WritingForums.com - The Stage Crew

  • The Stage Crew

    In 'Writing Discussion' there is a thread about some kids being unpopular in school. None of it related to me until I saw the word 'drama' in one of the posts, and that brought to mind high school, Ms Baxley's stage crew, and an incident well over half a century ago.

    You could not apply to join the stage crew. Third form students deemed worthy of the honour were invited at the beginning of the school year by the fourth form members. Neither grades, nor social standing, nor economic standing played any part in the selection. You had to be smart, but in the world of 15 and 16-year-olds smart didn't necessarily translate into good grades. You had to be smart in a practical way, able to figure out how to get things done. You had to get along with other people in a group and work toward getting something accomplished, but at the same time be self-reliant, not always begging for help with problems you should be able to solve yourself. The drama students walked around in their own little imaginary world. We of the stage crew had to deal with reality.

    It was on the stage crew that Ms Baxley, speech teacher and drama coach, relied to ensure successful performances of the plays her classes presented. It was the stage crew she took out for dinner after a performance, not the actors. ‘They always have their own parties’, she explained. 'My boys,' she called us, and of course the stage crew was all male. Lifting heavy objects and climbing 20-foot-stepladders were common activities. She took no part in selecting the new members - trusting those she had worked with for the past school year to choose well.

    When outside promoters rented the high school auditorium, at least two members of the stage crew had to be hired at 25 dollars each per night. At least one school custodians also had to be hired. While the promoters crew could set up the stage, lights and curtain could only be handled by a member of the stage crew. The main curtain was heavy, both it and the mechanism were elderly, and Ms. Baxley mandated two speeds for its operation - moderately slow and very slow. Whoever ran the lights normally pulled the main curtain since the lines were next to the lighting console.

    One night I was working the lights for a country music show that was in town. The promoter told me that when the curtain was opened or closed he wanted to see its skirts 'swing and sway'. I explained that I could not do that, that I had to maintain a speed that kept the curtain vertical at all times. He said he would have one of his crew pull the curtain, and I explained that only a member of the high school stage crew could pull the curtain or work the lights. He cursed me and walked away, calling for one of his crew to come and be ready to pull the curtain.

    It only took a few seconds to reach down, pull the master switch on the stage lights, lock the handle, and put the key in my pocket. He started to yell and the custodian came backstage to see what the problem was. When I told him, he told the promoter that the regulation about the duties of the stage crew were written into the contract the promoter signed when he rented the auditorium, and that if he did not want to abide by those conditions that was okay, since the school, himself the custodian, and the two boys on the stage crew had already been paid. Whether the performance went on or not was up to the promoter.

    He didn't like it, but he finally agreed, I put the lights back on, the time came for the show, and I opened the curtain at a moderate speed that kept the skirts straight.

    Now consider - a 15-year-old high school student standing up to a music promoter who looked to be in his fifties. He had power and money. I had the rule of law.

    There are people in the world who believe that what they want is all that should be considered. There are people in the world who believe that only their way is the right way. There are people in the world who believe that anyone in their path is their natural inferior, or, perhaps, their natural prey.

    Such people are deeply offended when their prey bites back. They become confused. They will deny that anything they have done was wrong, and they believe that. After all, it is, they believe, the duty of the inferior to bow to the will of the superior person. Such people sometimes rise to positions of power such that entire nations become their prey.

    It is, they believe, the duty of any prey that comes within arms reach to accept their fate; to comply and not complain.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: The Stage Crew started by garza View original post
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