The Marathon

When I am involved in a production and fill in the archetypal role of the technician (I prefer to call it “the specialist”), I have no inhibitions to step forward and contribute actively to the end product. Many will know, I would literally put my hand in the fire for most jobs I’ve had so far. I take these things very personal.

But as a house technician, things are different. When you have a new production passing through every day and sometimes even multiple, you can’t keep up the sprint that you put down as part of the team. If you want to keep this up for 7 days, a whole season long, you have to eat. You have to sleep. At some point, you’ll have to put your foot down and say, “No. Now I take a break and those things you are panicking about, are your problem, not mine.”

Very often we are at the business end of bad planning. Foreseeable problems that put the performance in danger are often ours to fix on the spot. The worse the organisation, the more pressure on us. And if they’re bad enough, they don’t see that success came at the cost of their co-worker’s sanity. In these cases, the thing you’ll hear very often at the meeting is “It worked out, didn’t it?” as if there was no problem to begin with.

It would be an easy thing to make a point by simply doing your own job and letting them fix their own damn problems, but if you’ve been part of the thing from the beginning, you’re too emotionally invested to step back and watch it go down the drain.
As a house technician however, there is a point at which you must do this. We are a flexible bunch and we work hard for our customers’ satisfaction, but if they forgot to bring essential equipment, stuff that we might have at home, well that’s a problem they will have to fix. It sounds selfish and in a way it is, but getting too involved and invested in the productions that come by is a surefire way to burn yourself up within days.

At the end of the day, those guys leave again and in their place comes the next bunch of cowboys. Many of them are very competent but a few are not, you can’t keep on covering for them.
Similarly, if the respect for your job just isn’t there, there is a moment when you’ll have to walk away. I’m bringing this up because I am currently on a adventure of discovering where exactly this point is.

Things aren’t going too well with the current client. I admit, things went very badly last performance but there was literally nothing I could have done about it. It was not my fault, end of story. So why make a big deal out of a small problem (which I fixed 10min flat after the show) and call my boss? First thing in the morning as I got called out of bed, came a question if I wanted to double-check everything “together with a colleague” like I needed a babysit.

Technicians are people, too. If you are involved with the performing arts in any way, please see to it that they are treated well. For a 2 hour show, they get up very early in the morning and go to bed very late at night. Their job is a difficult one, depending on many factors beyond their control. Be patient. Be nice. Be respectful. This way, they may not need too many restrictions so they would last through the week, and good things might come your way if you’re ever in a pinch.

They’re also very interesting people and you should buy them a drink.

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One response

  1. Line

    Your boss should hear you before he/she automatically picks the site of the client. I think you should tell them that, Maarten.

    20 November 2016 at 02:09

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