The Undercover Tech: Hear No Evil

by Anna Hodgson

Everything is checked off of the preset list including setting the blood behind the couch, cutting the Turkish delight in half, placing it strategically in the white candy bag, carefully pouring the “white wine” (aka apple juice concoction) into the wine bottles, and setting them in their appropriate places. My script is sitting on the music stand placed right by the backstage door for easy access to any and all things. I am ready to start the show.

We’ve been sent to stand by, actors and techs alike – “Anna on headset, stage left is ready.” All of the actors are in place warming up in their unusual manner, preparing for their first musical entrance; each of them humming, jumping, cracking jokes, and speaking in fake Russian. A few moments pass after the opening curtain speech and I hear, “sound cue 3 stand by, actors standby…sound and actor’s GO”

The show has officially begun.

This has been the fourth show since opening one week ago, and it has been a wonderful run so far.  Since starting this show, it has occurred to me that ASMs rarely ever get to see the show that they are working. Sure, we might get the opportunity to sit through the read-through or perhaps see a run through or even a rehearsal, but never an actual show- due to the fact that we are manning all of the backstage technical elements. We never actually know what is happening on stage or what the audience is seeing. As an ASM, I have completely imagined the entire show based on the costumes I have seen, the script I have in front of me, and the ways in which the lines are delivered by the talented cast. The other day we were called in for the speed through and were able to sit and watch most of it. A completely new world had opened up. I finally understood what the earthquake was during Artemis’ exit during Act 2 and why the audience laughed during the impotent joke – Alina’s blushing face.

It’s quite amazing how much we pick up from listening to a show and the audience’s reaction. The rhythm of the show is dictated by the patterns set each night by the actors, and when that pattern is disturbed or fumbled through, we recognize that something is off. Often times these mess-ups are quite entertaining and fun to listen for. Each night there is one line that the entire stage management team is listening for: the doctor comes in to save Alina, and unfortunately for us, he only speaks German. How could we know what he needs until Ivan begins to translate. Through this quick interpretation, Ivan always misinterprets the doctor’s last words and yells out something like “15 gallons of hair gel, but my German may be a little rusty”. Each night the show is different and all of our ears are waiting – at least mine are.

Always listening,

The Undercover Tech


2 responses to “The Undercover Tech: Hear No Evil

  1. Wait, that’s not real white wine?


  2. I never thought about how being backstage is really like reading a novel, you have to imagine what’s happening because you can’t see it. . .good news is at least in theatre the voices you are hearing are real!


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