managers, Assistant Stage Managers, and Production Assistants tried to contact the Operators, said Dion Ysus, a spokesman for The Metropolitan Opera. “It was all hands on deck,” Mr. Ysus said. One Production Assistant made 13 attempts at contact, an official said.

When the lights should have been changing, they were still stuck on the previous scene, according to TKTS, a company that provides real-time tracking of shows based in the New York area.

Two opera aficionados credited an Assistant Stage Manager with calling the operator's attention to their error.

The show, meanwhile, had been going so smoothly that Ryan Kirk, an audience member, said he never suspected a problem until after the the scene change, when the lights remained on.

“When the lights stayed on, that's when we thought something was wrong; they told us to take our seats,” Mr Kirk, 35, of Midtown West, said in a telephone interview. At one point during the show, he said, he had overheard another audience member ask when the lights would be dimming. He said he had heard the usher respond: “I really don't know. I'm sorry.”

The MET is under construction, which has led to some delays. Even so, some audience members interviewed Friday said they had been aware the lighting was not right.

“In Act 3 we weren't in a 'deserted rocky place at night' as the program had indicated, and that's why it wasn't adding up in my mind,” said Bac Chus, a real estate agent from Woodbury, VA. “Why are we still lit like the Inn in Act 2 and nobody's saying anything?”

A spokesman for the MET, said: “We will continue to look at many things, as we do in any incident. We look at fatigue. We find out if there were any conversations in the light booth that would be distracting.”

If the Board Operators did fall asleep, the incident would add to concerns by IATSE over worker fatigue, which it argues has become a major problem as a result of cuts that have taken place since the October 2008 market crash.

After reading news accounts of the flight, Mr. Kirk, the passenger, said he was flooded with concerns about the Board Operators' inattention. “What if this had been Tosca or Aida?” he said. “What else might have happened?”

 

Lance Darcy is a Lighting Director and Director of Photography for The Lighting Design Group, based in New York City. 

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