I recently received this message:
Thanks for the suggestion, Beth! And to anyone else, please contact me with any other ideas for Stagebite articles!
For today, it sounds like our tech friends could use a little love! And what better day to do that than on Valentine’s Day!
My wife’s high school drama teacher stressed the importance of the tech crews by saying,
“Respect your tech crews. Without them, you are naked, in the dark, talking to yourselves on stage.”
One of the beauties of theatre is that it is a truly collaborative art, requiring a variety of personalities and skill sets. It’s also hard work. Before you even started rehearsals, dozens of costumers, set and lighting designers, stage managers, make-up artists, set and prop builders, sound techs, producers, graphic designers, and marketers already put in hours of planning and preparation for the main event. Then, they will be joined by house managers, ushers, stage crews, and others in a highly choreographed effort to keep things running smoothly.
Unfortunately, I understand how easy it can be as an actor to think that the whole experience revolves around you. This actor-centric mindset makes us consider the theatrical system to look something like this…
when it truly is something more like this…
Each member has a different role. One part of the body can’t say that it’s more important than another part. If each part is in place and does its job well, everything works together to get the job done.
So, how can we show some love and appreciation to the tech crew members that make the show possible? Here are some ideas:
Join a tech crew.
Perhaps the best antidote to the actor-centric mentality is to join a crew. Pick one that interests you. Costume, props, stage crew, construction… get your hands dirty, humbly take orders, work hard, and experience theatre from another perspective.
Remember they have a job to do, just like you do.
They have work to do that doesn’t include sitting and admiring your performance. Yes, part of their job is to not interfere with the performance, but little adjustments are often necessary, and it might be a little distracting for you. Avoid a Christian Bale freak-out episode and remember that part of your job is to work through distractions.
Give them the right of way backstage.
Yes, you might have an entrance coming up in three minutes. But there may be half-a-dozen tech cues that need to happen in that span of time. Keep aware of all that is going on, and stay out of the way. Sometimes, you may have to make a rushed entrance, exit, or costume change. Likely, they know this and will stay out of the way. If not, simply communicate with the crew members who are in the same area.
Techies are not reject actors!
They are a team of professionals and enthusiasts who love what they are doing. We don’t need to pity them for doing the “boring” work of theatre. They get a thrill out of putting their skills to the test and creating an experience for the audience. Find a tech crew member. Ask them why and how they got involved in theatre. More often than not, their passion will be obvious.
Some crew members have been burned by enough egotistical actors that if you even smile and say “Hey, how are you? Thanks for your work today!”, you’re automatically among the nicest they’ve met. Going a step beyond and leaving a thank-you card or a note for them will be memorable. Just because they don’t want the spotlight doesn’t mean they don’t want to be appreciated.
So, this Valentine’s Day, spread some love to our brothers and sisters who contribute more than their fair share of blood, sweat, and tears (all quite literally). Sincerely, thank you for all of your work. We may brush past you, the audience may never see you, but the show would not happen without you. We all have you to thank for this opportunity. Here’s to many more years of collaboration in creating the best art in the world!