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

Issue 35, 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)

Join in the conversation


Techie Tip of the Week


Part 6 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!)

Although you may have trained your student crew to use the counterweight system, and although your policy may be that they may only do so under supervision of yourself or a technician, this doesn’t not always happen in the high school setting.  In one high school theatre that I worked at, one particular teacher would allow students to go into the theatre on their own to set up for a class or rehearsal, or he himself would sometimes fly in drapes etc.  The trouble was, besides the obvious safety issues, that sometimes he or his students would grab the wrong rope and move the electrics, which are the pipes on which your lights are hung, or the “borders” (sometimes called “teasers”) which are black curtain strips that hide your lights from the site line of your audience.  The trouble with this is that the electrics are set at a specific trim height and then the lights are focused to specific areas or set pieces.  Once they are focused, moving the electric that they are hung on up or down changes where they are focused.  If the border is accidentally moved, it may expose the sight of the lighting instruments to the audience.

In order to prevent people from moving any lines that shouldn’t be moved I recommend using what are called “lockout tagout” tags.  There are different brands and styles you can get, but I recommend ones that are specifically designed to go in the holes that fixes the rope lock handle in the locked position

Another purpose for a lockout tagout tag is in case a line is deemed too dangerous to move for some reason, or because for some reason it has to be left temporarily out of weight (although in theory this should never happen).  In this case, do not use the same lockout tagout tag that you use for your electrics and borders, because someone used to that system would not realize that in this case a real danger was present.  They’re not cheap, but they are a great value when you consider their purpose.

Do not lock off all of your lines with padlocks or lockout tagout tags.  If you do this, then there is no way of knowing which lines are broken (get it fixed immediately), should not be moved, and so on.  Instead, a better way is to secure your theatre doors, and have systems in place whereby only trained students are permitted to use the fly system, and only under adult supervision.

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,

My school has decided that all of my theatre contracts (costumer, pit director, and so on) have to go to the school attorney first. The same goes for companies renting the space. He has been changing the companies’ contracts, and now one company has refused to change their contract so I am out-of-luck on using them. I don't blame the company - why should they have to change their contracts for a school anyway? The attorney has also made us sign that we will not make ANY video of our plays, not even for archive-student evaluation-commercial, nothing. Or else my job is in jeopardy. I understand legal issues but is this going crazy or is it me. I have been directing HS since '83...but never had anything like this before. Thoughts or suggestions?

Crazy in NJ

Dear Crazy,

While I’m glad to see that your administration is taking an interest in theatre risk management, unfortunately they seem to be doing so without any understanding of theatre. 

While it is imperative that schools have operational policies and procedures in place that safeguard personal safety, protect property, and mitigate liability (and one way to do this is through contracts with your designers, etc.) one has to be realistic.  It’s called Risk “Management”, not Risk “Elimination”. The National Safety Council defines safety as “the control of recognized hazards to attain an acceptable level of risk”. There is no way you can possibly prevent all accidents in a high school theatre, however this is the goal at all times. 

It sounds like your attorney is working towards this goal with his contract wording, but without the inherent understanding that you have about theatre operations.  Admin simply don’t have the background knowledge to understand or assess the dangers inherent in theatres.  They may understand the more common life dangers inherent in, your swimming pool, football field, chemistry class or wood shop. This is because most people have had some real-life experience with the dangers of sports, power tools, and chemistry, but a lot of people have no life experiences with theatres.  When they go to a production as an audience member, all they see is the magical performance, not the dark backstage world of power tools, electricity, heights, heavy lifting, ladders, scissor lifts and the movement of overhead weights, to name but a few.  Of course, without seeing the specific contracts and without knowing the specific wording the attorney has been changing, it’s hard to assess the situation.  I wonder if he’s thinking ‘sports coach’?  Is he equating the needs of theatre with the needs of sports, science, or other programs in the school? 

Your attorney is likely acting with a filter on, which you have the opportunity to help remove.  I think this is an opportunity for you to you to educate your admin.  But don’t appear to be questioning their judgment -‘kill ‘em with kindness’. Meet with your attorney and tell him you want to learn from him.  Because you’ve already won half the battle - you are actually able to hire professionals, and have outside events.  Now it just needs a delicate refinement so that the contracts are applicable to your needs and you don’t lose your good professionals who work with your students, providing them a real life education in so many ways (again, that’s for another post…). 

Re the video, it’s my understanding that although you can get (read: pay for) permission to video plays, it’s also the issue of filming the students.  Talk to the yearbook teacher – how do they handle photographs of groups of students?  Are sports videoed?  How are they handled?

For some resources on how to talk with you admin about the importance of theatre in ways that they will understand, check out the editorials in the Resource Library at

Also, have a look at the Theatre Safety Standards page on my website at  I even offer a FREE Risk Management Assessment on there - just for admin! 

Submit your Dear Techie questions to [email protected].  


Techie Travesties

I used to have a job cutting holes to make trapdoors for theatres.
It was just a stage I was going through.

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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