Behind the Lights

So, I'm not sure anyone here knows this, but I have a pretty big interest in theatre. I don't much care for Shakespeare, that could just be my age and lack of understanding his work, and I don't really know any other famous playwrights. So maybe I don't have a huge interest in theatre.

What I do have an interest in, is being a part of theatre.

Behind the Lights

I don't mean acting. Trust me, throw me on the stage and I'll recite my lines. I'll play my part and go through the motions and get through the show, but I am not great at adding the right inflection into my voice or portraying emotion other than 'holy god I'm on stage somebody get me off I'm about to cry.'

What I want to do. Is the tech work. For the last year and a bit I have been volunteering at the local theatre group, or one of. I got into it, because my drama teacher wanted my friend to do the lighting for the year twelves production and he needed someone else to do sound. He figured he might as well chuck someone else up there that my friend knew, and he picked me.

I loved it.

I absolutely loved it.

The thing about being up in the lighting box, is that you have full control of what's going on, on the stage. You have the power to deafen the audience, and blind the actors. You can make or break the performance.

If you miss a lighting or sound cue, especially one that the actors need. Then it's on your head and you let the cast down. If you have to play a phone call as a cue for somebody to come on stage and you don't, well.

Lighting and sound is something that people take barely any notice of, yet without either, any performance, whether it's on stage, on screen or even in real life, the show can just seem drab.

A dramatic scene is incomplete without that dramatic music. A stormy day is incomplete without that flash of lightning and sound of wind and rain.

This is what I do. I make the scene real.

It's the actors who get all the credit. And that's okay. They spent hours upon hours, months, learning lines, being yelled at and negotiating with the director about where they're supposed to be at what moment. How they're going to pick up that cup, whether they stand in front of or behind that table. To stop talking with their hands and stop shuffling their feet.

But the sound and lighting techs, we just touch buttons and move the sliders up and down.

Now, there is a reason for me posting this take.

I have, for all my life, like many others. Wondered what exactly do I want to do after school.

Well, nobody knows the answer to that.

I want to write. But I know there is no guarantee to me making it in that world. It's very rare that an author makes enough money to quit their day job.

I want to draw. But I'm nowhere near good enough, or patient enough, to make a career out of that. And the same issue with writing as to do with money.

You can't really make a career out of reading.

And you can't make a career out of gaming. I mean, I could make youtube videos, those 'lets play' things, but as if anyone's going to watch me when they have so many other much better gamers right? Plus I live with people who wouldn't let me do that anyway.

Basically, being a lighting and sound tech is all I have going for me. And that still won't make me much money. But it's something right? It is.

I don't want to be stuck working at Maccas (McDonalds) or Hungry Jacks, or a cafe or somewhere like that. I don't want to work somewhere that I don't feel like I'm getting anywhere. I've worked at Maccas, the atmosphere is tense. It's rushed. It's filled with angry customers and managers yelling at you to get those chips done and ready to go and you get home tasting like salt and stress.

It's not fun.

But theatre is. You get to meet all these awesome people. You make friends, long lasting friends, you get silly nicknames thanks to the characters you play. I'm still Bob. Half a year later and I'm still getting called Bob. I did the lighting for a Shakespeare abridged play and the actors would call up to the lighting box to me, telling me to bring up the house lights, or take down the houselights, or if they could have some music Bob? To which I would yell out, it's Bailey and do as they asked. Or tell them to get stuffed when it came to music. That was a fun show.

Backstage to me, is a lot better than being onstage. You don't have the same pressure. Yeah if you stuff up it's a little more detrimental than stumbling on a line, but it's not liek the audience is going to know who you are, or in some cases even notice. I missed a lighting cue once when I was supposed to bring up a wash as an actor turned up the gaslight, I stumbled for a moment, freaking out over whether or not the audience would notice if I brought it up really slowly after the cue.

They didn't notice. If I had have snapped the wash up, they definitely would have. That sudden hit of bright orange over the dark blue would have definitely caught their attention, but bringing it up slowly, so they stay focused on the movement on stage, the yelling, accusing, the affair going on between the husband and maid, and not on the rising lights coming up too late.

To somebody else, being a techy would probably be more stressful. But for me it's like getting a fix. You know that feeling of needing something so bad you'd do almst anything to get it? That's me and lighting. Everytime I get an offer to go back to the Woodbin to assist in a show I get that rush of endorphins and have to accept. The moment I sit behind that lighting board and move all the slides up so the lights can warm up. It's like getting that fix.

I'm ready for anything.

Okay, I'm rambling now.

Basically, what I want to do here, is give you an alternative. If you're looking for a job, for a career, anything. You just want something to do in your downtime that you can commit to. This is it.

There is very likely to be a theatre group in your area and they can always do with more volunteers.

It's not glamorous. The cast and crew will congratulate you on a job well done, but the audience will pay you no mind. They're interested in the people they saw, not the ones they didn't. Most of the time they just assume I'm another member of the audience.

If you're cool with that. With climbing ladders to hook up heavy lights, figuring out how to change the blasted lights, because damn those bulbs hate going in, deciding which gel is the right one because you want the mood lighting to be just right or it won't give the affect you want. If you're okay with seeing the same play over and over and over until you can recite the lines better than the actors can, drink a few thousand cups of coffee and eat a few billion biscuits.

Then really, I'd say give it a go.

Nothing can beat the theatre experience. Especially behind the scenes.

And if you can get into it, can dedicate the time and energy into it. What do you have to lose by giving it a go?

Whether you're acting, a techy, stage manager, director, prompting, stage building, prop making/collecting, costume designing etc. There are so many fields in theatre. One is for you. You just need to look.

Plus the after parties? Freaking awesome.


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BaileyisDarcy is a GirlsAskGuys Editor
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What Guys Said 3

  • I have been in show biz for most of my adult life, I am a qualified sound engineer and studied light at University. I own a media promotional company. I've been the local sound guy at the corner bar, and have worked as a monitor engineer in front of 100,000 people. I've lit theater, dance and television. And I can tell you that no, you will not get rich, but it's a heck of a rewarding career. There's nothing like the magic of the stage, it's addicting and fun. Theater people are, as a rule, great. and the couture is just... well there's nothing like it. Best of luck to you, if you need anything just ask.

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  • Aww.
    I want to be a writer or a drawer too. Or a lets playet. But I lack the skills for all of that.
    So I'm sticking with forensic psychology.

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  • I have always loved being a techie! I love it way more than being on stage! I enjoy doing all the behind the scenes work as well. Stay passionate my friend! Techies unite!

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What Girls Said 2

  • Theater has been like "my thing" since I was 4 and we are always looking for techies in my rep company. sometimes the actors have to do some tech, and let me tell you actor personalities shouldn't always be stage managing. despite all the good and creativity and just the art in general it is a veryyyy unpredictable career choice, at least for acting. but its so worth it, and so much fun. I also think you could totally be a writer this was really wonderful to read :)

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    • Aww, thankyou.

      Heh, we actually have a note backstage for the actors, I can't remember it exactly but it says something to do with, nobody having time to deal with your rock star attitude, the crew was here long before you setting up the stage and will be here long after taking it down. They should be getting your pay and you should be getting theirs.

      Or something like that. The note would probably have been more effective if, you know, it wasn't volunteer and we did actually get paid.

      What's your role if you don't mind me asking?

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    • You said theatre has been 'your thing' I assumed that meant you have a role in your theatre group. Like how my role is as a techy.

    • Ahh, I'm the "leading lady" in my rep company (for my age at least )

  • Nice take! Working as a sound tech certainly does sound much better than working at Maccas.

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