The steps leading up to The Golden Apple Dinner Theatre’s control booth are treacherous. As anyone who has ever braved the Apple’s dungeon-like balcony-level booth knows, the only way to ascend the narrow stairwell is by ducking your head and taking baby steps to the top.
“I could make it up these steps blindfolded,” says Joey Cantalupo, the theater’s 21-year-old assistant technical director.
The Golden Apple’s control booth is as black as a cave and as hot as an attic.
“I was tech-ing a show once at the Players Theatre,” says Cantalupo, “and they asked me to fill in for an actor who didn’t show up. It was awful. They needed someone last minute, and I fit into the guy’s costume. I hated it. I’d much rather be behind the scenes. The thrill actors get from being on stage I get it from being back stage. It’s an adrenaline rush.”
For eight years, Cantalupo has worked as a stage technician for theater companies and performing-arts venues all over Sarasota. He started volunteering for The Players when he was just 13, building props, designing sets, operating light boards and running fly rails.
A Booker High School graduate, Cantalupo is a sarcastic Queens, N.Y., native with an unmistakable moustache and a penchant for dating actresses. Of all his technician responsibilities, he says his least favorite is operating the follow spot — especially at Golden Apple, where the lights are so blistering hot he and Stage Manager Alyssa Goudy, 27, have to wear gloves to operate them.
“It’s because they aren’t actual spot lights,” says Cantalupo, pointing to the giant cannon-shaped light shoved under his workbench that, up until last year, was what technicians used to follow actors. “These new lights are actually stage lights. They’re supposed to be fixed on the ceiling, which is why they’re so hot.”
This August, Cantalupo graduates from a police-training program in Hillsborough County, after which he says he’d like to give his actress girlfriend, frequent Golden Apple performer Samantha Barrett, a few years to pursue her career before the two settle down.
The theater is in its eighth and final week of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” and Cantalupo couldn’t be more relieved.
He flips on his light and stands by for Goudy’s command.
The actors take their places. The theater goes black. Cantalupo sites his spotlight in the dark and on command lights up Heather Kopp, the show’s narrator.
“You just wait,” he says as he cheats the light to the right. “I got on two gloves ’cuz I burnt through the first pair.”
did you know?
• “Ballyhoo” is when a spotlight swings in a wild figure-eight motion around the room.
• Golden Apple’s follow-spot operators can hear almost everything that’s being discussed backstage through the headphones they wear in the control booth.
• Gels, or thin pieces of plastic placed into the front of a spotlight, are used to change the beam’s color.
• Source Four spotlights, such as the ones used at the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre, can cost anywhere from $200 to $600 per light.
• An iris changes the size of a pool of light.
• The minimum number of follow spots used to light a typical musical is two.
• High-end Broadway musicals might use up to six follow spots in one production.
• The spot should only be slightly larger than the performer and never so large that it loses its shape.
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