I am very excited to start this blog and have you along for the journey! I am a theater technician perusing a BA. I focus on scenic carpentry, scenic design, scenic painting, stage management, and USITT hand drafting. I like being a jack of all trades and master of none, I LOVE having my fingers in everyone’s pies.
In this blog I will post about many things, relevant and irrelevant, the good and the bad, theater memes, and plenty of quotes. I will post job listings, and job hunting web-sights that I find interesting and useful. Most importantly, I will be keeping you informed about the news in our small little world
I’m here to make you smile and laugh about the things said in the dark and all the things the people in blacks go through to laugh with actors and have a good time making our audience laugh.
I want questions, topic and news requests, memes, theater artwork (fanart), and quotes you want to see in this blog, let’s do this together!
Consent. A word we are all familiar with and has become one of the most talked about topics in colleges and work places today. Consent is no longer just a discussion about sex but about any physical contact you have with a person. This is now integrated into our culture and no one asks any questions but how often are you asked this question, “Can I touch you?”
I get asked this question everyday at least twice. I am a performing arts major and work in my schools scenic shop as a painter and carpenter. Preforming Arts, theater specifically, is all physical. Actors are people pretending to be other people so that you can watch a person who does not exist or has died life. Kissing, hugging and sex are every third thought a person has ant therefore those three things drive, on average, a third of our actions. Ok so what you ask? Imagine every night you go to work you are asked “Is it ok if I kiss you and hug you and lay on top of you before the lights go out on stage?” If you are an actor and have an intimate scene with your acting coworker, this question is required to be asked and consent must be given from both people before the show can open.
How is this happening on a college level? Professors at at my college no only are vigilant with asking the question “Can I touch you?” but respect your answer and respect you if you say no and move on. I am currently taking a speaking and voice class to learn how to speak and breath properly for maximum voice volume and range. My professor is amazing, and I have learned so much but only because of the physical contact in the class. Most of the time we are working in partners in class. Typical partner work is one person laying on the ground, and the other putting their hands on your shoulders, head, ribs, stomach, and sides. A few weeks into the class we all have become friends and we have become comfortable with each other, so we started assuming if you showed up to class you were consenting to being touched and stopped asking each other for consent.
This became a problem, people now don’t show up to class if they are feeling uncomfortable with being touched. I was made clear that if this did happen you should still come to the class and observe not skip class. Once this pattern was consistent, the professor corrected it and we formed a new sense of community in our small class of 21.
Consent is not something to be taken for granted nor assumed. Consent in any situation must be asked and given especially in an academic setting. The act of asking for consent is not one that is only encouraged but it is normalized. Consent in performing arts, especially live theater is so important it is worked into professional and union contracts, but it is not required or often thought about in smaller theaters. Consent clauses should not only be placed in every actor contract but every technician contract in every theater around the world.
Hi Family, this is part 2, find the first part here
I stand watching the screens in awe and amazement. Amanda is calling cues from stage left and she is blind, she is only using 8 cameras and has no way to see the stage. She calmly calls ques and flips switches for cue lights. I would have been panicked by now, I find myself getting lost in the music of the night. The cast is in a constant dance even off stage. The run crew is even doing their own choreography moving tables, props and helping people change into their next costume.
“If you ever find a moment, spare a thought for me…” The stage is transformed, gold columns that are the boxes of the opera are visible. Christine’s slave costume is switched to a beautiful white on stage. The mirror that was on my right, is taken on stage and I can see, the Phantom standing in the mirror, holding his cape. I see the stage, the colors so different than they are from the audience. They shine on me, the amber and pinks warm my face. A technician is dancing in front of me, the actors looking at her smiling, laughing at her.
“Insolent boy, this slave of fashion!…” the lights fade out a single spotlight on Christine and the mirror. I see Christine take a hand without a body, my eyes flick to the monitor, the audience sees the Phantom. Tears in my eyes. the music swells and changes. The actors run. My eyes go back to the monitors, there is no way they will get to their next spot in time, they are clipped in to a secret harness, the set rotates and they are on stage. They never came off stage the secret of the magic. I am awestruck… and try to get my emotions under control.
