February and March were busy months for me at work. It was busy for everybody because American Idol had come to our theatre to shoot six episodes this season. They were shooting in between our normal show schedule which meant that we would do ten shows in a week and then load in American Idol overnight for our weekend. They would start rehearsing at 8am and start shooting at either 5 or 6 pm depending on if the show was broadcast live or not.
My job was House Electrician. I had to make sure everybody had the power they needed for the show as well as manage the lighting crew for the Load in/out and for the TV shoot. Luckily I had help from my assistant and leads. Everything went incredibly well.
My concern going into this was my ostomy. My schedule was one that I had not done since my surgery. My day would start at 3pm on Monday where I went into work and ran our normal show with the crew. At 11:30pm, after our show, I would send my crew home to be back by 7 or 8 am to start rehearsals. I would stay and have dinner from 11:30 to midnight along with my new load in crew that consisted of people from the Carpentry, Props and Wardrobe departments that stayed to do the overnight shift because they would not be needed for the shoot.
I also brought in a few fresh people at 11:30 including my assistant and a lead. We then worked through the night loading in the show, taking a break around 4:30 am for lunch. The whole thing was mostly loaded in and ready to go by around 8am.
At 7 or 8 my show crew that left 7 hours ago were back and clocking in ready to work. After a quick meeting they usually went to their follow spots to start the long day of rehearsals. By 8 am I sent my overnight crew home to be back at 7 pm the next day to load it all out.
At 9 am once everything was settled in I handed off my duties to my assistant to go get some sleep. I was back within 5 to 6 hours. I was there before the actual shooting of the episode in case anything came up. I sent my assistant home for the evening. My show crew was done when they were done taping. It usually ran long. I would get out a little later than everybody else to make sure everything was shut down.
Day two started later. My assistant did the morning shift at 7 or 8 am with the show crew. I came in at 2 pm and I would let him go around 5 or 6. The load out crew was called at 7 or 7:30 depending on the day. We would load out after the taping (or live) episode wrapped. It could take us to 11pm or later. I then headed home to get some sleep and be in for our normal show at around noon as I worked days on Thursday and Friday.
That is not an entirely unique schedule when you work in this industry. It is unusual for us in a long running show. I had not done it since I had my ostomy surgery and I was concerned going into it that I would have lots of problems.
Irrigation works really well when you’re on a schedule. My normal schedule is to get up relatively early in the morning, have a small bite to eat and then irrigate. After that I start my day. On this schedule I was not going to bed until 9 or so the following morning. Should I irrigate before I sleep or after. Also because I was up all night, and eating, my digestive system was getting input where normally there would be an 8 hour break from me stuffing my pie hole. I also didn’t put the best foods in my stomach during the overnight. Craft Services had some good choices and some bad choices. I made a lot of bad choices at first.
One of the things I had going for me was that the Hotel put some of the Department Heads up in rooms since we were going to be there very long hours. That saved me from an hour of travel time and gave me a private place to deal with my ostomy if things had gone horribly wrong.
Now that American Idol has moved on, there are some lessons I’ve taken from the month long experience.
First, getting off your schedule does effect how well irrigation works, a lot. I found myself several times having to change the bag at the theatre because they were just getting clogged up. That rarely happens when I’m on a schedule.
Also, crap in = crap out. Seems like a no brainer, but it became really apparent to me after that first weekend that I was having a lot more problems because of the food I was eating. It also took a long time for those problems to clear up after I started to eat better. One day of making bad choices turned into 3 days of dealing with the aftermath.
Sleep first, irrigate later. Even though I would have been closer to my normal schedule if I irrigated before I slept, I found that even those few hours of sleep and not eating produced a better result than the other way around. I don’t have a good reason for this, it just seemed to work this way.
The last thing I learned is that I can still do this even with the ostomy. It seems like something I should have known from the start, but it has been a big change and doing new things with it is always a little daunting. There is definitely a bit more planning involved than before. You lose more sleep because you need to dedicate time to irrigating (which I suppose is optional) and you need to make better choices, but being able to still do what I did before cancer always feels great! Now I need to find a stategy that will keep me away from the Craft Services table!
‘You’re in it to win it dawg!’