From November 2012 through May 2016, I worked at the University Minnesota Morris on the Student Center Tech Crew. It was a fun, challenging, and active job where I was able to work all sorts of events.
I was hired on tech crew towards the end of my first semester of freshmen year, in late November 2012. My first big event was Yule Ball, the annual Harry Potter themed dance. It was quite an exhilarating event to work; we had (three?) movers and four PARs on the lip of the room as well as eight LEDs on booms. Once that was set up, we had to bring in a second Genie lift from the Humanities Fine Arts building (through a healthy amount of slush in early December) to hang the balloon drop. This dance started a two-year series of me working every single dance.
The rest of freshman year was filled with figuring out where everything was in the tech closet, shadowing events, working smaller events on my own, numerous light hangs, stomping the marley, and working backstage for concerts and other shows.
Sophomore year rolled around and I proceeded to work every dance for the whole school year, even DJing a couple at the same time. During this school year I worked as an electrician for the Theatre Discipline production of Twelfth Night. I picked up several electrician skills while working this show such as mastering the clove hitch, repairing lighting fixtures, and after 12 man-hours of sorting gels, an eye for color. I became, what I like to think of, the enthusiastic lighting electrician on tech crew. At the end of the school year, I applied for and was given the position of lighting lead.
As lighting lead during junior year, much of what I had been doing was the same, except that I worked more large events, and was in charge of light hangs and focuses. During the summer before, tech crew got a fresh pallet of 21 Chauvet Colorado 2 Quad Zoom TOUR instruments. 15 of these soon replaced the PARs hung over Edson while the remaining six were used for dances and any other mobile events. This school year was filled with events for me. I worked most dances during the fall semester, including a couple that I DJed as well. In October, Bill Nye came to Morris and resulted in a very fun but tiring 17-hour day. I worked Dance Ensemble in the fall and spring. During the spring semester, I took the Stage Lighting class and learned more about lighting history, color mixing, instrument types, and power. This school year brought many trips back and forth from the Theatre Discipline with borrowed fixtures and equipment. I also used so much haze at a dance that it set the fire alarm off in the Student Center (oops!). This year also contained more firewatches than any other, including a movie night of watching Top Gun complete with pizza and homemade cheesecake while taking shifts to run around the student center clearing rooms every 15 minutes.
I studied abroad during the fall semester of my senior year, but was still lighting lead when I returned for the spring semester. Over the summer, tech crew got ten ETC Source Four LED Series 2 Lustrs and five cyc adapters. This meant that the cyc could now be light extremely evenly in terms of brightness and color accuracy. I hung high sides for the rep plot in Edson, hung a short throw projector to some connected pipes, got to work a DJ Blowtorch dance again, and finally connected my iPad to the lighting console. In April, I worked my third Dance Ensemble show, which was by far my best one. I worked closely with the sound lead, Shawn, to run the show autonomously with QLab. It was the first time as a lighting designer to see a show up close (which was awesome!). My last event was the spring concert outside on the mall, a good final hurrah.
Notable groups and events that I worked were Dessa, a wedding, Cloud Cult, Techno Dance, Jeremy Messersmith, Lorie Line, Koo Koo Kangaroo, Bill Nye, DJ Blowtorch, two commencements, several traveling dance groups, and finally, numerous Dance Ensembles. I have fond memories of working every one of these events and think back to them often.
I think I got three large things out of being on tech crew. First, I met and got to know many of my good friends through tech crew. Second, I learned so much about lighting and sound engineering, being a lighting electrician, rigging, lighting programming, and lighting design. Third, I can never see a live show again without finding myself looking up at the lights or sound 😆. After 13 years of doing tech (Linwood A+ Elementary Tech Team!), I hope that I will, in some way, continue to be involved with theatrical or live lighting and sound in the future.
❤️ Tech Crew