Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Theater Reflection

I should have written this post a week ago when I finished my last production, but life got in the way. The show wrapped on a Sunday and then I had my final week of classes, which included an exam and a take home test. Then I had my first weekend in a while where I had nothing to do, so that's exactly what I did.


So now here I am reflecting on my last theater production. I started the spring thinking I wasn't going to work on a show. I didn't have any plans on doing any theater related work, and I really needed to find a part-time job, so I concentrated on that. A week later I received a string of rejection emails from prospective employers. But in the midst of rejection and depression was a shining light: The producer and president of a local theater group that I have never worked with sent me a message asking if I was available to run the lights on their up-coming show, "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat." I jumped at the chance.

The production company that I had worked with for almost twenty years put on their final show last summer, and the group I worked with in the fall was on hiatus, so this was exactly what I needed. It was also a welcome distraction from the fact that from all of the applications I sent out for customer service representative, cashier, and teacher, not one felt I was a good fit for their company. But here was a guy who had heard about what I had done on the shows I've worked on and he wanted me to be a part of his team!

So the following week I drove out to Stella Niagara and he walked me around the theater. It was an old theater in an even older Catholic school built on the lower Niagara River. It had character. It had history. It had bats. Lucky for me the bats were hiding or hibernating, so I could just concentrate on working on the show. And other than a few new-show hiccups, everything went well. It was strange for me to be up in the light booth instead of back stage.

I have always been back stage during the shows I worked on since I usually was moving or flying set pieces in and out, or I was assisting the Stage Manager or making sure the props were where they needed to be and in the hands of who needed them. But this time I was up in the balcony lighting the stage. This time I didn't have a direct connection to the cast. This time I felt more like part of the production team. And that was nice. Although I love hanging out with the actors, it made more sense for me to be with the crew. After each show, I was invited to go for food and drinks with the producer and some of the board members. One night the director of the next show, "Seussical the Musical," was there and started picking my brain about the shows I've worked on and if I knew so-and-so and by the end of the night I had agreed to Stage Manage his show in September. He liked the fact that I have worked on so many shows with many of the actors that will probably audition for his show.

My first duty as Stage Manager was to let him know which actors were difficult to work with. "I can't deal with divas, chaz. You have to let me know who's easy to work with and who's a pain in the arse."

Most of these late-night get togethers were attended only by board members and crew, except for Dominic. Dominic had been doing theater since he was old enough to walk and talk but was still too young to hang out with the rest of the cast, yet too old to go straight home after the shows. So he hung out with us. He reminds me a lot of a younger version of me. When I first started working in theater, I was a freshman in high school, but the group I worked with had a lot of college kids from Niagara University. I used to hang out with them after the shows or on the weekends building sets, painting backdrops, and just having fun. I didn't like hanging out with kids my age. I liked the older kids. And Dominic is the same way.

When the show finally ended, we had to strike the set almost immediately. I have never seen so many cast members take part in strike! It was pretty awesome. It made breaking the set down and wrapping up the lights and what-not so much easier. I guess the cast feels just as invested in breaking the stage down as they do in putting on the show, and that's great. Like I said, I've never seen anything like it. I'm sure it also helps their chances of getting in the next show if people remember that they also participate in strike after closing.

So now I have another theater gig under my belt. It feels good to work on shows and be a part of something like that. I'm looking forward to working on my next show. Stage Managing a large show like "Seussical" should be a lot of work. And interesting. And fun.

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