The Light Booth

January 2, 2009
“RACHEL, PUT YOUR PANTS BACK ON RIGHT NOW AND GET YOUR BUTT INTO THE LIGHTING BOOTH WHERE YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE!”
I chuckle along with the rest of the stage crew, watching Holly (the stage manager for our play, Amadeus) lose control for the fourth time in the past half hour. I look around the stage, completely devoid of actors, and smile contentedly, not paying attention to the hole in the corset I was supposed to be fixing. Abby, the costume head, stalks around us, making sure we don’t goof off... too much, anyhow. Opening night is a week and two days away, and “we really should have all the costumes ready by now,” she tells us. Of course, I’m not supposed to be in costumes, but, hey, why not help out? I’m fully aware that I should be gluing feathers onto Rebecca’s mask for the scene where Zak and Daniel go up her skirt to “measure her calves,” because props are what I had unwisely volunteered to do today, but three things keep me here sewing costumes. One is Abby, who really can’t ever, ever¸ be ignored or neglected and seems to think that having extra people is having enough people. The second is Greer, one of my close friends and classmates, whose legs are currently so raveled with mine and Alex’s (another good friend; he’s a junior) that I’m not sure whose legs are whose. The third is the fact that I really can’t stand the props head, Shawn, an unnecessarily flamboyant character who really should be on stage, judging by his uncanny ability to project his voice across the entire auditorium and through the walls and his fondness for undressing people without their consent.
I’m here today because soccer practice is cancelled on account of the pouring rain. With the opportunity handed to me on a silver platter, I surreptitiously join the throng of my friends who are all part of the show and I am able to help out.
Rachel slips her black sweatpants back on, covering her new, very exciting camouflage underwear that she was showing off. I’ve noticed that very rarely is there a time where every person in the auditorium is dressed completely. She flashes a quick grin at me before sprinting back up to the light booth to tell a very confused freshman named Corey how to work the spotlights. I stick my tongue out at her and resume my sewing. Abby stoops low so that her face is inches from mine and examines my work. “Good, good,” she says, clearly stressed. All of a sudden:
“TAYLOR, IF YOU DON’T GET YOUR CUTE LITTLE BUTT BUSY, I SWEAR TO GOD I’LL TAKE IT AND -- “
We never really find out (though we can guess) what Holly would have done to Taylor’s cute little butt, because at that moment, Ms. Smith, the director and head of our school’s theatre department, chooses to pop in for a quick check on how we’re doing. She had been with the actors in the Little Theatre and was now here to calm us all down (if only for the two minutes she stays). Immediately, the shirts are thrown back on, the set building resumes, the vociferous chatting dies down to a quiet murmur, and the coarse language ceases. Ms. Smith, unmistakably torn between amusement and despair, peers sternly at us. She is a commanding woman, though not tall at all, and everyone listens to her (though really it’s just to hear her Scottish accent). I glance at Greer, who is texting away to her boyfriend, Nick, who is one of those actors in the Little Theater, and then at Alex, who avoids my gaze because we can’t look at each other without giggling like eight year olds when everyone’s trying to concentrate. Up at the sound table, Will, a somewhat soft-spoken classmate, and Gabriella, a rather outspoken classmate, are having a quiet argument on which recording of Mozart’s “Dies Irae” to use for the required scene. Of course, Gabriella’s choice will win for two very good reasons, the first being that she (along with me) is in orchestra and knows quite a bit about music. The second reason is that Will isn’t exactly that assertive of a person, and Gabriella, quite frankly, is.
I smile again, this time from the sheer at-home feeling of this auditorium. Practically every day after school last year during one-acts (give or take two or three days when I wasn’t needed), I had been in this auditorium for hours, sewing, hemming, gluing, hammering, unscrewing, dressing, and altogether every tech-related gerund that exists. Needless to say, my parents had not been too pleased with my fascination with and desire to work in theatre. I’d always loved theatre, but I’d never had the opportunity to do anything but act as a child. My mother preferred me on the receiving end of the praise, the star. I was okay at that, but I was never great. And now, after moving to B., birthplace of great actors, actresses, musicians, athletes, geniuses, and general stars, I was pretty bad at everything. Except, of course, at tech. Teching is, first of all, not a word one will come across in the dictionary. Secondly, and more importantly, it is an acquired skill, and less of a skill than a practice. Tech: it’s what we do. We are one half of the High School’s Performing Arts Company (lovingly, and for convenience, coined the PAC), the half that doesn’t receive much praise but runs the show with as much dedication (and hard work) as the actors. To be fair, I suppose we’re one third -- another third is the actors, and the last in the pit orchestra.
The PAC is really, as we like to brag, a huge family. Even the new kids -- me -- are welcomed in without much question. It’s not about looks, popularity, social “group” or family connections (like sports are), it’s about how willing you are to put up with a bunch of loonies who can never keep their clothes on or mouths shut and work as hard as you can -- and still have fun. Never is there a lack of extra hands, a friendly face willing to listen, or duct tape. I think we’re a unique organization because never before have I been so freely encouraged to participate in anything. Life had mostly been one big pile of “no” and taking orders from other people. Now I get to make friends while helping out with making the show a success. As this is my second year of high school, and therefore the PAC, I’ve already figured out a perfect schedule for the entire school year. In the fall, most unfortunately, I plan to play soccer on the high school girls’ team. In this, I miss the fall play (this usually is a Shakespearean play or contains some kind of historical context). In the winter, I join the pit orchestra for the school musical -- this year it is Les Misérables and I’m incredibly excited. In the spring, I will tech for the student directed one-act plays.
I guess the point of the PAC is to include people -- people who are not that great at making friends, people who are new, people who need a place to go. People like me. It’s almost like a sanctuary, like the little light booth way up in the back of the auditorium where no one looks. But without them, nobody would be able to see anything.





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