Out of my group of good friends, Sergio is the only one who isn’t as white and pale as a saltine cracker. He is Colombian and proud of his heritage. His hair is dyed a dark purple that slowly fades to a sort of pinkish magenta. He always wears some sort of superhero shirt or soccer jersey. Every time I see him, he is holding an Arizona. He loves Arizona like Kanye loves himself. He is also probably the most responsible out of all of us. He is like our dad, telling us when we’re about to do something idiotic or dangerous, but also giving us advice.
Sometimes we drive around in his silver Volkswagen Jetta from the early 2000s. Often times, we are joined by others. For example, a guy by the name of Kelly. He stands at 6 foot a billion, but is as skinny as a sheet of printer paper. His ginger hair is really long, brushing past his bearded chin. His best friend Ryan usually comes too, when he isn’t working at his job, making sandwiches. Ryan’s blonde hair is cut in such a way, that you can’t help but thinking of a coconut when you look at it. On rare occasions, we are joined by an emo Polish girl by the name of Sarah and a pink haired Scot called Olivia.
I wouldn’t have know any of these weirdos if I hadn’t signed one piece of paper and walked through a set of doors.
During my freshman year, I thought I was a hot s***. I thought I could get ladies and I thought I was so funny, I’d put Tina Fey to shame. So when I tried out for my school’s play, and I didn’t make callbacks, my immediate response was: “Screw these guys, they wouldn’t know a good actor if they came up to their doorstep and broke their door in with a battering ram.” So, naturally, I tried out again, and again I failed. I was so filled with preteen angst, that I vowed I’d never try out for another play for this school and have nothing to do with anything theatrical or anything to do with the entire department of my school.
So naturally, I signed up for stage crew.
I took an application off the call board and filled it out as seriously and professionally as I could, as the application looked official. Over time though, my responses to the application questions changed from things like: “I’d like to join stage crew to help out in the production and learn skills necessary in life, as well as prepare myself for college” to things like “I’d like to join stage crew so I can take out my physical rage in the form of hitting objects and making loud ninja noises when I do”.
Anyway, I turned in my application and showed up to the interest meeting, walking through the big metal doors leading to the scene shop, the ones I’d get to learn so well. What I was greeted with was a giant room made of paint splattered concrete and cinder blocks. There were tools and saws everywhere, with big parts of set pieces on shelving units. I was in awe of everything around me, but was ushered to the audience of the auditorium where a bunch of people were patiently waiting. I sat in a chair and the meeting started with rules and expectations about safety and not being an asshole to other people. Eventually, we were split up into our different specialized crews. I was on construction crew, responsible for building the set.
I really had no idea what I was doing. I would just do what I was told to do and leave all the thinking and planning to the professionals. I wasn’t asked to do running crew for the show since I barely knew how to use a tape measure, but I thought I knew everything, and when it came time to tear down the set, I was a snoody little brat. I passed by a senior, who had done 12 other shows before this one, hammering something out. I stopped and made a little comment, saying that she was doing it wrong. Another experienced crew member was walking past when I said that and she turned to me.
“I don’t want to be rude, but this is your first show. Literally shut the f*** up.”
I was taken aback by this, stunned, I managed to mumble out, “Oh. Uh sorry.”
Then I went to go find a place where I could be useful.
When the final show for our spring musical ended a few weeks ago, I felt a sense of accomplishment, but also a sense of dread. For now, I’d have to say goodbye to all the people who were the leaders and who always knew what to do. It was time for the seniors to graduate and they left their trust and empire to the juniors to watch after and manage. Before the final show, I said my goodbyes to everyone.
I said goodbye to Sergio, who entrusted me with leading construction crew through the next year.
I said goodbye to Kelly, who told me “Why the f*** are you saying this to me? You still get a whole summer with me.”
I said my goodbye to Ryan, who gave me a hug and promised he’d stop by whenever he could.
I even said goodbye to the girl who told me to “literally shut the f*** up” all that time ago. She actually turned out to be one of the sweetest people ever.
Closing night went fantastic and before we knew it, the show was over. The parents and teachers put on a party with lots of food and polaroid pictures from the show were spread out on a table for people to take home. After a few hours, they told us to leave and go home. So I walked backstage to grab my things. Inside one of the changing rooms, there was a set of old lockers which I used to store stuff in during shows or crew. The only other person who used a locker back there was Sergio, who I conveniently met when I went back there.
“Ay,” he said.
“Just gettin’ my stuff,” I told him.
“Man, that was it.”
“That was my final show.”
“Whoa,” I said, “That’s crazy.”
“You gotta take charge now, ok?”
“SERGE STAHP!” I yelled at him, “You’re making me depressed and get some serious feels! This is not ok!”
He laughed and offered me a ride home, which I gladly accepted. Especially since it was 12:16 AM, I was tired as all hell, and my house was like a mile away, so f*** walking home.
At the time of writing this, I have only a few days left of school. The seniors, even less. It pains me to see them go. It’s like as soon as I get close to some people, they have to leave. It’s like they were conscripted into the army and have to go, but even if they come back and visit, it will never be the same.
Every time I mention this, Kelly tells me to grow up.
Even so, it’s so strange to think that I’ll only ever go to crew a finite amount of times and that will be it. I know it totals up to a lot of time, but it just flies by. If I hadn’t taken the plunge, I probably would have done something really boring and stupid with my free time. I’m so glad I found something that I can have a true passion for and really pour all my heart into. Backstage is like another home to me, with the people in it like my family. From an outside observer, it may seem stupid, but you get sucked into the idea of it and the atmosphere it creates. Just being backstage calms me and I feel weightless.
Maybe it’s the spray paint fumes.