Students work behind the scenes all weekend to prepare for Fall Fest
Published: Monday, October 14, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 14, 2013 01:10
Behind the Fall Fest crowd, on a stage of his own, stood Josh Azoulay. The senior theater and design and technology major bobbed his head and tapped his foot in tune with the music. He used those beats to splash the stage with flashing beams of white, yellow, red and blue, each stream of light emphasizing a different note, creating a symphony on the stage.
Azoulay, who was in complete control of the lights on stage, was one of three people on the ‘front of the house’ stage; he had two men behind him moving the spotlight.
Fall Fest took place Sunday night, but before the three-hour show could start, there were over 50 hours of behind-the-scenes set up – including a team of 20 students building a stage out of a truck – that went into the concert.
Azoulay is one of the performers in the concert but never takes a bow.
Sunday night wasn’t his first light show. He had worked on Spring Fest in May and works in the theater department at the Center For the Arts. He liked working a live show much more than a rehearsed theater show.
“I missed some beats and didn’t hit all the things I would have liked, but that’s OK because at an event like this, nobody will really notice or care,” Azoulay said. “Unlike in the theater, where if you miss a beat or a cue, you could ruin the whole show.”
Azoulay got to the LaSalle Lot, where Fall Fest took place, at 9 a.m. Saturday ready to work. He had worked a few other fests and knew he was in for a long weekend.
He was one of 23 people working to build the Fall Fest stage. He worked alongside professionals from the company Audio Images, which provided UB with the stage, electrical equipment and seven professionals to assist. The rest of the set-up crew were paid students with experience in the production side of theater.
Alicia Marvan, a student production manager, has her bachelor’s degree in dance and theater and has been working in theater production for 10 years. She thinks students getting involved and gaining real-world experience is quite valuable.
Azoulay hopes to be a light designer when he graduates and is grateful for the opportunity to design the lights at an event as big as Fall Fest.
Sometimes, students get jobs from working with experienced professionals in the field, according to Marvan.
Tannis Kapell is living proof of that. When the alum was a student, he worked as a light technician during Fall Fest in 2012. While he was helping to deconstruct the stage, someone from Audio Images offered him a full-time position after he graduated.
He agrees that every student hoping to go into the production business should experience the real-world aspect of Fall Fest.
Not only was Azoulay in charge of the lights during the show, but he also managed a team of students as they set up the two lighting trusses.
Three weeks before the show, Azoulay created a “plot” – a map of where each light would be on stage. He chose the color, position and placement of each light on the stage. The only restriction was A$AP Rocky requested purple lights.
“I think of all the lights like each one is a different paintbrush and you need a lot of colors and paint brushes to decorate the canvas that is the stage,” Azoulay said. “I think of myself as painting the stage with color.”
By Sunday morning, the 40-by-40 foot stage was built, the side monitors were hugging both sides of it and the front of the house was ready for Azoulay to play with.
The light board was different from the equipment Azoulay was used to working with in the CFA, so Kapell became his go-to man for questions about the system.
Azoulay spent five hours programming the computer. He customized various buttons on the screen to make certain lights jump, rotate and flicker at his command.
For one hour between his programming, he was called to the stage to focus the lights. Two students, wearing harnesses, climbed 40 feet to the lighting truss to adjust the light bulbs under Azoulay’s direction.
Steve Baker, a senior math major, was one of the students adjusting lights. Although he was 40 feet in the air, he wasn’t scared of falling but of dropping one of his tools or a piece of the light. This was his fourth fest, but he doesn’t plan on going into theater production when he graduates.
Minutes before the show, Azoulay took a seat behind his light board next to the UBTV cameramen, giggling as they filmed girls making out with each other on the kiss cam. His face was concentrated on the empty space in front of him.
He had no plan of action going into the concert; he figured he would “just wing it.”
“I just want it to start,” he said. “Because I know once it does, it will be over too soon.”
Once Super Mash Bros took the stage, the cameramen stopped giggling and Azoulay stood up and took his place behind the light board. Like a pianist ready to play in an orchestra, his hands were placed in specific spots on the light board, ready to create something beautiful.
As the music thumped through the speakers, Azoulay’s eyes darted back and forth between the stage and the light board, his fingers played the sliders and turned knobs making lights fade in and out and scan the crowd’s growing excitement.
And then it started raining.
Within 30 seconds, tarp was covering the light board and soundboard, protecting the thousands of dollars of equipment from getting wet.
After Super Mash Bros left the stage, Azoulay was grinning with excitement.
“That was good,” he said. “I got my bearings and now I’m ready for the next performance. It’s going to get even better.”