People dance off stage in the dark, the actors smile at them and laugh genuinely, now I understand. We are all the same, in this moment, I am apart of the madness and it fills me up. I remind myself that I am there to observe the technical side, not watch the show that pulled me into this world. I take as many notes as I can, how to better write in my own cues for future shows, how to be more organized and confidant. The Mirror is back on my right side and I can not see the stage, I watch the stage on screens. I am in awe of the woman and her talent standing to my left.
The stage is blue again, the rooftop scene, there is one question in my head, where is Eric (the Phantom) hiding? I look around the corner, I look back at Amanda and she smiles giving me a wave to watch. “No more talk of darkness…”The actor playing Raul looks off stage, my head peaking around the corner, our eyes lock, he is looking for Eric but finds me instead, in a serious moment, his lips curl up and I know that he broke for a second, I know that my head looks like its floating in the blue strip lighting. I feel my cheeks go red like I have been caught seeing something I shouldn’t. I start to take a step back into the shadows but he keeps me locked in his gaze and as if telling me to stay and watch. He turns and he is talking to Christine again.
My eyes go back to the task of answering my question. I look over at the Apollo statue and down the backside. Derrick Davis, who plays The Phantom, or Eric as he is referred to in the novel, is sitting on the ground getting covered in snow. The mask flashes at me as he stands. The technician who is back with him smile at each other and brush the snow off, he flips his cape dramatically and the snow swirls and billows gracefully, it looks like they are dancing. He climbs to the top of the statue as the music swells and sings of his heart break, I am still frozen in place.
I am exactly where I want to be. This job, stage managing for a tour, I need to do this job. It is my passion, my addiction, the reason I will do whatever I must to get back right where I am standing… well two feet back and one foot to the left where Amanda is standing to be exact.
Dear Phantom of the Opera,
You don’t know me, my name isn’t in the program. You seduced me into your world of theater 6 years ago in New York. You stoked my flame 2 years ago when you came to Denver. Tonight, you made my soul take flight with the power of the music of the night. I will see you soon my friend, and you will know me by name.
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.
The great debate in the world, how do you like your energy? In beans or in leaves? I asked technitions and actors this question and it was exactly how I expected.
Actors love tea. They love it with milk and honey and hot. There was only the occasional actor that preferred coffee but they will not drink it on a show week because it drys their throats out. The 3 of 64 actors who drank coffee liked a lot of creamer and did not drink it black. They all drank on average 2 cups of tea a day, 3 during a show week.
Technicians on the other hand, they drink black sludge coffee and energy drinks. There are two people of 36 that I asked who drink tea, I am one of them. They don’t mind a hot tea for enjoyment but most people I asked drink 4 cups of coffee and 2 energy drinks by 10 am, they typically are up at 6 am. They are looking for something that will keep them going without needing a lot of food. Technicians also spend on average $200 at Starbucks a month.
I asked a friend, Adam why he and other actors enjoy tea so much he responded, “Actors are more neoclassical, and prefer the aesthetic of old age things such as tea.” Theater at this time was adopted from Paris and of the idea that it had to have 3 points. It had to take place in a real place, good had to win and the actions had to match the age and situation of the character, a 17 year old boy was played by a 17 year old boy and he was to act like it not a dramatic war hero that everything worked out for perfectly.
This also goes along with the theory that people who are in high school and college now are bringing back trends of physical things such as Polaroids and vinyl. There is so much technology today that people miss the physical things and physical ways to connect with people, this how they are doing it. We are reconnecting by having things, experiences, that cannot be duplicated.
