Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Melting Point of Aluminum

In case you were curious, the melting point of aluminum is 933° Kelvin. That's 1220° F, or, for my Canadian friends, 660° C.

Why do I know this, you might ask?

We've had an interesting day here at the closing show of Fela! Everything was fine until about one hour, when I came down to the backstage area after dropping the queens mics on 3B, but I walked in and started to unpack my computer when I smelled something oddly like burning. I stuffed the computer back into it's bag and went out onto the stage where there was a group of people clustered around the far wall where the hazer is stashed. With a fire extinguisher. And a lot of smoke. Danny was climbing up into the wall and Jon had seen actual flames, as opposed to the last time we smelled smoke (battery pack under the stage for an effect that had been cut) when it was just smoke. The hazer, the clear source of the problem, was excavated and rushed out to the street, but there was still smoke and a concern that the fire had spread, so they called for the fire department and evacuated the building (including the full house for the show in one of the other theaters.) Many of the crew hovered around the still smoldering hazer, Mel (who was only in for the one show, covering for Dave) with the fire extinguisher close to hand, until the house staff shooed us across the street with the patrons. I still hadn't seen the queens come out of the building, so even though the building is a big concrete box and I knew the fire was small and localized, I wasn't totally comfortable until I started to see the wardrobe crew spill out the far doors, queens in tow.

While we stood about blocking traffic, four fire trucks showed up, and the firemen rushed in to check it out. Someone jokingly gave a fifteen minute call around twenty til our three o'clock curtain. The audience members from the other show saw us hanging around and acting like we had somewhere to be, so they thought we might know something about the cause of the fire and started peppering us with questions. We had nothing useful to tell them however, and I was reluctant to give them any information.

One of the engines that showed up had lettered across the windshield "NEVER MISSED A PEFORMANCE", which, while not terribly surprising since we're blocks from the whole Times Square mess, did strike us all as quite funny, still wondering if we would be doing our closing show.

We got back into the building, no real harm done, around 2:45 and put it around that we were aiming for a 3:30 go, in an attempt to hurry the actors along a bit and actually get a 3:45 curtain. The women were largely ready by then, and I went downstairs as soon as they were all out of the dressing room, hoping to catch the lead before he went on, as stage management was anxious about having an audio sub responsible for his mic. No worries there. Amazingly, we were still waiting for the house. Honestly, if you're showing up at 3:45 for a 3pm show, you deserve to miss some. (Looking at YOU, Chelsea Clinton.)

We found out in the middle of act one that the heating element in the hazer had malfunctioned severely enough to melt the aluminum, which leaked out, extremely hot, to start the fire. How hot?

That's why I happen to know the melting point of aluminum today.

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