The Tales of Two Steves

In this issue of Intermission Dishin':

As we continue to showcase the work being done as part of RENO2020 in both the public and back of house spaces, we also have the pleasure of introducing you to two more team members:
Steve West (Head Stage Carpenter, Spriet Stage)
Steve Allen (Auburn Stage House Technician)

But first, check out the latest shots from the RENO work .. with carpeting being laid, painting and lighting installations taking place, toilets and sinks plumbed in .. we are getting close (and excited!!)


A view behind the boards blocking the front entrance of the Grand Theatre, the walls are temporarily covered with purple and red plastic.

Starting from the outside (and not quite looking in just yet), is a shot of the work being done on the front of the building. Remember, the Box Office will be moving across the lobby to the north side.

A view of the Grand Theatre's main lobby, looking towards the front entrance on Richmond Street. The area is still under construction, the area prepared for new flooring, and some framing still visible on the stairs and ceiling.

This angle is looking out towards the front doors on Richmond Street from the wall by the Spriet Stage. You can get a better sense of the added 'room' in the main lobby due to the shift of the Box Office and other reconfigurations.

The feature wall in the lobby at the entrance to the orchestra level of the theatre has been refreshed with light maple panels for a brighter appearance.

From the bottom of the stairs on main level, you will get a feel for the work in progress taking place on the featured maple wall that travels vertically throughout the lobbies.

At the Stage Door of the theatre, the security office has been refreshed with a new bright look, and new wall storage. Some construction equipment sits in the space.

A backstage reno update on our security office at Stage Door. Light, bright and super slick!

The wall leading into the Auburn Theatre on the lower level has been updated to feature vibrant red tiling.

When we say a 'pop' of colour, we weren't kidding! Here is a picture of the transformation of the Auburn Developments Lounge. While still in progress, we wanted you to get a first look at the GRAND red that you'll see throughout the spaces.

A close-up view of the small, circular red tiles on the feature wall leading into the Auburn Theatre.

An up close look at the super fun GRAND red tile!

The third-floor lounge has been refreshed with new, grey and white carpeting. The new bar can be seen by the large windows, and is lit with temporary lighting for the time being.

Moving up to the 3rd Floor (BMO London Proud Floor), the last couple of weeks have brought carpet tile installation and a stunning LED lighting feature that we're keeping a secret... for now.

Another view of the third-floor lounge, this time from the fourth floor. The stairs leading down to the third level are covered as construction continues.

From the 4th Floor Drewlo Lounge looking down to BMO London Proud Floor.

The fourth-floor Drewlo Lounge is still under some construction, but updates to the space are readily apparent - the brick wall in the centre of the floor along the stairs has been removed, with new pillars visible in the space. The bar has been extended all the way to the top of the stairs. Flooring is covered in plastic, and some tools and framing sit on the floor.

From the windows looking in at the Drewlo Lounge. Washrooms now located by elevators and bar extended (just by a little...)

A second view of the fourth-floor Drewlo Lounge, this time looking out toward Richmond Street. Plastic covers the floor, and temporary lighting hangs on the ceiling as work continues in this space.

And the opposite view looking out from the top of the stairs in the Drewlo to the gorgeous view of Richmond Street.

A closer view of the newly extended bar in the Drewlo Lounge, the bar now extends all the way to the top of the stairs.

From the corner of the bar in the Drewlo looking toward the stage, you get a real feel for the length of the new bar. Could be why we keep referring to this area as 'the party room'?

The renovated washroom on the fourth floor now has more private individual stalls, and a bright new look.

Every washroom has been updated with separate stalls, floor to ceiling doors (without a urinal to be found) as we continue to explore flexible options for non-gendered washrooms for re-opening and into the future.

Another under-construction washroom shares the upgraded design with more private individual stalls. In this photo we can see a bit more of the layout for the sinks, which have not yet been fully installed.

Another photo from the upgraded facilities... still in progress but what a difference!

One more photo of an upgraded washroom, another row of sinks can be viewed opposite the individual stalls.

Another washroom photo??!! Yes - we are that excited about the upgrades and changes!

A view from the Spriet Stage, looking up at the new fly system.

In the February issue of Intermission Dishin', we talked about the extensive work being done on the Fly System (read about it here). We wanted to show you the progress to-date. It is truly a state of the art system and the team cannot wait to put it to work to create unforgettable theatre experiences for you!

The Spriet Stage's proscenium arch is shown from the balcony level of the theatre. Seats on both the balcony and orchestra level can be seen, covered in plastic.

Thought you would like to say hello to an old friend! Here is a quick shot of our beloved (and stunning) proscenium arch.


The Tales of Two Steves

Steve West and Steve Allen

Pictured above on the left: Steve West, Head Stage Carpenter, Spriet Stage (R) stands on stage with Col. Chris Hadfield (L). On the right is Steve Allen, Auburn Stage House Technician.

What is your job title and what does your job entail?

Steve West
I am the Head Stage Carpenter and in that role, I lead the efficient management and installation of each show’s lighting, sound, rigging, and sets. I supervise the local union crews and I work closely with the Grand’s Technical Department, Production Manager, as well as each show’s Stage Manager and Artistic Teams to disseminate production information and changes. I also do call times and crew calls and run the shows. So... contrary to what my title says... I do not actually do any carpentry on the stage.
Steve Allen
I am the Auburn Stage House Technician so I'm in charge of running all of the shows and providing all of the technical services on the Auburn Stage, sort of like a mix of Steve West, Aaron Ouellette, Jared Whitty and Wright Staines from the Spriet Stage all rolled up into one person.

