I believe every actor should do some form of crewing at least once in their career. No one realizes just how hard and important of a job it is until they’ve done it themselves. I myself am currently crewing a show right now, though this is not my first time taking on a show from the wings.
I walked into this one thinking it’d be the easiest crew experience I’d ever had… If you’ve ever worked backstage before, you probably laughed at that last sentence (and rightly so). I joined the production about two weeks out from opening night, I was supposed to help a friend with a quick change and that was really it. The first rehearsal I walked into, I was asked to costume the show as the previous costumer had fell through. So now I’m doing the quick change I initially came to do and costuming the show in two weeks… no biggie, I can handle this.
Then we start talking about makeup and I get myself into doing that too. So now on show nights, I do some age makeup before the show, I handle the quick change between the scenes in act one, I do a lot more aging during intermission, and I do some SUPER fast aging between the scenes in act two (for clarity’s sake, each scene jumps a decade, so all of the actors age ten years between each scene). I also usher when we have no ushers signed up for the night.
And before I go any further, I should note that I’m not looking for any kind of praise for taking on all these tasks. This is not a paid position, it was all 100% choice and I could have said no, but I chose not to because I thrive on the chaos that is live theatre. I merely wanted to paint for you a picture of a standard night in crewing.
The point of this story is– crew people are jacks-of-all-trades. Because they have to be. Crew are the unsung heros of the world of theatre and it’s time we as actors start regularly singing their praise. If you don’t think crew are some of the most important people in a production, try a run without them; I guarantee you won’t make it out of the first act alive.
So next time a crew member isn’t there to hand you your prop, a set piece is missing, your mic cuts out, or you don’t even know what’s going on with the lighting, try not to get mad and berate the crew, because chances are that what happened was way less significant than what would have happened without them. Crew make countless split second decisions each night to keep the show moving without a hitch and sometimes those decisions come down to what is going to cause the least issues, because a flawless choice doesn’t exist.
Bottom line: Respect your crew. Appreciate your crew. Love your crew.
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