So amazing progress kids... let's get right to it. Last weekend Rich and Bob continued to spend hours and hours removing the sections of the giant duct work where they needed to be able to run the proscenium wall. This job was pretty darn awful. Basically they were chop out giant chunks of plaster which would then plummet to the floor and shatter into a zillion pieces. It was apparently really dirty and pretty gross (cuz inside the duct area was basically 100 years worth of grody.
Here you can see a giant chunk of the mesh waiting to be snipped out: The shattering plaster then created giant dust clouds. Let me put it this way... when I was like 8 years old my best friend David decided it would be really fun to dump an entire bottle of baby powder along the upper face of the fins of his bedroom ceiling fan. He then turned the fan on and said to his mother - 'hey it's snowing in my bedroom'. THIS involved more dust floating around. Seriously. The worst part of it is that all of the plasterwork up there is held together with that awful mesh of death - so rich's arms got all scraped up (sleeves?? what are sleeves??) and it just took FOREVER. By the end of each day they were completely toast. But - they got it done!! To give you an idea of the amount of debris they took out, our big industrial dumpster has been filled twice to the point of it's weight capacity. All the rubble gets carried out in 5 gallon buckets. The clean up, getting the rubble in to the buckets, and lugging it to the dumpster is not fun. It's like some kind of challenge they would give people on the biggest loser.
It also had to be cut out cleanly because the duct work needs to tie in to the new wall and butt up against it. Which - when you're ripping out giant pieces of plaster that like to crack using a saws-all... ain't easy. There's gonna be some fun fill in plaster work... but considering what a beast of a task it was...they did great.
The materials for the front wall arrived so this weekend we went at it. Honestly it was kind of surreal to watch. This wall, by far, is the most substantial change to the room and watching it come together was pretty extraordinary.
First Chris and Rich had to get the metal top channel run along the wooden beam (where Rich and Bob had cut the access channel). They had managed to cut the channel RIGHT along a main support beam... which was simultaneously brilliant Pack Leader planning, and still a pretty big ol' helping of logistical luck. The beam is pretty neat - it's the giant piece of laminated 2x12's all pieced together to create this huge old wooden support. Because it's laminated that meant Rich and Chris could follow the line of the laminated sections pretty accurately across the span of the entire room to make keep the guide rail running straight.
Then they had to drop a plumb line down 33 feet so that Beth could mark the corresponding place on the floor to run the lower guide track. Then Rich pulled out the plans and marked on the floor where there had to be gaps along the base rail (for fire exit doors, a service hallway, and, of course, the big old proscenium itself). Then wooden 2x4s were cut to the appropriate sizes and we used the WHACK BANG (remember the thing that hammers in spikes using a bullet charge??) to secure the 2x4 into the concrete floor. One whack bang about every 2 feet. We hit a snag, however... because there was one point against the wall where we only had a piece of wood about 6 inches long. That's because along the wall that is shared with the restaurant we have to add in a 3 foot service hallway. So along that wall it's basically one support stud, then a 3 foot doorway, then the wall the audience will actually see. But every time Rich tried to WHACK BANG this little piece of wood it would shatter along the grain. They tried like six times.. and THEN... THEN ladies and gentleman, Jo Jo actually had a mechanically brilliant construction idea. No... really. Read that again... over and over cuz we all know it's kind of a miracle. I suggested we cut a much longer length of 2x4, butt it against the wall, whack bang it where needed, and THEN trim the longer piece off. This was tricky - cuz Rich had to set the circular saw to run JUSSSTT above the concrete and then chisel out the last 1/16 of an inch...but it worked. Woot.
Ok. So ceiling channel in. Wood runner below. Then the pieces of floor guide runner were cut to fit and attached on top of the 2x4's secured to the concrete. So we have a top and a bottom guide rail. Believe it or not - that's the most time consuming part. That took like four hours. It's finicky, things don't want to co-operate, and it has to be perfectly lined up or you have a 32' foot wall that leans.
The studs go in amazingly quickly - considering that you have to take a measurement for each one (with a tape Rich holds up to the top rail and Beth will hold along the bottom rail. Then Ryan and I measure each stud and cut it to that size, and THEN it gets installed. You remember that cutting the beams on the circular saw creates a 4th of July bucket of sparks... and during the process on Friday night Ryan was leaning in a little to close as he was cutting and said "i just burned my mouth". Within about four nano-seconds I had christened him the nickname "Hot Lips" which is now his construction name for all eternity. So, please, should you see him on the street, feel free to address him as such. He will be delighted.
And by the ending we had most of the studs on that side installed - except for the area for the fire door - which involved a little more consideration. Down below, installing the studs actually went quicker than the first wall because you can access this wall from both sides to screw in and secure the studs. For the ones on the top rail, Chris had to climb into the theater attic above, monkey climb across the beams and screw them in from up there. So Rich was lining them up and securing from the scaffolding and Chris was above him in the ceiling. Because the beams don't sway at all like the scaffolding does (it sways a lot more apparently at 32' feet than it did at 25') Chris says he actually PREFERS being up in the rafters. Having been up on those beams I'm not sure I second that opinion - but he may be right. Chris did say "wow - this is going so smoothly" and five minutes later we had our first auditorium related boo-boo. While installing one of the studs a chunk of the ceiling plaster got banged as the stud was being secured in at the top. And it came down. And WHACK BANGED Beth's head. It was about the size of a paper back book - so Chris actually got to prove his long-held theory that Beth can be hard-headed. She had a big ol' goose egg above her eye - but it could have been a lot worse. Rich and I were worried she might have a black eye the next morning - but other than a little tiny cut (actually caused from the frame of the safety glasses when they were whacked by the debris) - she's good as new. And, we are considering getting her a t shirt that says "I came to the New Huntington and got plastered".
