A Weekly DIGEST for teachers and staff who want to level-up support and funding for MANAGEMENT OF their SCHOOL theatre. 

Issue 41


Come backstage, and you'll see:

  • Techie Tip of the Week (editorial)
  • Leveling-Up (essential online courses)
  • Dear Techie (advice column)
  • Techie Travesties (funnies)

Join in the conversation


Techie Tip of the Week


Is your school considering a smaller new-build or remodeled theatre?  Many architects and administrators immediately jump to the idea of a black box theatre in situations where there will only be a smaller theatre.  But, there are some general pros and cons to consider for the long term when considering investing in a black box theatre as opposed to a small fixed proscenium theatre.  A black box theatre has a high versatility factor; it can be re-configured to a proscenium stage, a thrust stage or theatre-in-the-round.  But, consider, with versatility comes expenses. 

Teachers and directors love to be creative in black box theatres.  To begin with, masking flats (walls) or drapes would have to be purchased or constructed to create a “backstage” space.  In addition, each time the acting space is reconfigured the lighting instruments and drapes would have to be moved to new positions.  This would be on top of the usual set construction that is needed for a performance. 

Before deciding on a black box theatre that has versatility, school district should look at their theatre operations plans and look at the costs, time constraints and safety factors, and assess some questions, such as: 

• Who would be doing the reconfigurations each time, a class of students lead by a CTE teacher and/or professional technicians hired by the district?  

• Are students allowed to go up on a genie or ladder to rehang and refocus the lights?  

• Are the students trained in how to safely rig flats and/or drapes from the grid?  

One school I worked at had a black box theatre and they hired me to create a lighting rep plot for them.  Theatre-in-the-round and thrust stages require about twice the number of lighting instruments than a proscenium stage does because the actors and the sets must be lit from several sides.  This theatre had been given a lighting package, but it was insufficient for the potential of the space, so the Drama teacher decided to create a permanently fixed proscenium stage within the black box space with flats as the proscenium walls.  In another black box school theatre I worked in there were an ample amount of instruments but there were no lighting positions to allow for lighting the sides of the stage, so, again, we had no choice but to structure the theatre into a permanent proscenium configuration.  In these circumstances it would perhaps have been better to provide that school with a small 100-seat theatre, had the administration assessed future operations, budget and time restrictions ahead of time.

On the other hand, there are some plusses to a black box theatre.  For instance, a black box theatre’s floor space can be cleared for classes and rehearsals to be held in there.  Plus a black box theatre is great for learning environments where tech theatre skills are a part of the curriculum.  For instance, set design and construction techniques have more liberty, and lighting techniques can be created for class exercises.  It can all depend on the administration.  It may be up to you to educate them to first consider the theatre operations after the theatre is built.  This will inform their decisions about what sort of theatre to build in the first place.

This editorial is the express opinion of Beth Rand, and is not intended for substitution for professional advice regarding your specific situation or circumstances.


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please visit:

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Dear Techie

Dear Techie,

I just did a quick search for wheeled follow spots and was surprised (but not really ha!) at the cost! It's been 10+ years since we've purchased one. I'm just looking to see what is out there in case
one of ours goes out. One had a nasty tumble last year, and got beat up. It was still working but I know eventually I'll have to replace it. Do you have any suggestions for a follow spot you like but is also fairly economical? I would like it on wheels and it needs to throw @ 50-60 feet. Budget would be in the $2,000-$3000 range...hopefully... 

Thanks for your suggestions!
Tumble in LA

Dear Tumble,

Unfortunately, I can’t recommend any specific products, but I do have some thoughts about followspots to share, specifically about their lamps (which is something people don’t always consider when purchasing a followspot). 

First,check out{}​ – you might be able to afford two!
Although be forewarned that some schools/districts will not allow the purchase of second-hand equipment (liability issues), even if it is under warrantee, like Used Lighting normally provides.

In this day and age though, I sort of recommend followspots with LED lamps – you “almost never” have to replace the lamp.  If you do get a followspot that uses incandescent lamps, also check out how much they cost and factor replacement lamps into your ongoing budget. Although, most are only around $15 (be sure to have one or two spares on hand for when a lamp blows in the middle of a show – like that would happen!).  Steer away from followspots that require HID lamps – they can cost $200/300 each(!).  (As you’ve already experienced, ‘nasty tumbles’ can happen.  They don’t always ruin the whole followspot, but they can blow the lamp.)

Where ever, or from whomever, you buy your followspot, be sure to check the specs for the appropriate throw distance and footcandles (brightness) levels.  

Submit your Dear Techie questions to [email protected].  


Techie Travesties

Theatre Terms

Strike is work.  
A green room usually isn't.
Break a leg-but not really!

Submit your Bad Theatre Joke or Funnies to [email protected].

And finally, always remember....

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Why the name Cue3Go?  Because often times (not always, of course) in a show, Cue 1 is house-to-half, Cue 2 is blackout, and Cue 3 is lights up!  We hope this newsletter will light you up each week with ideas and actions for managing your high school theatre.

It is PRESETT's mission to provide information to assist in endeavors for safe and functional operations of school theatres. However, PRESETT is not a safety consultant or professional, and any information provided or advocated is not intended to supplement, not supersede, industry safety training. Always consult a theatre safety specialist about your specific situation or circumstances.

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