The First Lighting Gig

After running the spotlight for a number of shows, I moved down to stage level to help with lighting. I spent a number of shows as a lighting assistant. For any given show/event, there is a Lighting Operator (LxOp) – one who chooses the colours, where and what lights to use and program and run the lighting console, and the assistants (LxA). It could be one or more. The assistants get the colours, the lighting instruments and basically to the heavy work, at the direction of the LxOp.

The first show I got to operate, I wasn’t even scheduled for such a position. I was in as an LxA. There was no LxOp signed up, so the call went “downtown” for the IATSE union to fill the role. The guy who came in had been working the past 36 hours or so on a larger show – some touring band at the hockey arena. So once the basics had been determined, he let me do the rest, so he could have a nap.

He was nearby and I had his cell number if things went really awry. He also gave me a bit of advice that I still use; keep a look – lots of light, on a fader so if things go sideways or I lost where I was, that fader could always be brought up to save the show. You never want the talent left in the dark!

The show was a Canadian comedian, Don Harron, also known by his alter ego, Charlie Farquharson. Don had been on Hee Haw for years, one of my Dad’s favourite characters, so I was quite excited to not only meet the man, work on the show, but now be THE lighting guy for it!

The late Don Harron as Charlie Farquharson on Hee Haw.

Don was a very quiet man, and arrived without fanfare through the audience to the stage. Walked up on stage to where the crew were awaiting instructions, and simply said “Hello, I’m Don Harron”.

Anyway, we got the show set up, and ran rehearsals, then broke for dinner. Back then, we volunteers could work professional shows, and the Creative Resources crew made homemade dinners for the talent and crew.

The food was awesome, and 99% of the time, we ate with the performers. I miss those days.

I still smile to think that not only did I get to eat with Don Harron, but afterwards, watched as he lay down on the couch and had a nap. Just like that. To me this guy was a big star.

The show itself went off without issue. A hiccup during the show by the actors (it was Don and a woman who I don’t recall) that Don quickly rebounded with “that’s not the way it went in rehearsal”. The crowed laughed, and the crew because that was true, not just part of the show.

After the show Don signed autographs in the lobby and was selling a book. I purchased a book and got in line to have it autographed. Don was a little disappointed that I’d paid for the book (only $10); I guess he would have just given me the book. Anyway, I told him I was his lighting guy, looked at me and said thanks, and gave me a great book signing.

After that I was jazzed and knew this was the course for future shows. And thanks to the IATSE guy (who I’ll keep nameless, as he is still active in the union) for giving me a chance to do something I didn’t know I could do or like doing so much.

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