Like a Chief
The only remaining crew chief in our stagehand company is on tour. Right now he’s wrapping up preparations and the first few shows in the Antwerp Sportpaleis and then he’ll be off for a few years. Or weeks. I don’t care that much.
Meanwhile, someone has to take over for him on the home front. And that someone is turning out to be me.
It has been brought to my attention subtly that I was not first choice. Or second. It’s because their usual replacement is joining on that same tour and his stand-in doesn’t have the time to dedicate to the job. They have to tell me this so that I, despite my temporary promotion, don’t go and think I have anything to say in the company politics- not that I intended to.
In the land of the blind, one-eye is king. That makes me the one-eyed king, the crew chief of the lowest paid employees in the business. It’s hardly a title to be very proud of, but you know what?
I fucking am.
It’s easy to dismiss stagehands as uneducated knuckle-draggers, doing their job because they don’t have the intelligence to school themselves further or social capabilities to find better paid work. Sure, we are a bunch of rag-tag marginals.
But we do a job that few people can. It’s easy to be a stagehand, but to become a good one, you’re in for about a decade of experience. And expect to get seriously injured a few times in that time period, lose some sleep, a lot of blood, and a few friends. To become a good stagehand, who understands logic to the madness around him and functions as if he is navigating his own fridge, is far from evident.
And I’ll go and say it, making myself the target of a few years of unrelenting mockery:
It’s an honor to represent them.
One-eye might be king, but in a blind world, the gift of eyesight is legendary. In that same respect, I might “only” be temporary crew chief for a handful of stage hands, but I’d like to see you bring a production like Bob Dylan or Night of the Proms to a good end. The damage you can cause, taking wrong decisions, accumulates quickly. And I can know, I’ve been lead by a few extremely incompetent individuals.
I am proud of my crew and I’ll defend them to the death- after all, I am one of them. We are among the best in Europe (courtesy of our regular crew chief, I must begrudgingly admit) and to be their spokesperson is a job that, for a large part, does itself. It’s a well oiled machine with people who know each other well, and need little communication to understand how a job, from the most minor tasks to the erection of monumental stages, is done effectively and safely.
I don’t see myself as their leader by any means- a mistake many make as soon as they are passed some second-hand responsibility. Rather, I like to believe I am a representative, the ears and mouth of the group. I work for them, communicating the productions’ intent so that they can work most efficiently.
And what a sight it is. No one works like we do. No team in the world is underestimated, undervalued like ours. With the right guidance and organisation, there’s no limit to what we can achieve. And in the short time that I am given, I hope to be that guide.
Watch me nail it. Let’s get this show on the road.