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

Issue 33, 2023


Come backstage, and you'll see:

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

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Techie Tip of the Week


Part 5 of an 8-part series on the COUNTERWEIGHT SYSTEM, which will be posted every other week.

(Tip:  Even if you don’t have a counterweight system in your theatre, your vocational students will probably work with them in college or in the real world, so a ‘theory’ lesson is always a good idea!)

The weights of the pig irons can vary between theatres, but are strangely sometimes 11, 22 and 33 lb.s.  Know the weights of your pig irons so that you can accurately calculate what load you will need.  It’s also a good idea to keep a scale at hand so that you can accurately weigh your equipment and/or scenery.  For lighting equipment you can obtain the weights from the manufacturer’s website. Once you have been hanging lights and scenery for a while, it’s a good idea to keep a list of what was hung and how much it weighed, so that you can use previous weights as estimates for the future.

It’s also a good idea to keep a list of the weights of common items you hang on pipes, so that you don’t have to weigh things or look up their weights over and over again.  For items you do have to weigh, buy your theatre a good bathroom scale.  It’s also useful to know the maximum weight each batten can take, although in high school theatre this is rarely exceeded.  Following is a list I kept in one theatre, but please keep in mind that the weights stated are specific to the brands of instruments in that particular theatre and should only be used as estimates.

NOTE:  Fly systems are usually built with safety locks that can hold an imbalance of about fifty pounds during reweighting, but you shouldn’t rely on them. Instead, learn the correct knots that will secure your ropes while reweighting. The techniques for tying off ropes that are out of balance is beyond the scope of this article, and you should be trained in person by an ETCP certified professional.


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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Dear Techie

Dear Techie,

I am considering The Diary of Anne Frank as our fall play, and I am wondering how you have handled seemingly live animals (cats and dogs) on stage?  I've had one live dog (teacup in a hamper - no problem).  I once used a puppet for the cat in "The Baker's Wife," but it was a musical comedy, so it was played for laughs.  Any ideas for how to handle this challenge in a more serious play?

Animal Wrangler in GA

Dear Animal Wrangler,

In a nutshell… I don’t recommend live animals on stage. Here’s a few stories to illustrate why…

I was working with a community variety show in a high school theatre I was managing at the time.  We got through three days of tech rehearsals and we were on the last number on opening night, which was a barn dance.  I was engrossed in something in the booth while my crew ran the show, and I didn’t look up until the last number had started, and there on stage were three llamas standing by the cyc!!!  What?!  Where had they come from?!  Unbeknownst to me they had loaded them in backstage at the last minute without a by your leave.  My first concern was that one would spit on the cyc!  But then my concerns grew as the llamas were lead forward during the dance, by now obviously freaked out by the noise, lights and people.  One llama was being tended to by a young child (I later found out, the owner’s child) and was led down to the apron of the stage.  This llama was prancing around, getting more and more freaked out.  All I could think of then was that it would accidentally take a step off the edge of the stage, falling on an audience member in the front row, and breaking its leg.  Thankfully none of these concerns came to be, but after that I banned all live animals from the theatre.

When I informed the group that they couldn’t bring the llamas for the remainder of the performances, they said they always had an animal of some sort.  One time they had a rooster who pooped on the stage in the middle of an act.  Who knew it would do that (!), so they had nothing prepared to clean up the poop with and the technicians had to use their hands.  But, suddenly there was a cue to take with the fly system, so they just had to pull the ropes, poopy hands and all(!).

On a prior occasion I was designing lights for a high school play that called for a live cat.  All through tech rehearsals the cat had been pretty mellow, but on opening night it sensed the audience and became nervous.  In addition, the owner had changed the cat’s food that very day(!).  If you know how an animal’s digestive system reacts to sudden change in diet, you can imagine what happened on opening night.  Not just poop, but diarrhea.  Somehow the cast managed to hold it together during the scene and get the cat off the stage, but they changed to a stuffed toy cat after that.

Not only do live animals draw attention away from the actors, but their behavior can be unpredictable.  They can poop, throw up and spit.  Animals can also “freak out” and run or fall into the audience, risking harming themselves and the audience.  Plus, if you have tens of thousands of dollars of drapes on your stage, you may wish to consider animals carefully.  A toy cat cuddled in a blanket can be made believable by your actors – if nothing else, it’s a good acting lesson for them.

Submit your Dear Techie questions to [email protected].  


Techie Travesties

You know you're a Techie when... memorize gel colors for fun.

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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