Stock Responses

November 9, 2008

Since I think working in a planetarium is tons of fun, and I think everybody should be interested in just exactly how many tons of fun it is, I’m going to start a post category: Stock Responses.

As is common in all corners of museum/zoo/aquarium life, visitors tend to ask similar questions, and since astronomy is such a wide-reaching subject that no one single person I specifically couldn’t possibly know every tiny tidbit of trivia, I tend to collect and use stock responses to common questions or comments.

And it’s not just knowledge-based; I’ll use stock responses to describe theater policies (rules & regs), theater and museum history, and of course, “spiels.”

Like this one, my introduction spiel, which I have given somewhere between 3 and 500 thousand times:

Good morning/afternoon/evening, and welcome to the Blank Blank Planetarium at Blank Blank and Blank Blank.  The show you’re about to see is called _Name of Show_, about _quick summary of show_.  The program runs about _total run time_(1).

While the show is running, please stay in your seats (2), unless you choose to leave.  If you do choose to leave, that’s fine, but please be very careful on your way out of the theater, as it will be incredibly dark, as you’re about to see.

Also, please note that if you do leave, the doors will lock behind you, and there is absolutely no re-entry because the theater does get so dark (3)

Also, there’s no eating or drinking allowed in the theater.  If you were able to sneak in some food or a beverage, you must put it away now until after the show–and that does include candy and popcorn (4).

Please keep your feet off the chair-backs in front of you, and please turn off or silence your cell phones and any other illuminated electronic devices, and keep them put away in a pocket or a bag, especially if they have lights, which will be very bright and possibly disrupt the show.  Photography of any kind is prohibited during the show.

A word of warning (5): this show uses simulated visual motion, and if you’re prone to dizziness or motion sickness, it could aggravate that.  If at any time you’re feeling sick or uncomfortable, just close your eyes for a few moments, or tilt your heat down toward the floor–the room will eventually stop spinning, and hopefully the feeling will subside (6).

And with that all out of the way, we here at Blank Blank and the Blank Planetarium are very happy to present (7) and hope that you enjoy, _Name of Show_. (8)

This is one of those things you do so often that you sort of just zone out while it’s happening.  I’ve had times where I have gotten about halfway through it, had an “oh crap!” moment and realize that I don’t know what I’ve said or what I’m supposed to say next.  Whenever that happens, I’ll usually just mumble, “Uh, enjoy the show,” and punch the start command.

The flush-spiel is equally breathtaking:

Please stay in your seats until the lights come all the way up (9).  When they do, you may exit through the left or right door, whichever is closer. (Point with laser to left and right doors)

And, as always here at the Blank Planetarium, if anyone has any questions about the show, or the theater, or just about astronomy in general, feel free to come on back to the control room and find me–my name is DC, (I produced the show you just saw (10)) and I’m always happy to answer questions.

Again, thanks so much for coming to the Blank Planetarium at Blank Blank, and have a great afternoon/morning.

Every Theater is Different (I imagine you’ll hear me say that lots on Bearable Skyglow, so I think I’ll capitalize it), so this might seem overly elaborate to some people, or even cold and unwelcoming to others, but it works for us.  I’ve always had visions of automating it so that it’s standardized for each show, but for some reason I’ve just never gotten around to it.

My school-group intro spiel is equally electrifiying.  Ask me nicely and I’ll rattle it off for you sometime.

* * * * * * * * * *

(1) I typically wait until two minutes past start time to close up the doors and start the intro spiel, so for all show writeups that will be on the website or phone hotline or in the paper, I tack on 5 minutes to all showtimes.  Guests typically don’t get mad about getting out of a show early, but they will occasionally get mad about getting out late.

(2) I’m a stickler for this one.  The Blank Blank Planetarium has seats (Irwin Seating Company Galaxy style, if you’re curious), and I make people sit for shows.  No standing, no sitting on the floor, no nuttin’ but your kiester in a seat. There’s three big reasons:

It’s really freakin’ dark.  Not movie-theater dark, we’re talking no hand in front of your face dark.  If you’re not in a chair, the chances of someone with a screaming baby trying to walk through you on the way to the exit go way up.  Please stay in your seats.

Also, there are these things in the theater that shoot out extremely bright rays of light: the star instrument, the frickin’ laser, video projectors, slide projectors, etc.  Thought it would be extremely unlikely, it’s possible that someone might catch a low-to-the-horizon laser beam or a bright star (Siriusly) in the eye, and nobody wants lawsuitarity to ensue.  Please, please stay in your seats.

And finally, three of the funnest words in the planetarium biz: Simulated Visual Motion.  If you’re sitting down in your chair, the chances of you getting dizzy and falling down violently during a nice long daily motion decrease dramatically.  Please, for the love of all that’s good and kind, stay in your seats.

(3) For some reason, some genius architect though it would be a good idea to give the Blank Blank Planetarium EXTREMELY HUGE FOUR-WALL WINDOWS in the lobby, so that people in queue get absolutely zero chance to dark adapt their eyes before going in for the show.  (When I design my own theater some day, the lobby will be interior–NO WINDOWS.)

It is literally impossible to be outside of the planetarium, then try to come back inside and expect to see where you’re going.  For this reason, we lock our doors from the outside and when they’re closed, they’re closed–nobody comes in after a show starts.

This also means that if you leave, you can’t get back in, thus the line in my intro spiel.

(4) I can always, without fail, tell when someone has been eating candy or popcorn.  Because we’re talking Planetarium Dark, not Movie Theater Dark, people who eat always drop food on the floor.

ALWAYS. Don’t eat in my planetarium.

(5) Not all shows use SVM (Simulated Visual Motion), but all the good shows do.  People loves them some SVM.

(6) This will occasionally get some laughs, typically nervous titters from overwrought women who have never been to a planetarium before and are probably expecting the floor to detach and the entire theater to be swung round at breakneck speeds.

Man I wish my theater can do that.

(7) I’ve seen a couple of leasing/performance licenses that request that the presenting theater not say “Presented By,” which to me is a little weird, because the theater that’s playing the show is “presenting” it, even if it is a show that some other theater “produced” or “created.”  But whatevs.

(8) I forget what I put this footnote in for, and I’m too lazy to go through and change all the numbers, so, yeah.

(9) Whenever I can, I always program very slow-fades of the house lights when the show is over.  Firstly, it’s much less rude than just throwing the lights on suddenly, which has the effect of making the entire audience wince and say, “Aaargh!”, and secondly because I enjoy forcing people to watch the entire credits.  Seriously, watch the credits, people.

(10) This is, obviously, only if I did produce the show they just saw, or actually only if I’m proud of the show they just saw; if not, I don’t say my name.  And yes, there’s been a time or two when I didn’t want to be associated with a show that I had produced…  I’ll tell that story some other time.



  1. […] nice to be able to do that, and even though our public shows are fully automated (except for the intro speil) I was happy to be able to come home and […]

  2. […] the show, when I do my intro spiel (which I do from the control room, which in my theater is in the back of the house) , kids will […]

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