Sawdust. In the after-school club of stage crew, I have breathed in enough sawdust to last me a lifetime. The masterminds behind every set, prop, painted wall, and scenic movement work tirelessly each week to make the actors look good. When I started stage crew as a freshman, I had no idea what I was doing or what I was getting myself into – seven-hour workdays after six hours of school, ripping and getting paint on every piece of clothing I owned, and sometimes getting hurt. It’s inevitable. We’re not professionals; we’re teenagers with power tools.
But I also did not realize the good things I was getting myself into. Late-night painting sessions with interludes of pizza or Chinese food (appropriately called “family dinners”), sacred rituals nobody knows about and nobody dares to tell, and a place where most of the time things make sense. There is a “weeding out” process each year in which the upperclassmen determine which freshmen are going to stick with stage crew for the rest of their time in high school – and which are only there for the painting. By winter musical, only the dedicated remain. I was once a scared freshman who didn’t know how to use a power drill and was terrified of the chop saw. Now, as a senior, I have achieved the rank of Stage Manager.
Stage flats. It goes without saying that at times I wanted to quit. When it gets hard, everyone thinks of quitting. It is easy to embarrass yourself or hurt yourself. We have a saying in stage crew: “The wood always wins.” Roughly translated, it means no matter how many times I measure a cut, practice a scene change, or mix a color, I will fail. The wood that is constant is always stronger than our fleeting human minds.
With every production, there is always one prop or set piece that becomes the bane of my existence. In my sophomore year production of “The Drowsy Chaperone,” my friends and I had to recut, reassemble, and replace a door seven times before it was usable in the loosest sense of the word. This door was used for two scenes. It’s safe to say that if possible, I wanted to strangle that door. This is only one of many times I have failed, hurt myself, or done the opposite of what needed to be done.
Curtain call. You might ask why I put myself through a club where I am bound to fail, hurt myself, and get too involved in from time to time. Some people do not understand stage crew. That’s okay; I don’t understand running eight miles a day in cross-country or pretending to be Norway in Model UN. But something draws me back to stage crew year after year. Maybe it’s the family I found there. Maybe the sense of duty I have placed upon myself, the satisfaction at the end of a long production. Or maybe it’s the sawdust, which I have become accustomed to and now consider a comforting scent.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.