Inside The Lives Of Entertainment Riggers: Tora La Rosa
By Anna Robb
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. Tora La Rosa is currently based in Montreal but this woman is truly a global rigger, having taken projects in some of the toughest places in the world. Here is her story:
Tora La Rosa, how did you get into rigging? What was the path that brought you to this career?
I started out in the theatre industry as a Stage Manager working for community theatres and during my time with them there was a small group of performers working towards starting their own contemporary circus company, Rock’n’Roll Circus. I joined as the SM and in those days, the cast and crew did everything from costumes to rigging.
This was followed by joining Circus Oz, once again as SM and once again being involved in all aspects of the technical set up. Needless to say my training was ‘on the job’, and certain people such as Derek Ives and Jaime Sky started my interest and passion for rigging.
What training courses or on the job training did you do to become a rigger? What kind of ongoing education do you partake in?
In the early to mid 90’s in Australia, there was no acknowledged entertainment rigging certification, so when you wished to get your qualification you went to TAFE (Technical and Further Education). Here you could go through the training of a dogger, rigger and twin rope. This was all to the WorkSafe industrial/construction approved government training. I completed this training.
It was a great course; we got to do a large amount of theory and my favourite, the practicals. We trained with 40 – 200t cranes, installing large steel girders at 5 stories high. Lifting different shaped and sized loads, erecting a tower crane and a prefab concrete install. With the twin rope course we had a very little man with very wide shoulders from Switzerland who taught us the old school methods; no IRATA there, prussics and a load of grunting was our training.
With regards to ongoing training, one of the wonderful and exciting things about our industry is that it keeps evolving technically. I can truly say that without exception every single job/show I have been involved in has added some new knowledge to my collection. When I started out as a rigger our kit was a combination of climbing, industrial and sailing equipment. We used human counterweight systems for the flying of aerialists, climbing harness and hand stitched longe belts (made by yourself) were the norm. I now work with high speed winches, full body harnesses, machined swivel bob weights, lightweight rope equipment etc….so therefore my on going education has been “on the job”.
What has been your favorite gig, event, show that you have rigged for and why?
My favourite job….. to be perfectly honest I cannot say, too many to write about…..my tour with Legs On The Wall was awesome, they were an exciting and dynamic troupe to work with. Nostalgically I will say that my time with the Flying Fruit Fly Circus was a joy, working with young people was always a challenge, but never dull as were some of the venues we toured to… working for Cirque du Soleil for my first time in Macau was an eye opener; my first experience with automation, winches, and creation. The House of Dancing Water was wonderful for its beauty, not just the show and the cast/crew but for the theatre itself. I enjoyed the Han theatre, Wuhan for doing my best to see through an amazing industrial entertainment venue being constructed. Dubai Festival City was some good fun dogging 65mtr lengths of truss with double crane lifts into the water to be towed to the fountain that had its own 200t barge crane. Or my last gig with Cirque du Soleil on arena tour…never loaded into an ice rink before…
What do you think are the most important skills to have to be successful in rigging?
To be a rigger, I feel you need to possess a calmness and confidence (NOT arrogance) that filters to other people you are working with such as aerialists, Stage Managers, directors etc. You need a passion to make it right, not just good enough but RIGHT. SAFE. To be able to keep your mind opened to learning. And you must be ready to share or teach as there is more than one way to rig a cat.
What advice would you give to someone looking to get into rigging?
Rigging is not glamorous, it’s sweaty, smelly and quite stressful. But it is also an exciting and rewarding profession. If you feel the calling to be a rigger, I strongly suggest you hang out with a crew if possible for a time. Get your IRATA or similar certification. Think hard about it as the responsibility of people’s lives are in your hands.
Describe a typical day on the job.
I cannot give a typical day at work as there is never one day the same, all sorts of issues can emerge:
For a show run; during a safety inspection you may find something needs adjustment or replacement. Automation may need your support. Rehearsals may run late or a performer gets injured so there is a need for stage and automation time to rehearse a replacement cast member. This can have a great snowball effect for pre-show prep. For an install; crew calling in sick, late or requested elsewhere in the venue to assist with an unforeseen problem. Equipment arriving late, wrong, un-safe or not able to fit. For a load in, this can start with the weather, loading dock and local crew, if all goes well you have a great load in, if not it’s just terrible. So I believe there is no such thing as a typical day.
Do you have a mentor? Who is it and why are they important to you?
I have been influenced by many people, so I cannot give one name – Derek Ives, Jamie Sky, Tiny Good, Daryll John, Deb Batton, Anna Shelper, Tanya Lester, Scott Grayland, Steve Colley, Courtney Nichols, and a whole lot more… These people taught me the whole spectrum of rigging and being a rigger. Knots, slinging a truss, rigging a Chinese pole, how to longe aerialists, automation programming protocol, treatment of artists and the crew, reaction to emergencies, being safe and caring for your show and work environment to name but a few of the lessons taught to me.
What do you do in your downtime? Any other interesting facts you want to share with TheatreArtLife?
I enjoy being a rigger, although there are times when I am exhausted, frustrated, angry and my shoulders are killing me. I love that I get to work with heavy industrial equipment, during a construction contract. I enjoy that I work with automation and the subtleties that come with programming. I love that I get to work with world class artists. I enjoy that the crew range in age, knowledge and nationalities. I enjoy that I learn every gig I work on. I enjoy that I am contracted to do this all over the world. Yeah, my job is alright.