There are times when I do not wish to tell people what it is I do for a living. I often think it would so much easier to say I am a secretary or a writer, but I tell them the truth. So many times people I have met at family reunions, or just about have asked me what I do and I normally dread it. Explaining that you work in technical theatre to non-theatre people can be difficult, excruciating at times. The normal responses are usually, “Oh, so you act/direct?” And as soon as you explain that no, you work behind the scenes they lose interest. Suddenly the spark of excitement in their eyes goes out, because all they know and understand is actors and directors, possibly producers. That and I always am asked if my goal is to end up on Broadway. I may work on Broadway, but it is not my goal. I much prefer regional theatres or educational theatres that can focus on the art more than the commercial aspects of performance.
The reason I do love technical theatre is the moments when it all comes together. Currently I am working a fly system, and during our first performance with an audience a few moments when things flew in received applause from the audience. But the moment that made the night was when a set flew in and the audience was silent, a stunned silence that felt like if you breathed it would all break apart and ruin the moment. From where I am backstage I can not see any of the audience and only a fraction of the stage, but the feeling, the emotion that radiates from the audience told me I had done my job.
Stage crew, a good crew, are neither seen nor heard. In a way we are ninjas, we do dress in all black. The good moments, the times that drive me that feed me, we make the magic of live theatre happen. If you think about theatre as a magic trick the actors are the box and the person that steps into it and disappears. The technicians are the mirrors and the smoke. No one notices the mirrors and the puff of smoke is not the memorable thing but the fact that something vanished or transformed. But without those elements the trick would never work. We exist to allow the actors to convince the audience of the reality of the play.
So when someone asks me what it is I do for a living, I tell them. Because even if they can’t understand, perhaps they might be more inclined to step into a theatre the next time they walk by and see a show. Perhaps by knowing someone who creates the performance they will be more intrigued to see it come together.