For the last 5 weeks I have been working on a show called Godspell. It is a musical that tells the parables in the book of Mathew in the Bible through Jesus’ crucifixion. I took the position because I excited about the show’s story and the music ranging from folk to jazz to pop. When I got the script the opening note from the author stated that having a reserection in the play was not written in and not needed because it misses the point of the play, community.
This was very off-putting to me because I am a Christian. The only reason Christianity exists is because Jesus rose from the dead on the third day. The second act of the play i centered around the crucifixion and to say that the play’s community is more important than what is actually written is had to grasp for me. It is like the play write wanted to write a musical about God but doesn’t want the show to be about God, an interesting concept to a few of us in the production.
In the world of theater you are exposed to many ideas that my help you understand your own ideas or they may go against what you believe. you have to stick to your guns and not back down but you also can’t be an ass about it and still do the work if you can. I made my thoughts known when there was a concern, but this only happened once. I kept quiet otherwise because are creating a liberal art. If you are religious your faith will be tested but do not loose heart or your roots for they are where we began and make up who we are.
In a previous post I received a question from Dallice that I am often asked when I explain the hardship of my job. He question was “… why would you want to be one [theater technician] given the circumstances?” The circumstance she is referring to, can be found in my previous post called It Must Be Nice…. I love that I have the opportunity to change jobs a minimum every 6 weeks. I never get board, there is no rhythm to get use to, every show is different. Some people need a rhythm and that’s great but I would pull my hair out if I had to do the same thing every day!
There is no job security being a stage manager or a theater technician unless you are in a union such as IATSE, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees or AEA, Actors’ Equity Association. Even then, you are put onto a call list until you prove you can show up on time and do quality work, then you move up in the ranking. However, working freelance, can provide more creative opportunities, but you will not get paid as well.
The second question I received on this post was also from Dallice, “What makes it so appealing to you that you are able to overlook its faults?” The ability to turn black ink on a crisp white page into a 15 foot set that people can watch and intact with is what drives me. This job is not for the money, when I say that I really mean it, most people work two even three jobs when they work in theater. We do it because it is what set out souls on fire and it not only gives us a way to inspire others but inspire ourselves.
On September 11th I felt very proactive riding my scooter around down town Denver, I got lost in the tall buildings and my inspiration to move to New York was rekindled. The sound of cars and sirens. the sound of people rushing, each having their own stories and lives, and I am in it but for a second. The strange girl riding her scooter looking up not down.
I decided to talk to someone instead of idle dreaming. I rode to the Stage door of the Denver Center of Performing Arts (DCPA), and waited. I didn’t know what I was waiting for or who but I started to look at shows playing as people dressed in black walked into a door I can only dream of seeing the other side. Miss Saigon was the show on tour playing in the Buell Theatre. I decided I was going to talk to the Stage Manager, Michelle Dunn.
I waited and asked everyone walking in the door I was standing next to, “do you know Michelle Dunn?” most smiled and said no and wished me luck finding her. I was beginning to loose hope. I had 20 minutes until my next class started. A skiny man with long fingers and a small black backpack was sipping his coffee, “do you know Michelle Dunn?” he looked at me and smiled. “I do, I’m the assystaint acompanyest for tonights performance. Do you know Michelle?”
I was bubbleing with excitement. “No I dont unfortunetly, but I want to. I want to interview her for my blog. I’m studying to be a stage manager at MSU,” I pointed and he looked to the campus, “and I wanted to get some advice from her, can I give you my email or phone number to pass along to her?” He looked at me and smiled, “of course! She is so nice.” we exchanged emails and he wished me luck.
The week after on Tuesday I sat down with Michelle and we had lunch at the Corner Bakery. We talked for close to three hours about everything from family and relationships to her story of how she ushered and was in the right place and the right time and was asked to stage manage for The Lion King that night. Michelle’s biggest advice was to go to open auditions for actors and drop off a resume. She received many job offers this way. I had no idea that this could be done. She also said to try to plan jobs 2-4 years out if you can. I asked her if it was possible, she simply said, “anything is possible if you put the time in.”
