Intro to Photography is a new elective at Charter Arts this school year. The class is taught by Mr. Fickes and is offered to students outside of the visual art department. The coursework requires students to create various types of photography series as they learn camera and photoshop skills. Their most recent assignment was based off of careers related to photography, in which students created a series tailored to a career of their choosing. The career options were portrait photography, fine art photography, commercial photography, and photojournalism. Not only did this assignment give photography students the chance to try out a career in this field, but it also opened up a perfect opportunity to bring guest writers on The Performer! Photography students who chose to focus on photojournalism were required to write an article along with their photos. Several of these articles are going to be featured right here on the school newspaper blog, paired with their photographs for readers to see. Today, take a look at the photojournalism series created by junior theatre major, Gabrielle Rhoads:
The decrepitness of many aging live theatre spaces and the administration’s continuing inability to inspect and maintain them for the safety of the technical crew is the focal point of this series. The theater that is the subject of the series is a combination cinema and live theatre performance space in Allentown, Pennsylvania. In recent years, the theater has had difficulty finding operators for their spot lights, despite their large and engaged network of volunteers. The theater has had no problem finding people to usher shows and assist their stage managers, a job which consumes several hundred hours per show, for no compensation. The one job they were not able to fill in this manner was the job of spot light operator.
Upon further inquiry, it is not difficult to see why people avoid this job. The technicians must climb several stories above the theater into a crumbling alcove above the ceiling of the theater. The floor is fiberglass with a catwalk of two-by-four’s curving around the inset circular chandelier which illuminates the theater below. There is also a distinct lack of safety measures to protect the technicians who work in the space. The cat walk has no railings separating it from the fragile fiberglass floor, there are no fire escapes, and the spotlights are each set at least 20 feet from the only exit. As of 2015, there was a 5.6% incident rate among people who worked for performing arts companies, which is a higher incident rate than all kinds of construction work, except for framing and roofing. Unsafe conditions like these only serve to increase this statistic.
For instance, a few months ago there was an accidental fire started onstage during a rehearsal. The actors and booth technicians we able to evacuate quickly, but the spot light operators needed to scale two sets of ladders out of the ceiling in order to escape. This brought into the front of the minds of the operators just how unsafe the conditions were in the event of a fire. A month or so before, the theater launched a capital campaign to restore and renovate the theater, but the funds were only intended to be put towards the areas visible to the public. With the help of multiple technicians, the board of directors was convinced to divert some funds from the multimillion dollar campaign to institute safety measures for their technicians. However, may theaters across the country, and the world, do not have as much monetary support and will remain extremely unsafe for their technicians. It must be realized that an incident need not occur in order for the modernization of the space as a whole to be set in motion.
Photographs and article by Gabrielle Rhoads.