Sunday, October 15, 2017

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Theatre

This past August my daughter  Mykah auditioned for Alamance Children's Theater's  (ACT) Fall 2017 production of Disney's Beauty and the Beast.   She had previously been in a few plays at a local church.    She got a part as one of the enchanted objects in the Beast's castle.   I knew she was going to audition for the play and as a biased dad I expected she would get a part.  It was a first for her to be in a play put on by a theatre company.   My expectations for the production quality were not high given that it was community children's theatre.   That's not because I knew anything about ACT, but because I've seen shows put on by other community and children's theatre groups. 

At the meeting we received the schedule for practices, etc.  I wasn't sure what to expect but I was not expecting a 3 nights per week + weekend schedule - and that was just for rehearsals.   It was obvious that there was also set building, costumes and other activities I didn't know about yet  that all needed to happen to stage the play.  The directors also used terms like "blocking", "load-in" and "tech week".    While I could infer their meaning from context they were all terms unfamiliar to me as a first-time parent at the meeting.  It was also very different that they encouraged parental involvement beyond transporting the actors to and from rehearsals.  My kids' previous activities (mostly athletic ones) there wasn't as much opportunity for involvement, and in at least one case the coach discourages it.  He does have good reasons for it, so that's not a complaint, simply a contrast to how ACT was different.

While I was sitting in the meeting I decided I could help build the sets.  I didn't know much else about staging a play,  and costumes were a non-starter since I can't sew, but I can build nearly anything.  I also wanted an excuse to use my tools again.  I showed up that first Saturday and several subsequent ones to help cut, nail, screw and paint until we had the biggest set pieces built.  I learned a few things about how creatively sets from previous shows can be re-used, how a bit of paint makes a difference, and how much co-operation there is between theatre companies.  A good number of the smaller set pieces and one or two of the larger ones from Beauty and the Beast were borrowed. 

Load-in was the day I really understood what the 'community' part of community theatre is.  Someone procured a box truck with a lift gate for the heavier pieces, and another parent? Grandparent? or at least an interested party drove ~50 miles round trip to pick up some additional set pieces for the show from another theatre company.  After we got the pieces to the theatre we still had several hours of work to assemble the largest pieces and make any modifications and adjustments to some of them.   For instance, a table used in the Gaston song had to be strengthened because there would be actors dancing on it.     There was a travel trailer parked in the lot behind the theatre for the convenience of the actors.  In addition to all the set moving,  the dressing rooms needed to be set up, costumes mysteriously appeared from somewhere and some final fitting on them was done.   I'm sure I'm overlooking a lot of other work that happened but thats just ignorance of what has to happen to stage a successful play. 

I will always be grateful that my wife insisted  I stay for the dress rehearsal.  I was surprised by the quality of the show, and the creativity and quality of the costumes was amazing.     Mykah and I both had a wonderful experience participating in this production.   Both of us look forward to the next one.   Thank you to the producers, directors, se builders and anyone else I've left out for making this a great experience for her as  first-time actor and me as a first-time theatre parent. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Success At Last!

A few minutes ago I received an email from our builder.  It included this:

It has been a much longer wait than any of us anticipated, but the process is finally close to over.  It will still be a few more days before we are in the house.  Power has to get turned on and the bank has to make sure we didn't take the money and build a shack.   We're hoping the power company can come out tomorrow, in which case the bank most likely will finish up Monday.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Still Waiting

My last blog post about the house was September 8 and I estimated at least two weeks more of work.  It's nearly 7 weeks after that.  The builder is now telling us the first week in November for the house to be finished.  The original estimate was the middle of September.  Assuming it actually is the first week in November the estimate will be off by 10 weeks.  Needless to say we are very frustrated with all of the delays.    

My in-laws were scheduled to come back from Minnesota on 18 October.  They could not delay this because of some medical appointments that could not be re-scheduled.  For practical purposes we didn't have a final end date when they left MN so it would be hard to delay without knowing how long the delay was going to be anyway.   They arrived as scheduled and we found alternative housing for a few days.  They've since left town again and will be staying with some friends and then going to visit my wife's uncle.     They are due back here in 10 days, that of course assumes the builder is correct on his estimate.  

I'm not planning on posting any more pictures until the house is finished.  The outside hasn't visibly changed much and until the lights are on upstairs with all the drywall hung it is too dark to get decent pictures.

For the builder to be correct and be finished by next week he still needs to:

  1. Trim the upstairs - doors, baseboard etc
  2. Paint the upstairs
  3. Install all the bathroom fixtures upstairs
  4. Install all the electrical fixtures upstairs
  5. Install all the flooring upstairs and down
  6. Install the heat pumps and finish HVAC under the house
  7. Finish plumbing under the house
  8. Finish electrical - there are lots of wires sticking out of the breaker panel 
  9. Re-install all the toilets downstairs
  10. Do final grading
Trim installation was supposed to start yesterday. It hadn't.  I also don't know when the HVAC, etc is scheduled for, not that it matters since it will most likely be late anyway.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Slowly But Surely

It's been a while since the last update.  The house is coming along, but more slowly than we would like.  The builder's initial estimate was 6 weeks to finish it after it was set.  6 weeks was today, and my estimate is there's at least another two weeks of work left yet.  The downstairs has all been trimmed out and painted.  The only remaining item is the floor, but the builder will install that when all the upstairs work is finished.   The well was drilled last week, the well pump was installed and the pressure tank connected this week.  The garage floor was poured last week.  This was holding up final trim and siding on the garage, that is supposed to be completed this week.  