Michelle reminded me that my dreams are not too big and what I want to do is very possible and attainable in the next 3 years. She reminded me that everything I did and do and will do will be known about everyone because the professional world is very small. It’s like being a celebrity, you spend so much time, anywhere from 9-12 hours a day with the people you work with, 6-7 times a day. Your life and your work should be separate but often they collide. You are friends with technicians and cast members of past shows and you will work together again in the future so you have to be aware of the invisible line that is ever moving.
If you think you are not going to be able to live your dream, go talk to someone who has already done it. Ask them how they got where they are and what they would do different. You can do what you want. The only person you can loose to is you.
“So what do you want to do?” This is a standard question for any strager you meet, you want to know what they want to do or what they do for work. I was riding the RTD home from school when I sat next to a woman whom I had a lovely conversation with, at first but turned interesting quickly due to her assumptions.
I told her I wanted to work backstage at theaters and move to New York in the next 5 years. She smiled and said, “Oh that should be easy, everyone wants to be an actor, no one wants to do the dirty work.” I smiled at this woman loving that she recognized this, most people just smile and nod politely. She is wrong on how easy it is to get any job as a theater technician.
Job searching for theater techs is hard, you have to plan almost 2 years out if you want to keep steadily employed. Once we finish a job, we get fired essentially. Very rarely do you get to stay in a theater working on future projects.
Lets play a game. Imagine finding a new job every 6 weeks. If you said “hell no!” then you’re out. Most technician gigs with the exception of stage management, and directing jobs can be up to 8 or 9 weeks. Other jobs my me as short as two weeks such as set and lighting design.
Ok, now that you are willing to do that, are you willing to relocate? No? then you should probably do this as a side gig and have another job as a sole source of income. Most jobs in theater won’t be close to you, or require you to travel in sleeper buses with a touring show. tour shows are my goal, you don’t pay for rent and get paid while you live on the go. You also get to travel to amazing places all over the country and world if you are extremely lucky.
I asked Brian Kelly, a professor at MSU Denver, out of how many applications did you get responses from, he said 1 out of every 23 resumes he sent he received a response. I then asked out of those how many were a hire acceptance letter he said 1 or 2. he said that he usually sends 60-70 resumes while looking for jobs.
Job searching is difficult for everyone. We all know the struggle, I love job searching and the fact that I can change my job and do something new every 6 weeks. It is a big part of why I chose to do this as my career.
Today we talk about phones in the theater, every technician and actor’s worst nightmare. What happens when a phone on Broadway creates a riot?
Emotions run high on stage, especially in a show like Betrayal. A 7 year romance and affair told in reverse. Tensions and stakes are high, and the show, like an emotional roller coaster. The actor and actress in the final moment of tension, audience holding their breath seeing information that they knew, finally being acted upon by all on stage. Silence, bodies embracing, shaking, RIIINNGGG!!!! Silence.
A tear slips form actor, Tom Hiddleston’s eye. The illusion of the show broken. The poise the actors hold gone. The emotion too real the actors slip, the emotion no long apart of the character, they feel the emotion. Chaos ensues. The audience starts rioting, they start yelling and demand the phone to be found and the person to be removed from the theater. The magic of another world, disappears and is lost the experience ruined.
Phones are a way of life. We rely on them to stay connected and engaged in life. This begs the question, have phones ruined us being able to experience true, raw emotion? People feel for each other and care, until, DING! something more important comes up. I see this happen in day to day life but no one cares, we get it, we wright ourselves off or our problems off as not important. This is the biggest lie you can tell yourself. You matter. your problems matter. Put down the phone and care about each other, nothing is more important than your fellow man. This is what theater continues to teach us as humans, why we continue to go see shows, we crave emotional experience. Do not let your phone ruin the present moment.
You are Loved
For more on this story here is the link of where I first read about it in the Chicago Tribune.