This might be hard to believe, but…
I am currently staying in a boarding school in Ostend, by the Belgian coast. It’s called “Boarding School by the Sea” as though it concerns some exotic resort, but it’s a boarding school like any other with “educational” slogans on the walls, dark hallways, tiny rooms and a 40-year old “who’s still cool with the guys” in charge. Staying here just sickens me. This is the place where children’s dreams come to die forever.
So why am I here? There’s an annual theater festival in Ostend, that a collective called Corpus Ca is invited to- and I happen to be their technician. Since every dumb thing that takes place by the sea must be labeled as such, the festival is called “Theater by the Sea”, or Theater aan Zee aka TAZ.
Just like Denmark must emphasize them being Scandinavian by putting ‘Scandi’ in front of every name they come up with, so does the Belgian coast have some penis envy regarding actual coasts with any interesting features at all, and insists on having the sea as central subject with every little fart they undertake. Hence.
No, I am not a fan of the Belgian coast. I don’t like the people, I don’t like the sand, I don’t like the water, and that’s pretty much all there is to it anyway. The most interesting thing about the coastline must be the mussels, and I haven’t had those in 4 years. Because they’re not.
Still, I enjoy myself here. Not thanks to, but despite the location. I think I might have ended up with the coolest bunch of people on the festival, who have total faith in me and let me work freely. Mostly because they haven’t a clue as to what I’m doing but any reason is fine.
We are based in an old factory building (which is awesome) by some industrial docks (also awesome). The place is repurposed into a retarded dance club but luckily, not too much damage has been done that we can’t fix.
We’ve been here for a week now and this familiar back-to-basics setting, I hate to admit, is the perfect environment for an ADD patient like myself, to work in. This is West Flanders so internet hasn’t been invented yet and I don’t know the town so I can focus completely on the job, which really requires all the attention it can get.
We’ve been here for a week now, and it has been an intense experience. Years ago, I designed a light scheme for this play but since, the ideas behind it have watered down and I lost my papers with the ques on it. I have very little to go with and since the space is so vastly different from a theater, it’s a bit touch-and-go to see what works. I don’t think there’s a single spotlight that I haven’t changed drastically but it worked out in the end. It actually started looking good and while the actors say the first try-out was pretty shitty, I wept warm tears as I orchestrated light schemes to bring Thor himself onto shaking knees.
The second try-out however, I quickly realized how wrong I had been. I lost my ques months ago but still had my settings saved, so I kind of matched them together before and now understood what a mess I had made. So 24 hours before the premiere, I walked up to the director.
”You’re not going to like this, but I want to clear the lighting desk and start from scratch.”
He looked at me as if I had just insulted his mother. (He’s gay so that’s a big deal)
The lamps were in place so the potential was there. But when I looked at the result, it went to complete and utter waste. Effect lights blinked on and off when they had no function, ruining the actual effect when and where it was needed. The whole thing was nothing to be proud of and on the most prestigious festival in Belgium (admittedly a small country), it just wasn’t an option. I needed something I would feel represented my capabilities, not those of some stand-in who didn’t care.
It only took 2-3 hours but it’s been years since I concentrated this hard. When programming a single light scheme, I have to take the actors and set into consideration, but also which lights I will need in the future, allowing for smooth transitioning, of which are about a bajillion. But I managed not to make a single mistake and after a quick check with the actors, felt like I had just given birth to something I could show to the world and call it mine.
If I’m going to be here as a technician, if I have to sacrifice the sexytime with my girlfriend for it, the comfort of my own home, and the freedom of my city, I’m not going to do so for some unfinished piece of shit. If the director had told me to keep it as-is (because he didn’t think there was anything wrong with it), I just might have told him kindly to step aside.
But, he didn’t say it. Because he trusts me.
Because you can trust me with this kind of thing.
I might be in a boarding school like almost to the day, 10 years ago, but that’s where the similarities end. I feel like I just sucker-punched a childhood trauma in the face. Booyah.