... are things you’ll need in your survival kit if you’re thinking of becoming part of a stage crew. Also lots of shouting, swearing, sexual innuendo and most importantly, a sense of humour (Is it weird that all these things begin with S?)
The notes today come from backstage, rather than the auditorium. There is one company I always work with and has become a staple of my year. This backstage foray is with a local amateur dramatic group, whose show takes place during November. I am part of the props team and was quite surprised this year to be given a dressing room; Quite a novelty - and with the Director and Musical Director, no less.
Obviously, full advantage was taken - we had a fridge for goodness sake! So we sat in there with our Starbucks coffee and bags of sweets and had show related discussions (mostly). Our comfort was short lived, however. We had already been thrown off the main stage for being too loud with our discussions during the rigging session and it didn’t take long for us to be thrown out of the dressing room, too. Left to wander the corridors, wondering what shall become of us? Why was this? The MD needed his pre-show meditation time.
We were told then to put our stuff in the committee room (the committee room? The committee have a dressing room and yet the props team have to roam around the stage/corridors pre- show?) So, the following night I went to drop my stuff off in the ‘committee room’ and was met with a horrified expression from the company secretary “you can’t put it in here.... this is the committee room!” She then poked her head into the corridor and said “you can put it here”.... in the corridor! It was all sorted out, of course, but it did provide us with a laugh for the run of the show.
The point is there are a lot of interesting temperaments backstage. Everyone will either be stressed out or coping with pre-show nerves. Everyone will have their own routines. Theatre is one superstitious place and if you ruin someone’s preparation routine, you may be ruining the whole show! (one must make dramatic claims, darling) – Whether that is pacing the stage, meditating or making sure everything is in its place. I suppose you could say my superstition is the need to have sweets side-stage. In everyday life, I don’t ever go out of my way to buy sweets, but during the run I feel almost panicked if they are not there. It’s probably somewhat for the sugar rush and keeping energy levels up, especially having come from a full time day job, more likely it’s some theatrical routine I’ve adopted.
The thing I love about theatre is you can absolutely get away with these things – silly superstitious beliefs and diva attitudes. In any other profession, you will be told not to be so ridiculous and to get over yourself. In theatre, you are more likely to be reprimanded for being pragmatic.
As a final thought - another thing that might be an idea to put in that survival kit is a high threshold for pain and lack of vanity. Moving set quickly, in the dark can result in some bruising (more so if you’re short like me). See below for a picture of my leg after show week:-
(.... Why, yes, those are my incredibly cool slipper boots)