Building a theater. No. Really. Honest... really.

OK so nifty stuff is happenin' peeps. I'm on spring break from teaching - which is super awesome. I've been catching up on lots of work, getting the summer shows sorted out and other fun stuff. But - the most important thing...

We've been going great guns at that big honking room. The new scaffolding arrived and it's pretty amazing. I never thought i'd be one to describe scaffolding as beautiful - but it's great stuff - super well made and really well designed. It basically pieces together like giant lincoln logs - which Rich has to be climbing as he assembles higher and higher. Originally we only ordered 1 set of standing planks... but Rich got two more sets and they make funneling stuff up way safer and more manageable.

When the stuff arrived Rich was pretty excited... I can't imagine why. I mean, hanging off of the tinkertoy ramp of death wasn't anything to be concerned about right? Yah. So here he is putting the stuff together...

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I don't know why it amuses me that it is Curious George yellow - but it sure is. The best thing about the stuff are those huge side armatures you see. Those AND each of the legs can crank up and down within a two foot span. Which makes dealing with the crazy rake of the floor (over an inch every foot) a tad safer. And by a tad I mean... like, how that Frech guy who walked a tight rope to cross between the World Trade Centers is a TAD better with equilibrium than Charlie. Anyway - the each support can be adjusted and then Rich checks the cross bars with a level every time we move it. Because, as I mentioned - the floor doesn't just ramp... it scoops side to side. Imagine you put your mattress on a ramp. Then imagine you had Kirstie Alley lay down on the mattress. That's the shape of the floor slightly exaggerated.

And within a couple hours he was touching the clouds...

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In case you'd like to know what the view is like from up there here is a picture...

NERD'S EYE VIEW... rich-eye-view.jpg

Yikers. Well - now it was time to put the stuff to work.

All three of the walls - the two sides and the new proscenium wall are being built out of metal studs. The metal stud idea is largely thanks to braniac Chris Hoke. For about four months he and Rich talked through four hundred different ways to build these walls and connect them to the existing structure safely. You're talking a lot of height - and not an insignificant amount of weight. We talked about using theatrical flats (which I felt wouldn't hold up over time) and foam (which degrades) and all kinds of stuff. Rich really wanted something we could insulate - because that room is like an ice box and it costs a fortune to heat.

So - metal studs. You'll see in a minute. But the challenge was WHAT are these studs going to attach to? You can't just nail into brick. And just screwing into brick isn't going to give any kind of security. So. Rich borrowed Larry's giant drill and they bore holes through the five brick thick exterior wall.

You can see Rich drilling the hole here...

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Every 4 feet or so. Then Rich and Bob ran metal rods through the length of the hole (from interior to exterior). Next, they bolted the rods to the exterior wall through plates from a very very tall ladder and then bolted it on the interior side to hefty shelving brackets. And on top of the shelving bracket - sturdy planking running the entire length of the wall.

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So it ends up looking like this.

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And by the way - those planks at the top are run through the router to inset the brackets AND the widths change as the wall topography shifts. I'll bet you're wondering how Rich gets the planks up all that scaffolding. I'll tell you...

scaffold-with-genie.jpg So the genie lift may not be taking Rich up to the ceiling - but it's pretty invaluable (and more stable) for carrying up stuff. That's how the drywall's gonna go up.

So...now the bottom. You thought we forgot about that, huh? Well, the bottom involves my new favorite tool. Which is called a Whack Bang. This is not it's official name... but my name is better. Along the floor on the base of the wall Rich has run 2x4. But how do you secure 2x4 to solid concrete, you ask? BY USING THE WHACK BANG!!

It's this cylinder thing that you LITERALLY put a bullet (like a BULLET) in it and then you stick a nail in the bottom. And then you whack it with a hammer and BANG! The bullet drives the nail into the concrete. Seriously... you have to wear earplugs.

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In case your wondering the boring real name is apparently a concrete nailer. YAWNNNN.

So - now we have something at the top and the bottom... and in between 32 feet of wall. And so, we await the delivery of the metal studs.

HEAVY METAL AT THE SUPPER CLUB studs-delivered.jpg

Actually calculating the lengths to order took Bob and Rich hours. They come in a variety of lengths - and you're paying for every foot. And the room is a ramp... So every single stud needs to be a different length. They still all need trimmed to the exact measurement - but cutting off a couple inches is a lot less expensive than cutting off a couple extra feet. The studs get slotted into runners which are (bizarrely, I thought) different at the top and bottom - So those channels had to get screwed in against the wooden planking...

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Here's it getting passed up for the top run...

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And then... THEN the studs get cut on the saw (causing more sparks than you can fathom - take a look at the video footage). Then somebody stands on one end and foots the bottom against the floor and then the other person walks stud up into the air. They aren't overly heavy but they are very very unwieldy - you've got to move pretty fast or it's impossible to keep the thing balanced. It goes up in the air and, if there's an extra person around, they're up on top of the Scaffolding and they catch the top of the stud as it gets vertical. You can watch most of the process in this fun lil' movie...

Here's the pack leader with the first couple studs:

REAL STEEL first-studs.jpg

Figuring out the first one was pretty tricky. Screwing the studs in is finicky but they have these special screws that drill right through the metal. During the weekend we had a team of five of us (Chris and Beth and Ryan and Rich and me). Chris was on the top of scaffold, Rich was cutting studs, Ryan and I 'launched' them up in the air, and Beth screwed them in at the bottom. Each stud has to be measured really careful 16" top and bottom from the last stud. Keeping the measurements matching is important because we've got to line up 32 feet of drywall - and if the studs aren't vertical we'll NEVER be able to secure the drywall to the studs over such a vast length.

And working kind of like an assembly line in an afternoon the wall was over half way done...

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Then these cross pieces go in. Screwing those in to each stud is time consuming and a pain in the keester.

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Of course they do make ones that have clips and automatically line up every 16 inches but those are five times as expensive. :( womp womp. Rich and I putter during the day working as much as we can (Janice and Bob are away for a few weeks) and Chris comes in the evenings whenever he can... But by the end of this next week the whole first wall (from the front and running all the way back to the balcony) will be studded. To get a sense of how giant this thing is notice Rich and Larry down there at the bottom of the picture (which I took from up in the balcony).

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In the process of all this I knew I was gonna eventually have to figure out if I could handle being on top of the scaffolding...

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Honestly, after the initial panic attack and heart palpitations, it's not the bad up there. It doesn't sway nearly as much as you imagine it would and it feels really pretty solid up there. The part that I find scary is getting on and off the top platform. You kind of have to climb through the rungs and I don't like that part at all... especially getting down. But I'll get over it. At some point. I'm sure. Eventually.

Anyway - so that's what's goin' on.

It's neat, right? Progress, right? It's sooooo neat!

At the same time all this has been going on, I've been doing the one-man Treasure Island all over at a bunch of schools. Let me tell ya, doing three performances of that thing in one day is tough. I did nine performances for hundreds of kids over the past two weeks... and they were, for the most part, really fun to do. And I swear, for the most part, the kids looked slightly more interested than illustrated in this particular photograph :)

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So - that's that.

And, in case you needed a cute picture of wiener dogs... here's a cute picture of wiener dogs:

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Awwwwwww.

xo jojo.