It's been a long week!
This week was tech week for us. Always a stressful time, but even more so this week. One of my actors is a New Orleans native who has family from Baton Rouge, Diamondhead and everywhere in between. Luckily, all her family (immediate and extended) are safe and accounted for, but most of them have no home to go back to. Needless to say, she's been on an emotional rollercoaster all week. Three other actors have family members who just went into the hospital - two of them just this week. On top of all of that, we're all trying to get through tech. Tech was a sort of relief, however, in that we were able to divert our brains and focus even for just a little bit.
So we rolled through tech and had our first audience on Saturday. Everything was going fine until about 20 minutes into the show. I'm sitting in the booth with my light board operator when I hear a pop. I turn toward my board op and look at the breaker box thinking we blew a fuse. Our breakers that our lights are connected to use the old-fashioned glass buses that pop when they get overloaded (as opposed to the new switches that trip). About that time, my board op calls to me and I look at the main electrical meter box that's 2 feet from my board op's head (5 feet from me) and I hear more popping and sparks from the box. After kicking my board op out of the booth and telling him to stand by the fire extinguisher, I sprint (in my platform heels, mind you) to the box office where my director (who is also the artistic director is and tell them about the meter box. She and I sprint backstage, she runs on the stage and stops the show while I head back to the booth. Now we have sparks & flames emanating in short spurts and the booth is filling up with smoke. I can hear my director calmly telling everyone that we have to cancel the show due to an electrical problem, could everyone exit the theatre and their tickets will gladly be rescheduled. The audience claps (they were thoroughly enjoying the show), they were a little disappointed, but they were in very good spirits as they filed out to the lobby. My actors, having no idea of what's going on other than the loss of lights and the popping they heard, saunter into the dressing room and are milling about, trying to figure out what was going on. The dressing room door they came in is right by the booth, which at this time I'm thinking is going to blow any minute. So I hustle them out of the room and out of the building. When we got outside, we could see flames over the roof. The electrical line from the building to the utility pole burst into flames and then we saw flames coming from the transformer across the street. As the audience filed to the back where we were, I realized I had no phone (that was the first item came to my head), no keys and no ID. I ran back to the booth (with the box that is still popping), grabbed my stuff (sans dinner - which is STILL in there) and ran back out. My board op realized he left his iPod and rescued it later.
The fire trucks finally arrive. I guess the box finally shorted itself out, but the booth and dressing room are now filled with smoke. Let me just say right now that Houston has some of the cutest firefighters in the country, a fact that was not lost on myself or 2 of my actors. The electric company then came and disconnected the theatre from the power grid. After all of the excitement died down and the first fire truck left, we convened at a local pub. As we were animatedly discussing the recent events, we had to laugh at our immediate reactions as we were evacuating the building. My initial thought (after I took a headcount of cast and crew) was "my phone's in there! I can't call anyone!". My board op was concerned about his iPod and one of my actors grabbed her make-up case as she headed out the door. So we were in danger of being burnt to a crisp and we're concerned about our music, looking good and being able to talk to people. Well, it was funny to us.