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“Beard Papa to stage right, I repeat, Beard Papa to stage right.” Although it seems strange, this is one phrase I got used to very quickly. Hearing it hours a day for weeks at a time, it became less strange and more of an entertaining inside joke. One may wonder when this would ever come up in a conversation, and the answer is: during technical theatre.
The first time I walked into tech class, I was a timid fourteen year old. I had no idea what the class entailed, as I had never really heard of it before. I knew that someone had to be behind the magic of plays, but while being an audience member, I had never thought much more about it. The first year of tech, I had a teacher fresh out of college. He was more concerned with watching movies than learning how to help with the school plays. You can imagine my surprise next year when, Mr. Lawrence, the new teacher asked us to use the circular saw to start building the set. We stared at him in disbelief. I had never used a power tool before, let alone a saw. He laughed at us as if we were kidding and then gave a little sigh. “I’ll teach you,” he said. By the end of the first day, we had all used the saw. What used to be a frightening task turned into something liberating. I thought, “surely if I can use these tools, I can learn to do anything else.”
The first play I ever worked on was A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The colors on the set were so whimsical and brilliant that I was immediately captivated. Vivid purples, pinks, and blues danced around the stage, along with large glittery trees that cast long, mysterious shadows. This was the moment I knew I was interested in lighting. Previously, I had been too timid to try the light board. My fears went away and I knew I had to learn after seeing how much good lighting can change a play. I worked with Mr. Lawrence for hours after school each day, just playing around with the settings of the light board, watching the stage melt through every color of the rainbow. It was- and still is- captivating, to know that a small, fairly primitive, light board holds the power of beauty in its hands.
Over time, the technical theatre crew became like a family. We gave each other nicknames. Mr. Lawrence became “Beard Papa”. I was “Little Red” (because of my hair color). I not only bonded with my crew, but also with the tools we used. I named my favorite drill (a red Porter Cable impact), Big Daddy. It stuck, and to this day that’s what most of the crew calls it. Whenever it’s lost we just say, “has anyone seen Big Daddy?” We always get strange looks, but because of tech, I no longer care. I laugh it off, finding it nice to share an inside joke with my friends.
Tech theatre has always captivated me because it’s something I can lose myself in. Before I know it, hours have gone by. I get lost in the colors, sounds, and emotions that the show brings. I get lost in all of the hard work, knowing the audience will reward us with applause. Because of tech, I am no longer that timid fourteen year old. I have learned how to work and communicate with others, which has helped me gain confidence in and outside of the theatre. I used to lose time learning tech, now I lose time teaching tech to others. Whether it’s in class or during the night of the play, I am now the one others turn to to learn more about their growing passion. If I do my job right, they’ll become just as captivated as I am.
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