Jim Gruss

About Jim Gruss

Jim has been working around, behind, and above the FCT stage since 2004's teen production of Godspell. A techie by nature, he's only ever appeared on stage once: as a cop from the Bronx in the 2007 thriller Wait Until Dark. He tries to balance all of the Crazy Bald Guy's requests with his equally crazy day job, but still finds time to work on his fix-er-upper house and feed the cats.

Rocking the house

“Finally, something worth talking about!”

And by that I mean, “Finally! Something I have time to talk about!”

Last January, during the terrific run of Out of Sterno, Linda Bower approached me about a show she was slated to direct during the coming season.  Early One Evening at the Rainbow Bar and Grill was a very intriguing show with some interesting technical challenges ranging from set construction and props to lighting and sound.

Well, here we are almost 10 months later and as Ravenscroft draws nearer and nearer to open, Rainbow is starting to spin up for its opening at the end of January.  Linda, Mitch and company have been scavenging for all of the bits and pieces necessary to turn our stage into the bar at the end of the world.  Upon arriving at the theatre last night to work on lighting for Ravenscroft I was pleasantly surprised to find Linda and Tim unloading a key part of the bar set.

Meet the newest member of FCT: a 1971/72 Seeburg USC2 Firestar Bandshell.  Or in plain English, our new jukebox.

As we rolled the juke off the trailer and into the theatre lobby, it was apparent the machine was cosmetically in great shape for a 40-year-old.  This beautiful beast was no TouchTunes*; it was a living, breathing, electromechanical monster.  Or at least it once was.  Now, no one was even sure if it even powered up.  The previous owners said it was working at some point in the not-too-distant past but only time and technical expertise would tell.  I’ve had a fair bit of experience repairing pinball machines–I guess you can consider them a cousin of the jukebox–so I held my breath and opened up the cabinet.

Opening a machine like this is a bit like opening a treasure chest.  You might find a spotless gem, or you might find a mess of dirty, broken, or worn parts.  The result is most often somewhere in between.  There were some good signs immediately: no animals living inside, no obvious structural or mechanical damage, and a fair number of 45’s left in the rack.  The jukebox was indeed not too far removed from its musical career.  There were some bad signs: a fair amount of debris around cables and a thick covering of grime over everything, but no deal breakers.

Fortunately, Linda’s only requirement for the machine is that it lights up.  We plan on providing sound in another manner, probably via a monitor speaker placed inside the cabinet.  The fluorescent lamps inside the machine were worn out or missing, and they were 3-foot lamps (2 and 4-footers are far more common).  Fortunately, it was early and the store had not one but two different lamp color temperatures to choose from:  2600K “reveal” and 6500K “daylight”.  Color temp essentially means how “warm” or “cool” a light source looks: a flame is around 1800K, incandescent “soft white” light bulbs 2700K, stage lighting 3000-3200K, most fluorescents from 5000-6500K (did i mention that on this scale higher = cooler?).  I chose the 2600K since I don’t want them to differ from the stage lights too dramatically–the jukebox should stand out, not irritate your eyes.  If you’ve ever put a “daylight” and a “warm white” bulb side-by-side you’ve seen what I mean.

After a little mechanical wrangling and straightening the mounting brackets, I managed to get the new lamps in.  Flipping the machine on, I waited eagerly as…nothing happened.  Then, a flicker.  Like an old car starting after sitting all winter, the ignitors began to slowly bring the lights back to life.  After a few moments, all three lit up and stayed up.  Primary mission = accomplished!

Going forward, I would like to see if I can make the rest of the machine boom to life (more on that later).  Perhaps it is the tinkerer in me, perhaps it is the desire to deliver that “wow” effect to the audience.  Despite the best special effects, sound machines, or other ways theatre has to make things look/feel/sound real, there is still something special about an effect being real.  I’m sure some day theatres will be doing The Wizard of Oz with a lifelike, animatronic Toto, but I think it will still be better with a real dog.

*TouchTunes is a registered trademark of the TouchTunes Music Corporation.

FCT stops by Fremont Farmers’ Market

The most recent Fremont Farmers’ Market was the “dog days of summer” so naturally, Sandy, Annie and Daddy Warbucks stopped by to say hi!

If you were at the first Fremont farmers’ market of the season, hopefully you stopped by the FCT booth.  Several teen theatre members were on hand and to promote the Teen Theatre 2012 production Kiss Me, Kate, opening July 12.

FCT at the Fremont farmers' market, June 16, 2012

FCT will be at upcoming farmers markets later this summer.  Stay tuned for details.

Several teens also took the opportunity to join the Fremont Zumba dancers in their demonstration…in Renaissance costumes and all.

Beginnings and Endings

Over the last 3 months, each time I stop out at FCT I find myself thinking…

it’s good to be back.

After spending parts of of six years working on nearly a dozen shows and numerous other projects, two years off from theatre made me realize how a part of my life it had become. When I was invited last November to work on Out of Sterno with Mindie and Mitch, I jumped at the chance to get back on board. It’s been a very busy and rewarding three months since then, and I’ve been grateful to rejoin the great group of theatre talent we have.

It’s been amazing to see all of the exciting new things that have happened in the meantime.  The theatre has brought back Youth Theatre, something that had been greatly missed for some time.  FCT put on its very own Play-in-a-Day, a fresh spin on improv theatre.  Leaving Iowa piled up an impressive 5 awards at last summer’s state-wide OCTA fest.  The green room and light booth have been re-vamped, and the theatre joined the social media revolution on Facebook.

Additionally, as you have no doubt noticed, the FCT website has a brand new look and feel. After nearly 5 years of the old site, it was finally time to move on.  The previous website was made in the era before Facebook and Twitter were household names and simply wasn’t up to the task of keeping up with news and updates that can change by the hour. We’ve adopted a website system based on the WordPress platform, which has worked beautifully thus far.  After the first month or so, we’re still fine-tuning some of the aspects of bringing you not just the latest theatre news, but also photos, videos, and articles from around the area.

A pretty exciting bunch of accomplishments, and there are more to come.  I hope that this blog–along with the Crazy Bald Guy’s venerable one–and our official web and Facebook pages will help to keep you up to date on some of the latest happening on, around, and above the FCT stage.