TheatreArtLife has connected with a number of Entertainment Riggers across the globe to bring you their stories, experience and advice on the very crucial roles and responsibilities Riggers hold in today’s industry. Andrew Mudie is based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and works for TAIT. Here is his story:
Andrew, how did you get into rigging? What was the path that brought you to this career?
I started my path to entertainment as a freshman in high school. My mother insisted I did something other than sports after school so I landed on building sets for the school plays and musicals. From this, I was able to try my hand at most roles in the theatre and it wasn’t long before I realized that rigging, and working at height, was what most excited me.
I went to college at Radford University in pursuit of a degree in technical theater and it was there that I was afforded the opportunity to intern during my summers with Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas, as part of the rigging crew, and also in New York at Glimmerglass Festival, again as a rigger. Those summers interning cemented my interests in rigging. So when I graduated college I was looking strictly for jobs in that discipline and I was lucky enough to find myself at TAIT.
What training courses or on the job training did you do to become a rigger?
The best job training is being on the job, working next to people that are smarter and more experienced.
The bulk of my learning about rigging came from my summers interning at different companies across the country with veterans of the industry who have passed down knowledge and tricks of the trade. Truly invaluable.
Certification courses are a different story and are just as important and necessary. Specific to rigging and working at height, I have taken certification courses in high angle rope rescue (as part of a fire department program), rope access training, chain motor maintenance and repair. I’ve also been certified in emergency medicine as an EMT. Training is something we take very seriously at TAIT, in fact some of our employees provide certified training classes in rigging, performer flying, automation and other disciplines.
What has been your favorite gig, event, show that you have rigged for and why?
I think my favorite show that I have worked on has been the current Taylor Swift World Tour. The creation of the tour was a challenge from day 1. Everything in the show that we built at TAIT was custom, bigger and heavier than any other tour that has come before. It provided a lot of challenges just based on the sheer size, weight and number of moving parts in the show. The entire tour travels around in excess of 100 tractor trailers!
What do you think are the most important skills to have to be successful in rigging?
Tough and competent.
Those are the two words that come to mind when I think of what makes a good rigger. You have to be tough to stand up to anyone and say something isn’t safe or right. And because of the inherent danger in rigging, there is no substitution for competence. Rigging involves a lot of critical thinking, foresight, math and problem solving. And that’s not always something you can teach.
What advice would you give to someone looking to get into rigging?
It might seem hard to get in to at first, but all it takes is knowing someone to get your foot in the door. Community theater is a great place to start and learn the basics. Keep aspiring to know more. The phrase “You don’t know what you don’t know” is very dangerous in the rigging world.
Describe a typical day on the job.
It might be cliché to say, but there is no typical day for me on the job. About the only consistent thing in my work day is my morning coffee and bagel. Otherwise I’m usually working on getting an automated rigging system installed, functioning and tested for functionality and safety.
Do you have a mentor? Who is it and why are they important to you?
I don’t have a single mentor, but instead I consider my co-workers to fill that role. Every one of them has more experience than the next and are a great source to answer questions and get advice.
What do you do in your downtime? Any other interesting facts you want to share with TheatreArtLife?
Downtime? What’s that? Well when I actually have time off I love to go rock climbing, climb mountains in the pacific northwest, sleep in and generally try to be stress-free.
I am currently based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and work full time for TAIT. I have been at TAIT for roughly 5 years now.
Also by Anna Robb:
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