HAWAII AT WORK
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Scott Richardson is a rigger with Attco Inc., which provides equipment and services for trade shows and entertainment events. Above, Richardson earlier this month moved a truss in the company's warehouse.
Rigger hangs around behind the scenes
Scott Richardson turned a love of theater into a career
Title: Rigger and carpenter
Job: Helps install and operate rigging for trade shows, theater productions and other events
Scott Richardson loves theater, so it has been satisfying for him to work in a field that often has him working on theater productions, though not as an actor.
Richardson is a rigger and carpenter with Attco Inc., a Hawaii company founded in 1964 that provides staging equipment and services to conventions, trade shows and theatrical productions.
Rigging refers to working with equipment that supports and controls lighting, curtains, props and other staging elements.
Richardson says he got into the field as a youngster on the mainland when he would sneak backstage at theater productions to check things out. He eventually became a set carpenter, and later learned how to be a rigger.
Richardson also met his "significant other," Sara Grove, while working in theater, at Center Stage in Baltimore.
The pair moved to Hawaii together about five years ago, after she was offered a job by Honolulu Theater for Youth.
Richardson also worked for HTY for a couple of years before joining Attco.
Richardson said he has moved around a lot during his life, but graduated from Sidney Lanier High School in Montgomery, Ala. He also attended Auburn University in Montgomery briefly, but left before graduating for an internship with Center Stage.
Richardson said that when he isn't at work, he likes to go surfing: "I love surfing, going to the beaches, just hanging out and relaxing."
Richardson is 29 and lives in Makiki.
What is a rigger? Sounds like someone who works on a boat.
Scott Richardson: Well, originally it was, in the old days, and they transferred this over to do the rigging, which is essentially the flying scenery and the things flying in the air.
Q: Like what would that be?
A: Like -- I'm assuming you've been to live theater -- anytime you see a wall coming in, or a drop-in coming from the sky, and it lands on the ground, that's a very simple version of rigging.
Q: So what is it that you're doing exactly?
A: I basically help set up the systems themselves that fly it, from the weight counter-systems on the wall to the cables that run up into the air. From there, the cables run to the pipes that the scenery itself is attached to.
Q: What kind of scenery, for example?
A: It can be anything from a curtain and a piece of cloth to something more complicated, like a helicopter.
Q: That (the helicopter) would be made out of wood or something?
A: That would usually be made out of wood, but I've also been involved where we brought in an actual helicopter and chopped it up and just used the front of it.
Q: How do you become a rigger?
A: I fell into it at a theater on the mainland.
Q: Where was that?
A: In Baltimore, Md., at Center Stage.
Q: And how did you fall into it?
A: I was one of their carpenters, and because there was no fly system, we had to build a new system each time. So I just kept doing it and doing it, and I kind of got stuck with it.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Scott Richardson is a rigger with Attco, which provides equipment and services for trade shows and entertainment events. Above, Richardson earlier this month organized some Fresnel lights.
When did you move to Hawaii?
A: About five years ago.
Q: How long have you been with Attco?
A: Three years.
Q: What were you doing before that?
A: Before this I was working for the Honolulu Theater for Youth.
Q: Why did you come to Hawaii?
A: My girlfriend got a job here, and it was at a time when we were transferring between jobs. I was living in California, and she was going to move there to be with me, but then she got the job here, so we came here.
Q: She was still back in Maryland?
A: Yeah, she was at Center Stage as well.
Q: What was your job in California.?
A: I was a stage carpenter in La Jolla.
Q: Are there other riggers that you work with at Attco?
A: There's myself, and then Stephen Clear and "PT" (Paul Tremaine, the retired ex-owner) here at Attco.
Q: What kind of hours do you work?
A: Oh, they vary. On a normal slow day like today, it will 8:30 (a.m.) to 5 (p.m.), but on a show day, where we're loading in a show, it could be 12, 15 hours.
Q: What kinds of productions do you work on?
A: There's a lot of trade-show stuff we do, and then we also do a lot of Japanese shows.
Q: Kabuki or something?
A: No, Japanese companies fly their employees here to have huge, big parties.
Q: What projects are you working on at the moment?
A: Right now I'm just doing a lot of shop maintenance, trying to catch up before the Sony Expo and then the TechNet Show.
Q: When are those?
A: The end of November.
Q: Where are they?
A: The Sony Expo is the one at Ala Moana Hotel; the TechNet ,I believe, is at the Sheraton.
What kind of productions do you like to work on the most?
A: I like working in theaters, actually. Just because it's live and things happen.
Q: On these trade shows, how are you applying your rigging skills?
A: We usually have to "fly" a bunch of light systems and stuff.
Q: So how much do you use your carpentry skill these days?
A: It's usually about 50-50, actually.
Q: How did you learn to be a carpenter?
A: I was a nosy little kid in theater. I always thought theater was awesome, so I would always sneak backstage and check stuff out. Then I volunteered. Then I got internships, went to school a little while for it, and then I got hired.
Q: And your first job was ...
A: My first job was at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival.
Q: Is Alabama where you grew up?
A: I moved around a lot. I never stayed anywhere more then four years. We were just nomads.
Q: Do you ever get to meet any theater stars?
A: Not really, because everything I do happens either before or after them.
Q: What kinds of tools do you typically use?
A: The normal hand tools, and then for rigging we'll use half-ton and one-ton motors, cable cutters ... That's mostly the specific stuff. Other than that, it's all just hand tools, really.
Q: Do you have a lot of equipment you have to haul around?
A: It depends on the jobs.
Q: Are you one of the drivers?
A: We have drivers on staff for the big vehicles, but if it's like for a smaller job, where we only need a pickup truck or something, I usually drive it.
Q: Do you help build the sets?
Q: That's with Attco?
A: With Attco I'm the rigger and carpenter.
Q: How many people does it take to do all this background production work for a trade show?
A: A small show can take about eight people, but a large production can take about 35.
Q: And Attco has that kind of a staff on hand?
A: We also work with the unions.
Q: Is your job dangerous in any sense?
A: Yeah. You know, I'm 80 feet in the air, attached to a piece of metal welded into the wall, with a harness on.
Q: Does Attco work on theater jobs?
A: Yeah. We did the rigging for the University of Hawaii, at Kennedy Theatre.
Q: Is that a regular deal?
A: They needed to redo it and we did it all for them. And we're doing the rigging at Roosevelt High School for their new theater.
Q: So this is something you install and let others operate?
Q: Has the technology of your field changed much since you got started in it?
A: Some of the systems have been computerized, but it's still basically the same set up. No matter what you add to it, it's still weights attached to cables.