28 Illustrated Theatre Production Guide 2 ed
nique can take the place of a bull line, but be careful,
as it takes a great deal of experience to know the differ-
ence. Do not exceed your limitations, and, as they say,
better safe than sorry.
Running a show from the rail involves the marking of
trims (the limits a purchase line should move), the clear
labeling of all linesets in use, making up a cue sheet, and
establishing a means of communication from the stage
manager. Flymen should exercise a great deal of caution
when flying scenery. The inertia of a heavily laden
batten can cause severe damage to scenery or props on
the deck, as well as to humans. If it is not possible to
see the stage while running a cue, it is best to have
someone else watch for you. During work calls, a flyman
should always announce a batten moving in or out. The
most common way is to call “Pipe number so and so,
coming in. Heads up!” Remember to speak loudly, from
the diaphragm.
Although the term flyman is used here in an effort
to respect tradition, the rail is by no means an exclu-
sively male domain. There are many fine women flymen,
and the term is not intended to exclude them. One of
them is listed in the acknowledgments section of this
books preface.
Trims may be marked in one of two basic ways,
either with colored tape wrapped around the purchase
line or with small pieces of yarn or ribbon that are
worked between the strands of the same line. The
ribbon is easier to see, and less likely to become dis-
lodged from the purchase line, but it is somewhat more
difficult to install and unkind to the rope. The yarn
method will not work at all with a newer braided line
such as Stage Set X. Whichever method is used, the
basic concept is to take the batten to its desired trim,
and mark the purchase line where it lines up with a
stationary point on the rail. In this way, the pieces to
be flown in can be stopped at a precise, predetermined
point without hesitation.
The best practice is to mark the in trim with white
tape so that the mark is even with the top of the rope
lock when the low trim is reached. If the purchase line
is white, use a dark color. As the scenery is flying in, the
front part of the purchase line will be moving down.
When you see the trim mark come into view, cover the
mark with your hand and gently stop the momentum
of the lineset as the mark reaches the top of the rope
lock. It is important not to run past the mark, as the
scenery may hit the deck with some force and make an
unpleasant noise.
Running a soft piece past its trim and piling it up
on the deck is known as overhauling. The error is par-
ticularly heinous if it extends to a point where the batten
pipe shows to the audience. Should that occur, expect
a stern reprimand from the stage manager. With a bit
of experience, you should be able to touch in the piece
to the deck without making a sound. Slow way down
as the trim mark approaches the lock, let it just touch
the floor, and then give a small tug on the line to settle
the piece against the floor snugly. If you are flying in
a hard piece, snugging it against the deck will keep it
from drifting back and forth during the scene. You
should be able to tell a definite difference in the feel of
the purchase line when the piece reaches the deck. With
some of the weight on the floor, the arbor will seem
After the scenery has had its moment in the foot-
lights, it must be flown up or out of view of the audi-
ence. It is best not to mark the out trim so that it
matches up with the top of the rope lock, because you
may confuse it with the in trim. Also, because the front
section of the purchase line is moving upward when the
piece flies out, a mark in that position would be coming
from the wrong direction to be easily seen. The tape
would be invisible until it suddenly popped up past the
lock and had already passed its stopping point. It is far
better to mark the high trims on the rear part of the
rope. It will be passing downward as the scenery flies
up. In this way, you can see the mark approach and
more easily stop at the proper trim. With this method,
both trim marks will be coming down toward you.
Usually there is some horizontal framing member that
is a part of the T-track system that can be used as a
visual reference for the stopping point. If not, one can
easily be established using marker or paint to create a
line across the tracks themselves. Out trims are most
often marked with red tape, but the color does not really
matter as long as you are consistent with it. Avoid using
the same color tape for both your ins and outs, because
that will create confusion.

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