New York, NY – Marty Fuller, Head Electrician at Radio City Music Hall, is the man who coordinates everything that involves lighting at its world-famous shows. A member of Local 1, the premier stagehand union of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (I.A.T.S.E.), AFL-CIO, since 1979, he worked his way up to his present position of high responsibility.
“I started out at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1974, and came to Radio City in 1975. I was fortunate to meet Billy Walker, the Head Electrician here at the time. He took a liking to me, and so I worked my way up to running the lighting consoles, which led to me being Head Electrician.”
He supervises the whole building, and two crews, the Stage Crew, which consists of two assistants and five key positions, and the Electrical Maintenance Staff, a crew of four. The latter is responsible for the front of house and the office space. The Stage Crew is responsible for the productions currently being worked on. For specific shows, the number of workers varies. “A basic concert usually requires six to seven people. For a Tony Awards or an MTV event, I could supervise upwards of sixty, depending on the needs.”
All the decorations that have lighted parts, as well as the lighting itself, are his province. These many lights require maintenance, of course, as well as repairs, and Fuller’s crew is well prepared. “All the moving lights are repaired in-house. If a part needs to be replaced and it is older and we can’t find it, we make it.”
These days, like everything else in our lives, the shows are much more dependent on technology than in years past. “You really have to be on top of the electronics,” says Fuller. “We have technicians familiar with the lighting networks, who know how to do what’s needed.” There is still room for some manual labor within the world of computers, however. “We still have, maintain and use, follow spots. Operators work manually with these lights, while a lighting director talks to them through headsets to give them instructions.”
Days are long. “A typical day, working with a rock concert, would start with an 8 a.m. load-in, a 3 p.m. sound check, the 8 p.m. performance, and a load-out that starts at around 11 p.m., and that could go to 2 – 3 a.m.” There are multiple shows a day as well. “We rotate crews, so everyone gets a day off or two. On weekdays there are four shows a day, on the weekend there are as many as six.”
Certain shows stand out for Fuller. “We hosted a Sloan-Kettering Memorial Cancer Center event, and Frank Sinatra was the MC. We had a Roy Jones prizefight, and there was a ring built here. You could feel the excitement in the air. You knew you were doing something special. We don’t have jobs here, it’s a lifestyle.”