Kaboom! Pyrotechnics in the Modem Theatre
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Pyrotechnics has always been a field of major interest to me. From a young age I was fascinated by fire and its effect on the world around it. From the chemical interactions of the fire itself and the fuel it was consuming to the effects it had on people and the enormous variation of emotions it could evoke from fear to wonder, from anger and rage to peace and comfort; all depending on the setting ·and purpose of the fire. Growing up I was always told that this was a phase, something that little boys went through and it passed as they grew up and went on to enjoy other things. With me however, this fascination never seemed to pass. I started to get actively interested in fire in junior high school and I started to carry out minor experiments to discover how it acts and reacts; how it burns with different accelerants and different levels of oxygenation. None of these experiments were really scientific. I didn't record any of my findings, and as Adam Savage says "What's the difference between science and messing around? Notes." Going into high school I knew that I wanted to find a career that allowed me to continue this trend and that's when my interest grew from just fire to the field of pyrotechnics as a whole. When I started to investigate the field of pyrotechnics in a general sense it occurred to me that the field was much larger than I initially thought. I always thought pyrotechnics encompassed fireworks and Hollywood special effects. I didn't realize that pyrotechnics encompassed everything that deals with fire or explosions; so everything from lighting a match to launching a space bound rocket. Now this realization prompted the question, well if I am to go into pyrotechnics, what am I going to do? There was a stretch of time where I wanted to go into the FBI because MythBusters informed me that they get to play with the best toys, which I'm sure is true. I also toyed with the idea of working for the military as there is a greater demand and I would have the opportunity to design and engineer large explosions on a regular basis. However, after much thought I came to the realization that I would much rather blow up things than people. So even though it will most likely be more difficult to break into, I'm going to throw my lot into the entertainment ·industry for special effects and pyrotechnics. I would much rather see my fire and explosions cause excitement and joy, rather than fear, pain and death. The realization of preferring entertainment came to me by the end of my senior year in high school. I had decided to entertain, why not try theatre? College bound, I found a prominent liberal arts college that had reputable chemistry and theatre programs and a welcoming atmosphere. After living in the Festival Playhouse and working in the Dow science building for a good three years I find myself here at my senior year, looking back on what I have done and where I am to go from here. I still fully intend on going into the entertainment field of pyrotechnics, but I realized that I knew very little of its history. This brings me to my S.I.P., "Kaboom! Pyrotechnics in the Modern Theatre". Throughout this project I intend to investigate the history of pyrotechnics in a general sense, touching off the classifications of explosives and different popular pyrotechnic compounds, as well as its inception as a field and as a science. Subsequently I'm going to see how it has evolved over the years, how different compounds have rose and fell from popularity, and the driving forces behind these changes. From there I would like to move onto pyrotechnics in the modem day with a focus on the theatrical aspects of the field. I will begin with where the field is now in respect to safety regulations, live theatre effects, film effects and display pyrotechnics. Then I will move onto the current favored materials and favored effects. Finally, to cap it all off, I would like to discuss both popular designs and author designed effects. In this regard, I would like to explore the functionality of various kinds of compositions and effects by creating them and seeing how they act in real world conditions. I would create both live and dummy models of these effects to showcase both the design and function of the device as well as the effect that it creates.