Online Exclusive: Programming On The Fly With Grapevine High School

Two days prior to the Grapevine High School opening of Lil’ Abner, student lighting technicians Joe Scirappa, Jonathan Birkholder, and Katherine Godbey faced a not-so-welcome challenge. Their seven-year old lighting console failed and would not come back online. It was then that Carla Reasoner, Grapevine High School director of theatre, sprang into action to devise a solution with the assistance of Tom Jensen, Jensen & Associates. That solution was the Marquee® Lighting Control Console by Entertainment Technology.

“We had a console from another manufacturer and it crashed during one of our last dress rehearsals,” recalls Reasoner. “So we called Tom who had done the original installation and he suggested we try a Marquee console. Within an hour or two, he brought over his demo console for us to look at and without any formal training, our lighting technicians were able to begin re-writing the cues and programming show.”

Tom Jensen was on site at Grapevine High School for approximately one hour, and technical director, Joe Scirappa, was the first student technician to get his hands on the Marquee.

“Technicians have to be able to adapt on the fly,” says Scirappa. “You have to be flexible because you can’t rehearse all the possibilities that could happen. Once on site, Mr. Jensen basically plugged in the console and then and gave me a brief overview.”

Jensen added, “The Marquee is the type of lighting control console that is ideal for a situation such as this. Understanding that no one wants to have this problem, with a Marquee, it’s not that big of a problem.”

In order for the technicians at Grapevine High School to successfully accomplish the console changeover, the programming needed to be uncomplicated and quickly accomplished. Jensen knew that both challenges could be met by the Marquee lighting control console.

“Because of the user-friendly layout and programming language of the Marquee software, it only takes a few basic highlights to get a lighting programmer familiar with the operation,” explains Jensen.

“It is less code and more English,” continues Scirappa, who had done the original programming on the previous console.

Once Scirappa felt comfortable on the Marquee console and he knew that the turnaround could be completed, he then began to teach its operation to his fellow student technicians.
He says, “Jonathan and Katherine are talented lighting technicians. They didn’t need a lot of guidance. I basically showed them the layout and where all the screens were and they took to it themselves.”

First year lighting technician Katherine Godbey had some concerns of her own. “I had just learned how to program the other console, and so I was thinking ‘How am I going to learn a completely different console?’ But everything on the Marquee was so user-friendly. Since the console operates under a Windows operating system, I was able to understand the Marquee quickly and completely.”

Says Birkholder, “It was very easy. Although we had to re-enter the cue list manually from our backup paperwork, we were basically done with the re-programming by 4:30pm, and had saved the entire show to the external flash drive on the Marquee processor just for a back-up.”

Reasoner adds, “When we got the console Saturday afternoon, the technicians met at 4pm and were able to run the show at 7pm. It was amazing.”

As Grapevine High School’s production of Lil’ Abner got back on track, everyone involved was thrilled to have the Marquee console running the show. And as they began to become better acquainted with the Marquee, many programming friendly attributes resonated in their minds.

Scirappa states, “I really like the versatility of the submasters and look masters. They can be whatever you need them to be. The Marquee is so friendly, that you could send a new student technician to run the console on the fly and the probability of error is slim to none.”

Says Birkholder, “My favorite aspect is how at the touch a button you can program straight into the submasters. And compared to the other board it was amazing. All you need to know is Windows. It makes it so easy.”

Adds Godbey, “I really like that it’s easy to have more than one cue running at once and understand how to manipulate the second cue. We did a complete reprogram of one cue, while the show was running in another cue. And after learning the Marquee, it’s very easy to remember and understand everything that’s going on.”

Seeing how the student technicians had fallen in love with the Marquee console, Reasoner began to take the necessary steps to purchase a Marquee console of their own.

Says Reasoner, “We loved the Marquee so much that we had to purchase one of our own. So we called up our local Norcostco dealer, told them what we were looking for and then simply drove over to their location and picked it up. The previous show we did was the Nutcracker and we did it with the other console. Now I wish we could go back and do it all over again with the Marquee.”

Adds Jensen, “I love telling students and teachers about the Marquee because it’s so easy to use within the familiar Windows operating system. This is the third Marquee Jensen & Associates has placed into service locally in the last few months, and each client has had no problems learning how to operate the unit, irregardless of the age of any prior control console being replaced. My clients know the Marquee much better than I can demonstrate it after only one session on their own!”

When asked to comment on what advice she might give to fellow theatre directors who find themselves in a similar situation, Reasoner concludes, “My advice to other theatre directors would be to choose student technicians who know what they are doing and then get out of their way. I give my technicians the overview of what I’m looking for and they do the creating. We have a great relationship in that they understand theatre and are able to give me what I want. And another bit of advice I would give is to buy the products that you need with the ability to grow and expand. As we continue to grow, so can our Marquee.”

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