I live my life in the shadows. In black clothes in dark rooms where I move silently and hope never to be noticed. Part of the measure of my success at my job, is not being noticed. And I chose this. I choose to be unseen – to be behind the stage – because that I what I love and because that is what I am paid to do.
Well, while I appreciate the author’s recognition of the stagehands, dressers and electricians, I notice within the article a similar “trend of imbalance.” In the same way that the author notes that the actors get the attention (because they’re the ones on the stage) and the running crew gets ignored, she lists every running crew position (because they’re the ones in close proximity to the stage) but leaves out administrative positions (except marketing), and creative positions. People in each of those fields work just as tirelessly and with just as little praise to make these shows happen.
I cannot imagine a world in which theatre’s did not have someone to do the little things that we ignore: make the photocopies, balance the budgets, order the coffee (can you imagine a room of cast & crew without it?!) and hire the creative teams we love. I don’t want to imagine a world without creative positions – directors, musical directors, choreographers, fight choreographers, writers and designers. These artists sometimes develop “names” for themselves, but the response of the audience is rarely proportional to the role they play in creating worlds.
And the people in these jobs: they love to do them. I LOVE to do them.
But the part that really gets me is the assumption that the reason the [H2SB] stagehand overdosed was because he was so depressed from not being recognized for all his hard work pushing sets and pointing lights that the only option was to end it all. It feels like it’s written from a perspective similar to a middle-class North-American talking about the poor starving people in Africa who just want cell phones, SUV’s, drive-through Starbucks and credit cards for a change in order to feel better about themselves. In other words, the nice words a theatre-goer bestows upon the lowly crew members will make the difference between happy dressers industriously working into the night to starch everything just so and a room full of seamstresses slowly swinging in the breeze after hanging themselves with the cords from their irons. Is the praise nice? Sure. Is the lack of it driving crews to kill themselves? No.
Being backstage is not punishment for failing as an actor. If technicians wanted applause – if we craved that public recognition – we’d get other jobs. The skills required to work successfully behind the scenes in any position to support theatre production can translate into hundreds of higher paying, more publicly appreciated jobs. But we love what we do and we want to make theatre happen.
Personally, the kind of attention that actors receive makes me uncomfortable. I don’t like be singled out. I don’t like to be clapped for. I don’t even like it when actors gesture to the booth during a curtain call. My reward comes from the same place as anyone else in the process: for the creation of something good. Maybe even something excellent.