Sunday, September 17, 12:30 I left my house to be on time to the Beull Theater. I was going to shadow a stage manager for the Phantom of the Opera. I was nervous. Was this going to scare me away from what I think is my dream job or will it confirm that my passion is right? I don’t know what is more frightening. This was the show that got me started in theater. In March of my sophomore year of high school, we went to New York for a week. It was cold, I was sick, and my shoes were wet because it snowed the whole time. I loved it, I wanted to live it every day. When I got home, I had a temperature of 103 and felt like death but all I could talk about was The Phantom of the Opera.
I arrive at the backstage door entrance and try to get in, my name isn’t on the list so I call Max, the A2 for the show, the reason I am here, well, trying to be here. He comes down and rescues me and shows me to the stage manager’s office, wishes me a good show and I am whisked away by Seth, the stage manager. He introduces me to the choreographer, Max, and the other stage managers, Liz and Amanda, who I will be shadowing. “Do you want to see the stage?” I say, “Yes please!” and follow Seth to the stage. Next to the door, a man is painting a small mural of the program, the cast will sign it after their last show tonight.
Seth shows me the stage manager’s box and where I will be for the show, he points out a headset for me to use during the run. I feel like I’m floating. To the right is the mirror where Eric (the Phantom) will pull Christine into his labyrinth under the opera. I try to look calm, the complete opposite of how I feel. “This is the backside of the mirror, the actor unlocks it and…” he explains how the mirror opens and closes and how the lights and monitors work. My throat tightens, I touch it, wood, OSB, and 2×4 skinned with painted luan to be exact. I can build this. We cross to stage right and I see the empty red seats waiting to be filled. The chandelier, waiting to drop.
“This is where the pyrotechnician sits, we just shove him in a corner.” I laugh, my mind skips to the cemetery scene than to the climax where the whole stage is set “on fire”. “I’m assuming everything is covered in fire retardent?” Seth looks at me and a glaze passes over his eyes, a true sign of horror of the amount of work. “…you have no idea.”
The call for house open is heard on stage and we scurry from the light of the stage, we become shadows and disappear. Back in the office laughter is herd in the halls, and people warming their voices. The call for places. I follow Amanda to her station. Work lights go out. “Do you want a stool? I never sit when I’m calling; I’m too nervous.” The pressure that rides on her shoulders for each show is enormous, if she fails to speak at the correct time, the lights will not change, the set will not rotate, the show will fail. God, I want this job. “No thank you, I’m scared if I sit, I will wake up in my bed and this will all be a dream.” She looks up at me and smiles. The show begins.
There will be a part 2!
You Are Loved