What was your pathway to the Grand or to this line of work?

Steve West
When I started there were no schools or programs offering these kinds of courses. I went and worked with rock bands and did touring shows from 1977 till about 1994. I would supervise local crews during set ups and get the bands’ shows up and running, do the show, then strike it at the end of the show and move on to another city – all in one day!

I started getting calls from the London I.A.T.S.E. Local 105 and did some work every now and then for the Grand with the union crew. I joined Local 105 and after spending time ‘catching calls’, a full-time position on the fly floor became available and I won the bid. I did that for about a year, then the Head Stage Carpenter job came up and I have been here in that role ever since (I think it was 1994).
Steve Allen
I went to Sheridan College and took ‘Theatre Arts Technical Production’, and have worked all sorts of jobs in entertainment (as well as working as an electrical apprentice) before I got where I am now.

How long have you worked at the Grand?

Steve West
I have been here for 33 years... and counting!
Steve Allen
I started at the Grand as a Technician in the McManus during the 2009-10 Season, and took over as the House Technician in 2018.

What has been the most challenging show you’ve worked on and what is your most rewarding show – sometimes they are one in the same – and why?

Steve West
I think I’ll give you my most challenging so far. In 1996-97 we did a show called Atlantis. The set was a giant pool of water with scenery drops (walls) on all three sides. In the middle of the pool was a hole in the floor and when the traps were open, a big piece of scenery was lifted up through the hole.

Of course, the set was engineered so we knew the stage floor could take the weight of all this water. When we filled the pool, we used the fire hose in the stage right alcove so we ran the hose outside in the alley to get rid of all the dirty water before we filled the pool. As we did this, we got a visit from the Fire Department that showed up to see where all the water was going!

Another challenge was that we had to heat the pool because there were two actors in the water for the whole show and they were freezing! We had heaters in our quick change booths with smoke detectors, so at intermission the actors could get a little warmed up.

To keep them warm, we also had the house heat turned up which was not great for our audiences who then started over-heating. We used pool chemicals like bromide to keep the pool clean and pool pumps to keep the water moving. Some of our patrons got water on their clothes, which was not good. So as I look back, I think it was the show where we had the most to overcome but... we did make it happen!
Steve Allen
Cabaret would have to be the most challenging and rewarding shows I've ever worked on. Not only did I have to rehearse and learn the nuanced and complicated job of running the sound for the show, but at the same time, I had to juggle elements of almost everything to do with the production - from wiring practical lights and installing the set, to making the backstage area ready to serve as the entrance to the theatre. There were an incredible number of things for Lauren Rebelo (technical director) and I to keep track of and to do, and there were some weeks that I ended up working something like 80 hours in one week just to get it all done. It was such an amazing show that pulled a diverse audience in and that made it a sheer pleasure to watch (and work) night after night! Most shows start to lose a little something after you've watched them so many times, but I'd happily run Cabaret all over again.

You must have lots of stories to tell but maybe give us one or two ‘behind the scenes’ scoops.

Steve West
In live theatre, you just never know what can happen! The Grand did a show called A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. In one scene, there was an actor standing at centre stage and another actor burst through the centre doors, but as he did that, one of the doors came off in his hands. Well, he carried it downstage with him and the other actor looked at him with the door in his hands and without missing a beat he said “Renovations?” Obviously it was not in the script. But we all (audience, crew and cast alike) had a huge laugh! I love that about live shows.
Steve Allen
Yes, yes – I have loads of stories!

During Cabaret the haze we used for the show set off our fire-alarm system during a performance with a packed house and on a really rainy night. We were really surprised because we had been running the show for a full week with heavier haze with no problems – Ambrose perhaps??!! This was the first time in my time at the Grand that I've ever seen an audience needing to be evacuated, and I am proud to say it went exactly to plan! We ended up putting the cast and crew into the production van at the back of the building, while I ran around the building to meet the fire department. Thankfully, we managed to restart the show (to a hearty applause) shortly afterwards having only lost two couples to the temptation of the Church Key Bar across the road!

When we had the wonderful and fantastic Ronnie Burkett and The Daisy Theatre join us in the McManus, we had a bit of a problem as only about a quarter of the set – equipment and such – could find its way down any of the elevators down to the basement. The logistics of getting everything downstairs is always something I have to work out (everyone has heard about how we brought the set for The Runner in through the trap door on Spriet Stage), but this time was different. We had dozens of large roadcases that we had no way to get into the theatre. The solution ended up bringing in a large crew, pulling everything out of its cases and carefully carrying it (100 pound set pieces and all) down the lobby stairs – one element at a time – and then finding secret stashing places for the empty cases throughout the building to pack up the set after the run.

What are you most looking forward to once we re-open?

Steve West
With the renovations taking place there is lots of brand new equipment to play with. We’ll have a new fly system, a new sound system, new lighting and new automation equipment– I can’t wait to start using it all! It will be so great to see people again and get back to doing shows with a live audience.
Steve Allen
Not only am I super looking forward to seeing everyone and getting to do the work I love again, but I am so incredibly looking forward to watching audiences get immersed into theatre again. The changes to the look of the Auburn following the renovation as well as the new equipment being installed will mean a real change for our audiences and I’m excited to see everyone’s reaction!
Support the Grand

471 Richmond St.

London, ON N6A 3E4