The Undercover Tech: Controlled Mayhem

by Anna Hodgson

As any theatre artist would know, being a part of a show creates a special place in one’s heart. We build relationships and generate memories that only we as a collective unit will ever have. These include, but at not limited to rehearsals, shows and off stage down time like that one time that one actor changed into the wrong costume and in a frantic hurry ripped all of the buttons off while trying to redeem the situation; and that one time the tech crew tried to unjam the onstage door throughout act 1 while the actors continued on with the show by using the front curtain as the “backdoor”; and even the times when the audience keeps clapping while half of the actors go to take an encore bow while the other half franticly try to change back into their costumes from the back hallway. It’s safe to say that the life backstage is never boring.

One of my favorite aspects of this community is how we all find each other’s groove. There is a mutual understanding that some actors and crew members need their time and space to be alone right before a show, there are also those actors who use hammers to warm up (you’re guess is as good as mine), those that could eat an elephant if you put it in front of them and even some that have a liking to tiny plastic forks. Often in this type of environment many inside jokes start to spread throughout the cast and crew. Generally these entail something related to the show and/or a conversation in the green room. For example, when you have a line like “The only think I’ve had to eat is a jelly bean I found under the bed,” an actor may be inclined to purchase 4 giant containers of jelly beans for everyone to enjoy upon opening night. (This a very sweet and common gesture among theater participants.) But it is not until the sixth week of the show’s run that these jelly beans start appearing in actor’s shoes or head garments- I mean one can only eat so many jelly beans in one sitting. Now when you have one prankster involved in a show small things like this are expected, but when you have a show with multiple, you can expect war. Once one person has set off the trap, like with the jellybean, one can only anticipate something more alarming such as the unforeseen water in the chair or the misplaced/replaced prop shoe incident to occur. It is not until someone outside of this battle out-pranks the two sides that this becomes a show-wide experience.

Now you are probably thinking, “oh, how unprofessional”, they’ll never be hired again. Well let me assure you that with a highly skilled and qualified stage management team, the show will stay in tact as it was meant to be. Do not be alarmed, it’s just all part of the process.

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