When it comes to the “table” in theater, I’m very used to being on the performer’s side. Aside from a couple of brief forays into set-painting early on, I haven’t ventured into the world of tech much. But this semester has provided me with the opportunity to try out tech crew for the first time.
I was looking forward to getting involved in theater again after a brief hiatus last semester to focus on other things. I’d also heard Cabaret was seeking an assistant stage manager (ASM), which caught my interest. Stage managing has always intrigued me-- it certainly appeals to my type-A organizational, perfectionist personality. Between the endless opportunities for spreadsheet making and color coding, and the attention to detail required, it’s sort of a dream come true. Additionally, the stage manager for the show is one I've gotten to work with before and greatly admire (hi Leanne!). So, even though it was already shaping up to be a busy semester, I just couldn’t seem to pass it up. Now here I am, humming to the same Cabaret song that’s been stuck in my head for a week.
As I mentioned, this is a side of theater that’s new to me. I never realized just how much goes on outside of rehearsals to bring it all together. Being on the production crew is a whole new world-- there is so much to learn about lighting, sound, set, dramaturgical work, intimacy directing, music, and how to coordinate all of these individual elements until they coalesce into an actual show.
Another benefit to being on stage crew is the difference in pressure. It’s not that there’s less work or less commitment, but it is of a different kind than performing. As much as I love the stage, when you’re an actor, you’re constantly under intense scrutiny. And worse, that scrutiny is inherently subjective. You’re under the blinding stage lights while singing and acting and dancing. On top of all of that, you’re also worried about your wig falling off, your makeup looking right, your tap shoes coming untied. Being on stage crew, there’s still quite a lot of pressure (and, unfortunately, less recognition from audiences), but to me it feels less personal and overwhelming. In addition, the ability to multi-task during rehearsals has been seriously invaluable to me with this experience. That’s very specific to my role as ASM, and not many jobs would allow much time for multi-tasking. But with this show I’ve been able to do homework during some rehearsals-- which means I can actually go to sleep when I get home. The novelty! This, in particular, makes ASMing a lot more manageable with the rest of my life (pun-intended).
Of course, that treasured downtime will decrease as rehearsals ramp up closer to tech week, but that’s to be expected. And there’s nothing quite like the sleep-deprived camaraderie and shenanigans among cast and crew that ensue with the arrival of tech week.
So far, Cabaret has been a great way to learn about tech and meet new people. It’s also just a great show-- if you’re able to snag a ticket before they’re gone, I highly recommend doing so!