Sara Broadhead, head electrician at Segerstrom Center for the Arts, tells us about the “spot booth.”
It’s called the spot booth. The position is 145 feet from the downstage line and up behind the ceiling at a 45-degree angle. That is the optimal angle to light someone on the stage. I know that there are New York apartments that are smaller than this booth. It’s approx. 700-square feet with a bathroom and we have a couch up there, a hammock and a futon. We keep a microwave, a mini-fridge, and a coffee maker.
Why all those amenities?
Because a lot of the guys will end up getting stuck up there for 14 hours straight.
How big is the opening that the spotlight shines through?
The glass in there is I would say about 7 feet tall and 5 feet wide. You can open it. They’ve done projections from up there, the subtitles for the opera. You have the hum of the large light next to you. Its 2,000 watts, which is way more than you ever have (at your home). It’s very warm. They (the lighting technicians) have some kind of protection on their arms. You also have your arm raised above your head for hours.
It sounds scary.
It’s actually not scary up there. It’s a really comfortable place. You kind of feel like you’re in your own private world lighting a show. You are hearing the programs, while at the same time someone is talking about the next actor that is going to come on stage. All of these details that help you move the spot more fluidly. It takes somebody who can always be thinking ahead and be very patient. You have to be paying attention to the show all the time.
What’s it like to have a hidden job?
I love it. But it’s the personality thing. I’m not a big public speaker. I don’t like to be the focus of attention. Most of the people who work backstage do it because that’s what they enjoy. We were people who tore our bicycles apart because we wanted to see how they worked. I like making the spectacle that everybody enjoys, but I don’t ever want my name on it. It’s not my thing. I’ve never wanted to be the one focused on or featured. I get to play for a living, I tell people. I’m very conscientious that people are safe.