At the start of Saturday (weekend whirlwind day 2), they began by finishing up the left side - installing the horizontal header for the fire exit doorway and the beams above it. This was the first time they created a door frame with the metal studs, and I thought it looked super cool.
I took a quick little video to show how quickly we were getting the studs up. The ones above the door actually have to be lifted up to the person in the scaffolding - luckily Ryan is a strong feller.
Ryan, Beth, Chris, Rich and I worked until about 10pm Friday and Saturday. Ryan had to take off Sunday afternoon, so it was a little bit of a fun race against the clock to see if we could get the second wall completed before our beam lifter had to lift-off. We did it.
Rich made it very, very clear that once we decided the height of that arch, it was gonna stay there. It doesn't sound ilke a huge deal - but it kind of is. I grew up in Bermuda working in a theater that I loved - but the proscenium was really shorter than is ideal. You want to be able to have 2 story sets...(the sound of music sucks if you can't see the kids at the the top of the stairs!) and have a clear eye line from balcony. But every inch you go higher - means you have less room above it to raise scenery in and out. So, to make sure - I took a picture on Sunday night of the side walls in place, and Chris and Ryan ran a rope for me along the height of the stage. I went into photoshop and did a REALLY rough scale test (using the height of the stage (four feet) and the side doors (seven feet) as a guide.
So - eighteen feet seemed pretty good. BTW the proscenium design is now different - but I used the old plan to give me a quick idea.
And then, despite the fact that we had driven the Hoke's to exhaustion, they were still up for trying to install THE HEADER. So the plan was - this header spanned 28 feet (the opening of the proscenium). According to the instructions from the manufacturer it was supposed to be held in place simply by the screwed in clip brackets. But Rich and Chris both felt that this it wouldn't be bad to give it some extra security. We had get one of the 28 beam sections lined up against the opening. Measure out that exact width and then plan on running 2 vertical studs against each other - one of with only went to the height of the opening - so that the beam would also rest on the top of a stud on each side (kind of like creating the shape of the symbol for pii). Since those studs are only like 2 inches thick - the measurement couldn't be off - because then in order to secure the beam the side studs would have to bow in to secure them - and the walls would look like something out of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory! Because the concrete floor also, as you may recall, bows in the center of the room - there was an additional challenge. In order to facilitate the service hallway (for all the servers) from the kitchen, there is that 3' corridor that's being incorporated into the side of the room. So the proscenium actually does not sit in the exact center of the EXISTING room. And since the floor BOWS... that means that the two vertical studs that the beam sits on were not NECESSARILY going to be the same height. So Rich took the laser level up the scaffolding and figured out the spot that would make the beam run level. So - 2 studs in each side. Ready for beam. Yikes.
The beam is actually composed of four sections that piece together to make a long rectangular tube. When we started I only thought that ONE of these sections was the beam, and I was like "oh - no prob - four of us can lift that". Yah - well multiply that by four. Here was the plan. Get the genie lift in the middle of the gap. Assemble the beam ON TOP of the genie lift - (because once it was together there was no way it could be lifted) and then hoist the thing up with the genie into position and secure it. As we assembled the beam it became more and more evident that this was one heavy giant big ol scary piece of metal. It was a girder. This thing was big enough to crush Donald Trumps ego. Assembling it was tricky enough because each section had to be screwed together every foot - and driving the metal screws nearly beat Rich and Chris to a pulp. It took a lot of strength - towards the end I was helping by pushing on the of the drill as well... and it still was a heck of a work out.
I was positioned in the genie left with the beam. Beth would go to one end, Rich or Chris to the other to stabilize, and then they would take turns driving in the screws. By the time it was together Chris figured it easily weighed about 1,300 pounds. This was not something you wanted to drop. It was also something that had to be positioned on a five foot wide beam. And we only had one set of scaffolding.
So... Rich went in the genie left to take the thing up. We did a test run - and indeed, the genie, which has a bearing load of 3,000 pounds apparently, was able to hoist it up into the air. We had it strapped to the left on each side so that it wasn't going to slide anywhere but could still be nudged. As much as you can nudge 1,300 pounds. The trick with the genie lift is that the controls aren't exact to the inch... When you press the control to go up or down it's gonna go about six inches minimum. So lining it would be tricky. The genie would also function as a center support while the beam was being put in place - So Rich needed to be able to line it up dead on at 22 feet 6 inches (the stage heigh is four feet - the arch is 18 feet up from the stage, plus six inches for molding and dry wall. Chris would go to one end up the scaffolding, the beam would go up, and he would secure that side. Then Beth, Chris and I would as quickly and safely as possible move the scaffolding over to the other side. Chris would line up the beam, Rich would lower the lift a bit so that the beam would sit in position, and Chris would secure the second side.
And I would poop my pants. Seriously this was scary. Not because they hadn't planned out - but it was pretty scary.
I videotaped the first side of it - and then I was too busy being scared and helping move the scaffolding...but it's pretty amazing. Rich is on the genie, and you can see Chris over on the scaffolding on the left side.
WATCH IT GO UP I know - you just pooped your pants too, right?
But they did it. After it was done (and it was a tense 10 minutes) and it was totally secured, we just kind of sat there staring at it. Largely grateful that it didn't land on Beth's head.
Seriously - it's incredible. it's the first time I've been able to look in the space and see exactly where backstage would be. Where the wing space was. Where the audience sight lines were. Where the relationship of the balcony to the stage would be (much, much improved). It's really exciting, and also makes your brain kind of overload - because you suddenly begin to process and adjust a lot of things because you finally see them in three dimensions. I hope to have a lot more problems like in the next few months.
So - how was YOUR weekend? xo