We wouldn’t necessarily recommend trying this at home… but some madness possessed us and we offered to help with the lighting and sound for this year’s school concert. It was a crazy ride, as we are kitted for parties rather than stage lights and sound, but hey. We love playing with our equipment, and it saved our kids’ small school a whopping, cough! splutter! R23 000 for a pro. I think the pros totally earn their fees, but that just wasn’t a cost they could realistically recover.
In the end it was a load of hard work, a ton of fun, and totally magical.
Our top tips after the experience?
- Martyrdom be damned. Ask for all the help you can get: find those reliable friends of yours and get them roped in. We had one lovely friend make my family a backstage takeaway dinner so we could eat a proper meal on the day of the concert. The kids loved the backstage picnic and it meant I could support my kids before they also went on stage . It was their big night, after all. Another friend with a bakkie helped cart our heavier stage props home so we didn’t need to be up until midnight for any reason other than being totally over excited. And we borrowed about seventy billion extension cables (true story – see no.2).
- You can’t have too many extension cables. Seriously. You need looooong ones, short ones, ones with multiplugs in… the more options you have, the more you can get equipment set up safely, with fewer trip points.
- You can’t have too much tape. Tape down ALL your loose wires. If the performers and stage hands can trip over your cables, they will, so once you get all those many, many extension cables in, tape ’em down. Go wild with the tape. Pretend you’re OCD if you have to.
- Make it super clear who can and who cannot touch, or otherwise hang out anywhere in the vicinity of, your equipment. There will be fewer heart attacks and less shouting. Trust me. Everyone wants to push the smoke machine button. Everyone. And you need it warmed up for the big impressive whooshes, not worn out on odd little smoke fart puffs at random moments in the show.
- Set your priorities (while admiting the limits of what you have). We decided that our priorities were basically: everyone needs to see and hear their kid on stage. Everything else is a Simply Sparkles sparkly bonus. Sounds simple, but it wasn’t really, because our lights are party lights, not stage lights (apart from the spotlight), we ended up investing in some outdoor floodlights to give a bit more oomph. Then once that was taken care of, we could play with the icicles flashing, the fairy ligths going on , the smoke, the disco beat lasers, etc. and have fun.
- Find out what the people you are helping have in mind, and try to give them that. This is something we do for all our clients: try to work out what party dream or vision is. Put otherwise: what will make it feel like a party to them. For some, it’s the disco ball that makes it a ‘real’ dance party. For someone else, it’s the strobe, smoke and lasers. It’s the same with a stage production. Try to find out what would be the secret ingredient of making the person on stage feel like a rockstar, or the director feel like their vision is a reality, and work out how you can give it to them. It’s far more fun to wave a magic wand and make other people’s wishes come true than it is to impose your ideas on other people.
- Relax and have fun. After all the planning and prep is done, you might as well enjoy yourself!