We've gotten a lot done this week... pretty exciting. We're gearing up for our first casting trip to Memphis. They have a huge audition event there where we'll see like a zillion people... it'll be interesting. Colleen from our first summer told us she thought it would be a good hunting ground for us to find folks, so we'll see. If we don't find what we're looking for there is still plenty of time to keep ferreting around - so can't hurt. I'm not sure we're gonna have time to go to Graceland which really sucks. They run Friday to Monday - and I have to teach on Tuesday, so it'll be tight.
Everybody's been working really hard to get the auditorium cleared out enough for construction. The side walls studs need to be constructed on the floor and then raised up... so you need to have a a good 32 foot span in the middle of the room to function. It's amazing how big that place looks with everything out of there... it's super awesome to see it that way... including with all the seats out. This is the first time it's really looked like a blank slate.
A couple full days were spent just taking stuff to the dump... Sometimes it's quite a debate over whether something goes or needs to find a new home. People give us all kinds of stuff cuz they figure we'll be able to use them in a show... and sometimes they're LARGE. For instance the old hair salon dryer chair which I refused to give up.. Seriously - at some point we'll do Steel Magnolias or um... Sweeney Todd on ice. The primary stuff that went were the numerous things that Rich had purchased in auction that just didn't end up suiting our needs. It's kind of a crap shoot with that stuff sometimes... a lot of the time we get great items from it... like the ice machines etc. But sometimes things just don't work the way you want. The biggest (figuratively and literally) failure we had were the giant stainless steel oven hoods that were supposed to go in the restaurant kitchen. Removing those things from their original location was (by all accounts) about the most awful activity imaginable - and then we found out months and months later that they wouldn't work for our space. And we had to buy a new one - the cost of your average space shuttle. Anyway... so now it was time to send this other hood home to Jesus. And, frankly, I think it was kind of the end of a chapter for rich... a little cathartic. He seemed really happy when he pushed that thing out of the truck...
So yay - it was little items that like that just took up a weeee bit of space in there.
So we got one full length of a side wall clear. The plan, kids, is basically to build a new framework inside of the existing walls. The mural stuff can't be rescued (and it's bizarrely outside of the art-deco style anyway)... because it's all painted on some kind of acoustic foam that has crumbled. Up close it looks like a bulletin board that you covered in catnip and then let Tabby go to town. So that means we need to get anything that extrudes OUT of the wall as flat as possible - so it doesn't force the new wall studs out farther than they need to be. Even the columns along the wall (that the lights hang on) aren't structural - they're really just hollow inside and coated in plaster (a surprise to me). So anyway - I was VERY VERY excited to go to town on this wall... it meant we were actually STARTING. So after Rich gave me a quick masterclass... ("this is wall.... this is a crowbar... hit it")
I started whacking away. It was kind of hefty work - but it came apart surprisingly rapidly. I had the whole length of the room down in about an hour. It's a really good thing that rich has a plan to insulate inside the new walls because it was clearly pretty damp in there. The brick walls were as solid as can be... but the plaster beneath the fake skirting wall was very deteriorated. It's going to need sealed well so that the work we do on top doesn't get damp in a couple years.
I videotaped some of the plater that shows you exactly why none of the original plaster would be wise to keep exposed...
Because that stuff was so crumbled, honestly, the clean up was way worse than the demolition... We loaded out about 22 5 gallon buckets of debris to the dumpster. But then... it looked like this...
Rich and Chris Hoke (he and Beth are basically giving up their winter to help us work in here) went to some construction supply place and they've figure out exactly what we need for the walls. They are going to be done with metal studs...not wood. They are like $1.40 a foot - but much lighter to manipulate and they can be purchased in precut lengths... So we can get a zillion of them already done at 32 feet or whatever.. and then just have to trim a little.
We also think we have a solution to the biggest dilemma about this entire process that has been plaguing Rich since we bought the place. Finding a way to paint the ceiling. Now a while ago we purchased this awesome genie lift (we named it Barbara Eden if you recall). Anyway - this thing is big and tough and awesome and easily gets you up to the top of the ceiling in the auditorium. BUT The floor in the auditorium is raked - about six feet from front to back. That means, in order to get the genie to go up in the air (and it not be like your on some kind of fairground ride assembled in haste by a one-eyed drunken carny with the shakes) you have to find a way to create a level surface for it to sit on. And this thing is a) huge. and b) very very heavy. It drives around kind of like a giant remote control car... you use a remote that looks just like those in fact. And when it stops it's not an immediate stop... it kind of keeps going about six inches. Now - apparently building a solid unit for it to roll onto is not an option for two reasons. The weight of the thing is too substantial to sit it on a standard platform which wouldn't be unwieldy to move around every 20 minutes. See when you're up there painting the ceiling you've only got a painting radius really within the confines of the lift (you don't want to go leaning over it). That could be worked around... you could create something really sturdy.
So... the pack leader came up with a pair of ramps. Two separate ramps with bumpers on the side and the end. We started in the center of the room experimenting. I looked at these ramps and felt nothing but total and complete confidence. (not). But he set them up... drove the lift up on to them... and after futzing a little bit and using a level... the genie lift WAS level.
And - he said he was ok. I was not ok. But whatever. I went up to the balcony and took a picture of him painting the first strokes of our ceiling test color. We need a blue - but we need a really dark blue. Something that has richness - but doesn't draw your attentintion to that ceiling...cuz it's not as smooth as one might like.
He also has discovered if he takes the shopvac up there (there's a plug inside the genie lift) that he can get a lot of the peeling paint and plaster to come free and the ceiling is then looking pretty clear to be painted. Ok - so even though it's a little scary - he has a plan...
BUT the real problem is that the auditorium floor not only rakes down... it isn't flat from side to side. It dips in the middle of the room and then rises up towards the side. It's imperceptible to the eye - but it's definitely there. If you lay a 10 foot plank down for instance - the plank doesn't touch the floor in the center. so - That means no standard platform will really do the trick in more than one location. We tried moving the genie lift over to the side of the room and (where the floor is skewed) and Rich's plan was to kind of have the ramps askew from each other to offset the difference and get it level. This didn't work. It all ended up a little too Macguyver and even though it might have worked 99 times out of a 100, considering how many times he is going to have to move this thing around, and how many times he's going to have to set those ramps up in different configurations - it just had eventual accident written all over it.
So he's shopped around online and found something that makes me MUCH MUCH MUCH happier.
Each leg is adjustable so you can make the whole unit level on whatever surface. Those bracing side legs make VERY VERY happy and I think the whole process will be much less time consuming and lot more safe. Rich is actually really excited about the unit. Allllso - because it's is modular (and comes apart) and it's not nearly so heavy, it can be used in the space once the seating platforms have been built to access overhead lighting instruments (Rich is just moderately adjusted the width of the seating platforms to accommodate its width.
Neither one is right - but at least we know we now need something right in between the two colors. We're gonna go to Lowe's tonight and I'm gonna take the auditorium model along with me. Because he's really confident on the genie lift in the middle of the room (with the least skew on the floor), he's gonna start painting the ceiling this week.
OK... talk to you soon xoxoxo jojo