The upstairs rooms are framed in. The electrical and plumbing still needs to be roughed in and the HVAC needs to be installed.  Once that is done, drywall can be hung and taped out.  The septic also needs to be installed, but that at least can happen in parallel with the upstairs.  The septic also should only take a day to do. 

Some recent pictures.  I held this blog post from last week.  I hoped to have pictures of the completed outside  but there is still a bit more work to do trimming the porch and garage.  

Here's the upstairs before any framing.  The wall straight  ahead goes down the stairs.  I will eventually be finishing all the space on the other side of the stairs.

Here is a shot standing in the same spot  early last week.  The builder is finishing out about half the space.  There will be two rooms and a bathroom.  The bathroom will be closest to the stairs.  

 Standing in the middle room.  The bathroom is on the other side of the wall looking straight ahead. 

Here's the garage floor.  This was holding up the trim-out and siding because they can't install the doors until the floor is poured and they can't trim and side until the doors are in.  The floor was delayed 4 days after the inspector decided the strings they set the elevation (thickness) on the concrete were 1/2" too low. One of many delays by the inspectors.

The fake rock over the well.  Eventually I will replace it with an actual well house. 

And the well pump is installed.  My county requires galvanized well casing to bedrock.  Other counties in the area allow PVC.  I've got 156' of well casing and an overall depth of 262'.   that's not as deep as I expected.  They trenched and installed the line back to the pressure tank today.  They tried last week, apparently there are too many rocks for the trencher and they had to bring back a min-excavator.

The Shed

I built a shed this summer at my dad's farm.  It is about a mile from the new house. It was easier to build it there than try to build onsite.  I had power so didn't have to haul a generator and tools up to the house site every weekend.   I also could just walk outside and work weeknights on it if I wanted to.   Of course when I got done building it we had to move it up the road.    It is a 12x12 shed and I should have taken more pictures during construction.

Anyway, here it is on the trailer ready to move. We picked it up with two tractors, one on each side and backed the trailer under it.  We did this on Saturday, just so we'd have time to engineer a new solution if it didn't work.  On the first lift I didn't have it perfectly balanced and it tipped some and one of the front wheels on the tractor came off the ground.  Do you know how hard it is to get a tractor wheel off the ground?

Here it is from the other side.

Moving day was early Monday morning, this was about 7:00 AM.  We figured there wouldn't be any other traffic that early on Labor Day.   You can't see the straps running over the roof but they are there.

Here it is at the new house.  It made the trip up ok.  

Here it is delivered.   We got it off the trailer in reverse of how we put it on.  Get the tractors to lift it up, then drove the trailer out from underneath.  My dad and I were on the tractors and couldn't see each other.  My wife acted as a load master and did a wonderful job  co-ordinating us both on lifting at the same rate and moving the tractors back and forth to get the shed set on the blocks.

A side view.  Once we are in the new house I will jack up the corners and set them on proper poured concrete footings.  

Friday, July 24, 2015

The House Is Set

The house was set yesterday.   They got started early while I was doing other things and got one section in before I got there.   Here's what it looked like when I got there.  the roof is shipped flat and then raised up by the crane after the section is set on the foundation.

I wondered how the roof wasn't wider then the house when it is laying down.  Here's why.  The last 4' or so is raised up and over to form the peak. 

Here's the other half  its way up the hill.  I didn't appreciate the size of these until I saw one moving.  The trailers are 70' long.   slight technical difficulties here, the back end of the trailer grounded out.

Here's how you get a house unstuck.  The dozer had to help all the way up the hill. 

A very tight squeeze but they made it. This section was harder than the other, since the eaves weren't sticking out on this side.

It made it to the top of the hill.  They are getting ready for the crane.  They are doing all the unwrapping.

Here's the crane.  The operator said it will lift 90 tons, but you've gotta have that weight really close to the base.

 Here's why it can lift a house and not fall over.  That's 30 tons of weight sitting there behind the cab.

Here's how they lift it.  There are 4 cables, run under the house through holes drilled in the band joists.

Here's the rigging the cables get attached to. 

Ready to lift.

A quick time lapse video of the lift and set.  I should have decreased the interval to 2 or 3 seconds.

 I had to leave after the section was set.  When  I got back, they were setting the gable ends.  They are built at the factory and trucked in.  The smaller sections that go on each side of the window are craned into the opening in the roof before it is closed up.  Then they are set by hand.

Another quick video of one of the dormers going in.

The dried-in house.  A pan shot I took today.   There's still a lot to do, the upstairs needs to be built out, HVAC installed, well, septic, etc.  As you can see the porch is missing as well.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


Hmmm, that's probably not the best title.  How about Delivery, or Delivered?  Anyway, the house was delivered today.  It was supposed to be set as well but there was some more grading that needed to be done on driveway up the hill.  By the time they got the equipment in to do it it was too late to start setting the house.

Here are the two main sections.  The roof is hinged.  The sections will be picked up off the trailers and craned onto the foundation, then the roof is raised. 

Here's a shot from further away.  The truck with the dormers, the gable ends and some other assorted pieces had just shown up.

The crane is ready to go.  The house will be set in the morning.  I'm amazed they got that flat bed in there, the space is really tight for a 50' trailer.