Published October 2020
Days go by, then…your phone buzzes, your buddy says “we’re doing a gig and we want you, need you. Are you in?” Stupidest question ever – YES. Details. E-signatures. Done. High Five! The Great Intermission is over!
The day comes. Oh, the anticipation, and the exhilaration, and seeing everyone again because it’s been a long time and the adrenaline of work rushes through your veins. But about the second or third hour you’ll likely run into a big, nasty realization – you are super rusty.
Your slick skills are out of shape, no longer as adept at the little things you used to do so effortlessly that distinguish a seasoned professional from a rank amateur. Where is the gaff tape, sharpies, C-wrench. E Tape …F——, in the car (if I didn’t use it all on other projects…I used it all). Calluses are in the wrong place and familiar tools rub wrong or poke you in spots they didn’t before. And you wore out your old gloves while you were away and the new ones aren’t broken in yet so they pinch and chafe. And you tire easily, so little things are a struggle. The staircase to the grid has never been so long, that laundry basket weighs _so_ much… Crates are heavier. And the floor is so very long.
You have forgotten or lost habits of every kind. Those macros your fingers knew are gone. Keys and sliders are in all the wrong places and you hit a bad key all the freaking time. How does this console work? Where _is_ the power switch – oh, right, console is always on, just wake up the monitors…too late…it has to restart. F—-, okay. This used to be easy – my fingers just knew it. *sigh*
And there’s new stuff piled on – masks & gloves are a certainty. New handwashing & wardrobe handling rules. New distancing rules & how many people can be in any one room at a time (maybe). Right now, no one knows what the venues will want, and we wonder: can I climb through truss wearing a mask without fogging my glasses? Neoprene gloves under my leather ones??? F—-, okay.
A year or more may have passed during which your body has changed but so has your psyche. Being away has shifted sore spots, your skin is thin in different places, and you have sharp points in new spots no one knows about. You aren’t used to working next to other stagehands or sharing space the way you used to. The jerk who tells off-color jokes might have a new depth of ‘wrongness’ to the humor or maybe those jokes just aren’t funny on this side of the Great Intermission. And there’s the one who keeps forgetting and standing too close. What was once okay is now unbearable. And maybe your temper is shorter than before – mine is. Especially for that one jerk who always somehow goofed off and got away with it. *deep breath*
There is good news: The first few hours will be an elixir for your soul and all will seem well to you and your crew for we are still friends and family coming together once again for a great purpose. Treasure this and savor those moments. Our camaraderie will gel again if we let it. Be patient and calm, and smile at your friends.
As we get to the task of moving through the day, we will need to be extra aware of each other. We will need to be more deliberate – like stating in words what we are doing. “Lift on 3 – ready?” will be a real necessity since maybe the crew isn’t on the same wave like we used to be. And remember our newest people may have forgotten where Stage Left is. Be kind.
Our crews will need to be more acutely aware of each other’s physical needs. Drinking water, resting between lifts, stretching a little in the 10 seconds between tasks are all great. Good humor will be essential as never before so encouraging positivity and a ‘can do’ attitude will go a long way to making sure we all go home with the same number of fingers and toes we arrived with. This is not a call for false positivity, but maybe try to leave some of the gloom at check in.
And we might have lost some people to new opportunities or to the sickness. A key stagehand or three missing will change the tone of an entire call. As good as it will be to see the smiling faces & hear the laughter, not seeing those few will hurt. With key skills gone, our work might be more clumsy and definitely slower.
There is a reason we missed this – we love our work. We make events that bring people to a place, build community, and cement us together as one. From our work, we gain meaning, belonging, and a deep sense of value and worth that lifts us all.
Just as our actors, singers, and dancers continue to practice their craft now, we too need to take some time to work on us. Ponder how you used to work and maybe practice your thoughts – Get out your notebook and write down for each venue a reminder to yourself of any little details you want to be sure you recall. And make a pledge to yourself that – when we are back – it’ll be for a healthy, safe, and good place to work.
The day is coming … “Places in 15…”