To be honest, before my internship at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati I had no experience, understanding, or interest in the booth-side of the performing arts. I had this ignorant and superficial preconception of technical theatre; it had never struck me as something I would find particularly engaging or challenging. Needless to say, my preconception was based in inexperience and lack of knowledge of the subject. When presented with my technical assignment for Hands on a Hardbody as the sound board operator, I figured it was no big deal and would be a breeze.
“Oh, you silly actor. You learned the hard way didn’t you?” You bet I did.
Upon the beginning of Hands on a Hardbody technical rehearsals, I was quickly confronted with another world of theatre that demanded precision I had never before experienced. I struggled with the pinpoint promptness that was required to run sound cues accurately, and often times felt discouraged when I lost focus in the booth during pivotal moments and made mistakes. However, getting the cues right every time became a personal goal and, ultimately, responsibility to my colleagues and friends that were up on stage. By the end of the run of Hardbody, I was nailing every cue and feeling confident in my focus and precision in the booth.
“So what you mean to say is that you took three weeks to get the hang of running cues when they’re supposed to?” Hey man, I get it, I underestimated the challenge that faced me. I rose to the occasion, though.
So, we closed Hardbody and I was feeling better about my understanding and gained an immense respect for technical theatre and those who do it. The Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati season rolled on. Once again, with the start of technical rehearsals for An Iliad, I found myself confronted with a new and daunting responsibility for our run. I was dubbed the light board operator. This meant that I was set to be spending two days with Matt Hollstegge (Master Electrician), Brian Mehring (Resident Lighting Designer), and Brandon Holmes (Stage Manager) to help aid in the programming of the light display for the show throughout the entirety of tech rehearsals for An Iliad. Now, I was smart this time and prepared myself for the experience by asking some questions of the former light board operator, who programmed and ran Hands on a Hardbody: fellow intern Deirdre Manning.
This is what I asked her: “What’s it like working with Matt and Brian when you’re getting the board programmed in tech?”
Her response: “They move fast. Very fast.”
(Gulp) So, after getting this information, I vowed to not look like a newbie while working with two of the coolest cats on the technical theatre scene in Cincinnati. I used free moments to get acclimated to the board and familiarize myself with the buttons I’d be spending the next three weeks with. Come tech, I was ready to rock: well rested and familiar with the board. Brian and Matt lived up to their professionally paced reputations, but I felt as though I held my own. Truth be told, I felt cool talking in tech jargon with them. It felt awesome whipping out and programming complex cues that Brian and Matt created to design An Iliad.
“Oh, I see, now you’re thinking: you’re all hot stuff, Mister-Assistant-to-the-Assistant Lighting Designer and Master Electrician.”
Look, I’ve had enough of your snooty comments; this is my blog entry, now go away.
Thus far in our run of An Iliad, it’s felt great to be at the lighting board, following Mr. Holmes lead as we run every show. We have some tricky cues in the show, but I’m feeling confident about my work at the board. There truly is something to be reveled in the precision of technical theatre, and I think Matt Hollstegge articulated it well to our Intern Company after opening of Hands on a Hardbody. Here’s what he said:
“In live theatre, there are only so many variables we can do perfectly every night. Nailing every light and sound cue, presetting every prop correctly, and making sure our colleagues walking on stage are confident in our support are all things we have the power to do perfectly. This is the way we need to do it. Every night.”
I may have learned this lesson in precision the hard way, but it’s a valuable lesson learned. I am grateful to my ETC family for being patient and nurturing in allowing me to learn this lesson, and I’m looking forward to the next challenge. I have a feeling the next challenge might have something to do with stagecraft and Sleeping Beauty (wink* wink* nudge* nudge*), but more about that later.