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8 Weeks in the Life of an Intern

My name is Gillian Gallivan and I am a student entering into my second year of Douglas College’s Stagecraft and Event Technology program, seeking to specialize in Stage Management. I moved out to New Westminster in September 2018 with my partner all the way from PEI. It was through school that I came across the opportunity for what would turn out to an amazing summer, an 8 week, paid, internship with The Dance Centre.

I was both excited and a little daunted when I was approached by the Dance Centre marketing team and asked to write a blog. One of the biggest unofficial rules in the performance industry is to never say no and I think I’m beginning to understand why. This project has been a fun and constructive way to reflect on my time here and I’m really glad I have this blog post to look back on.

My first week was mostly spent behind the front desk, greeting dancers and instructors as they went to their classes and helping them with payments. My internship was split between tech and admin. My stage management training came in handy when it came to dealing with all of the filling and emailing. It’s a pretty peaceful little lobby. I really like propping the front door open and feeling the breeze. Downtown Vancouver is a bustling spot and there are always interesting people walking by.

My final week here has also been a bit of a reprise of my first, as I have spent most of it at the front desk, covering for our main Venue Services Coordinator, Alice. We’re all learning how to use a new computer software for bookings which is very exciting! This new system is still in the works but we’re all pretty enthusiastic to see just what this new software can do and how we can use it to make bookings better for all of our clients.

My second week was when the real tech learning began. Chengyan, our Lead Technician, asked me what I was interested in learning and we went from there. In this build your own adventure I decided I wanted to learn more about the basics of sound and lighting. I am a stage manager first, and as such I didn’t really know a lot about tech. My goal is to use my newfound technical knowledge to become a better stage manager.

I started off with the ETC ION lighting console. It is a standard in the theatre community and apparently, I will encounter them often. There is one at Douglas College that I will be able to practise on and I am looking forward to it. As a stage manager, it is important for me to know how to operate one of these because in smaller venues when I am calling the cues of a show, I will often be the one operating the lights at the same time.

An entire day was taken to show me the basics of not only how to use this machine but also a little bit of lighting design, which I was not expecting.

After my lighting lesson was audio. I found audio to be a lot more challenging then lighting. This sound board can be a bit difficult to use at times. With the use of the sound board also came the use of a popular program in the performance industry, Q-LAB. This software is used to play audio and video cues for various types of performances. It is challenging for me to use because it is only available on Macs and I am a PC user. However, I’m continuing to practise and by the end of my internship I was able to run sound for a very simple show almost all by myself!

In terms of audio I also got experience setting up both wireless and wired microphones, helping with projector set up, and learning how to set up both stereo and mono DI’s. What’s the difference between stereo and mono you ask? Well, if you want to hear a Queen song alternating out of both left and right speakers, you need a stereo set up. I can assure you we played through their greatest hits, for educational purposes, of course.

This is our Genie lift. It’s essentially a large motorized box that goes up and down. It’s great for hanging lights because it’s safe and easy to stand in and it can carry lots of things up and down with you.  I learned on my first show call just how finiky it can be, and I have been learning just how to deal with it since. It’s heavy, very difficult to push around because it doesn’t turn well. After a few weeks I began to learn some tricks that really helped me move this around faster and easier. Like using my legs instead of just my arms and pushing instead of pulling.

In larger theatres the type of lights that are used are LED movers. That means that the light can change colour and move around all at the click of a button. They’re very expensive and not all that common in small performance spaces. Here in the Faris Family Studio we use three different types of lights. Source 4’s, Source 4 Par’s and Parcan’s. These types of lights require gels in order to change colour and various accessories in order to achieve certain effects. I got to learn lots about these various parts, what all they do and how to take care of them, which was super neat!

Throughout my 8 weeks with The Dance Centre I got to help out on a lot of different projects and performances and was assigned lots of fun jobs both in and outside of the theatre. I did typical intern things a few times, like running errands across downtown Vancouver, dropping off posters and going to Long and McQuade for audio parts. I was even sent to fetch some Starbucks for a performer once. When that happened, I laughed and said I was finally a real intern.

Some of the most interesting things I’ve gotten to do include: operating a fog machine, researching handheld sewing machines, and aiding in the transport of dance floor across town. I had many opportunities to be self-sufficient and work unsupervised which was really enjoyable.

I really enjoyed being given projects to complete independently and the highlight of that was halfway through my time here when Chengyan had to leave town and travel to Nanaimo with a show (it was an aerial dance show and it was so cool to see how the rope and pulley systems worked, and to watch them rehearse in our theatre was just incredible). This meant that I was left on my own for a week with a list of maintenance tasks to complete. I was also the only tech left in the building, so any technical problems were brought to my attention.

I spent my time doing various things from sewing repairs to labeling. I have to say the worse task was cable testing because we have so many! It took forever but I can now tell you that every single twist lock and U ground cable work. It was a very relaxing week as I was able to set my own schedule and finish things on my own time.

Finally, here is the Lead Technician, my mentor Chengyan Boon. He has been a wonderful teacher and I am so happy I got to learn from him. He is incredibly patient and really great at adapting to the situation. For example, when he was teaching me about audio I had a very hard time understanding the basic concepts. He really took the time and made sure to explain things in different ways and made sure I understood. We’ve spent many hours working together now and he’s just a super interesting person to talk to. One minute it’s a deep discussion on the challenges of gaining respect in the industry and the next it’s a detailed breakdown of why How to Train Your Dragon 2 was not as good as the first movie. After which he will go right back to telling me that my hatred of Microsoft Excel is unfounded and proceed to show me yet another cool feature.

I am really going to miss seeing all of the great people who work for The Dance Centre every day but the good news is I have made some lasting connections and I may have the opportunity to come back every now and then as either a front desk agent or a tech. So be sure to keep your eyes peeled for me in the future and be sure to say hi. If anyone has any questions, especially anyone interested in entering into the technical theatre industry please feel free to ask, I’m always up for a chat about this amazing industry because I love my job! I couldn’t be more grateful for this learning opportunity and I guess all I can do now is leave you with a big THANK YOU!