A Tale of Frustrated Tears: The Drama Behind The Stage
I have been running tech for a musical on campus for about a week.
At our first meeting as crew, the stage manager asked, “Okay, guys, what time conflicts do you guys have?”
We gave them to her verbally. Because I wasn’t sure of mine, I wrote them down first before I spoke them to her. By the time I had figured them out, she told the crew, “Anybody else who has any conflicts, write them down and give them to me later.”
So I approached her after our meeting with a slip of paper. It noted I had an evening class and also that I was unavailable on Friday. She said she’d talk to the tech director about the class. I watched her write both conflicts on her calendar.
On Thursday, I approached the assistant SM.
“I’m reminding you that I’m unavailable on Friday.”
She had no idea what I was talking about.
I told her: “Well, I won’t be there on Friday.”
Was there a gap in communication, or had the stage manager lost her conflict calendar? I only knew it wasn’t my fault. At the end of the run that night, the stage managers realized they needed to find someone for Friday because not only one, but two of the crew members couldn’t be there.
On Saturday morning, we had a matinee. I came ready for tech call and was promptly pulled aside by the stage manager. “Kate, the run went really smoothly last night with your replacement. She says she’s okay with taking your place, but I’m giving you the choice.”
It didn’t feel like much of a choice: Let the show run smoothly or take my hard-earned place and make it not run smoothly.
I checked with that individual who had come to replace me; she was cool with it. When I tried to ask her something else, she shied away and told me to take it up with the stage managers.
I sat in a secluded corner with a friend of mine on the crew; she agreed with me that it was unfair. I borrowed her Kleenex. Her eyebrows were furrowed; she told me they had not had a smooth run that night. I borrowed another Kleenex.
I told the stage manager that I’d let that individual take my place for the good of the show if they really thought it ran smoother.
“I really think so,” she said. “I have the support of the director and the tech director.”
I was crying with frustration then. Of course it ran smoother; I was the one who had worked out all the kinks the whole week before! I asked to still be a part of the crew. After all, I’d taken off work for that next week, I’d told everyone I’d be at the show, and I enjoyed being backstage again.
“I’ll let you be hall monitor.” the stage manager said. “Make sure no stranger touches props or walks through closed doors.” I felt grateful. I ended up babysitting a member of the cast: a dog. The dog had eyes only for her master, who was doing my job. I didn’t do her job very well, and the dog kept tugging at the table leg and whimpering. I wondered why the other person who wasn’t here on Friday wasn’t replaced.
I was prepared to stay on as hall monitor and stand-by for anyone else who might have conflicts for the remainder of the show’s duration. But as the cast began leaving for dinner and the other techs began to leave, I walked by the assistant SM.
“We really don’t need you. You can go.”
I stormed off.
In retrospect, I’ve tried to pinpoint why they might want to replace me. It’s only natural instinct on my part.
The only thing I can think of is an occurance on that first night of tech. I was panicked a bit because I’d forgotten my cane and didn’t know how the lighting conditions were backstage. I’m blind in the dark and I can tell it gets progressively worse by each show I do.
The assistant SM asked me, “Are you sure you’ll be okay working backstage? We can always reassign you to a different crew.”
I told her I’d be fine. After all, I wouldn’t have signed up if I didn’t think I could handle it.
I’ve sworn off this particular theatre department. I’ve had other nightmares with other stage managers here; I’ll go find a community theatre once I’m done with school.