IF YOU THINK THEATER SETS BUILD THEMSELVES,
FUCKING THINK AGAIN.
There, I feel much better now.
In this month’s edition of “working for peanuts,” I am visiting an old acquaintance. Once again I will be playing sound technician for a theater production, this time combined with the shared end responsibility of the set. The previous technicians pretty much got worn out (hanging up furniture from a 8 meter scaffolding structure will do that to you) and another volunteer and myself are now put in charge. The up side is that we get to do things our way (fuck brushes, we’re using paint cans) but we have little to no experience at any of this so the build is a slow and tedious one.
A fashion designer and a stage builder: Heterogeneous groups of small numbers either work like a fucking bomb, or don’t at all. In this case we are blessed with the first and our little team has accomplished things even we weren’t expecting. We complete each other quite well; like I stated before: “She’s got the talent, and I have the faith.” Where as I just do as I’m told, she actively tries to contribute by bringing new ideas. When the both of us were appointed responsible, I pretty much thought I’d have to carry the organizational weight, but was soon enough proven dead wrong. In fact, she usually arranged things well before I even think of them.
During rehearsals I get to sit behind a laptop that is older than I am, charged with the task of both artificially keeping it alive and pressing the right button at the right time. Of course I don’t stop there: I insist on getting the volume -just- right and leave a dramatic pause of 0.75sec when my cue comes, to build just that “fuck yeah” amount of tension. I may work for nuts but that doesn’t make me a monkey.
Also for the first time, I am with the production from the very beginning of rehearsals. Usually I chime in somewhere near the end, learn my cues and do my thing, but this time I get to observe the creative process start to finish. Not that I remember much of it, as I spend my time stuffing my face and swapping unamusing comments with the other crew members, but it’s still an intriguing process to watch. I suppose it’s that gargoyle complex rearing its head again: I’m beginning to get the feeling I know the actors in a few ways not many others do, by simply watching them interact in both fictional and real situations.
Another effect of me joining in so early is the fact that I am noticed, in return. Some of these actors I’ve worked with plenty of times before but we never shared more than a few words; I was usually little more than a pair of eyes way up in the bleachers. That is now changing and I am surprised to experience these different characters from up close. So far it seems that I hadn’t been wrong about my assumptions about them, but obviously they are much more colorful when talking face to face. Each one has a vastly different background and it seems very rewarding to find out directly, rather than through observing from a distance.
This is the third time I am working together with the director of this play and while I couldn’t really care less about him, we now get along quite marvelously. I thought of him as little more than a snobbish… well, director, but it turns out we figuratively speak the same language and get shit done- something I appreciate more than anything in a person.
Of course, I could be biased because this guy praised me and my “skills” into heaven in front of everybody during the review meeting. I don’t blush easily but there were over 20 people there- I was damn close.
Despite all this… I get the feeling the atmosphere has soured considerably as the premiere approaches. I don’t want to get into details since it’s none of your fucking business, but suffice to say that the full pressure of the whole production has been dropped squarely on the shoulders of the director. He reached a critical decision today and in an “alea iacta est” kind of fashion rehearsals have recommenced.
I never really knew what producers were good for. At the very few plays that I’ve seen, they were called onstage and did their little bow at the end, and always my reaction was along the lines of “who the fuck are you?” It’s a strange face seeming very out of place.
Today, I realize that directors have the power to make or break a production. The actors act. The technicians do whatever technical thing they do. All the rest… is direction. They are the pivoting point of every critical decision, the glue keeping the parts together. And when put in a situation like the one we are in now, only the best will last. And thank Maynard, we have the best.
Still, we are all only human and things will be tight, to say the least. There is more pressure on him than I could handle and there is so very little we can do to support him. I’m stuck behind my little computer, observing as the situation wears on him. He didn’t sign up for this.
So what can I do? I try to be as reliable as I can, doing as he asks and trying to do it well. Not that that is such a big difference from my mentality before, but now my effort has turned into something I do for him, so he can keep us all together. It’s a small contribution, but it is one nonetheless.
These two months are turning into a real spiritual journey. I’m still not convinced if we’ll make it to the other side unscathed, but I sure as fuck know this: If things go tits-up, it sure as fuck won’t be from my lack of effort.