I'm a sometimes stage hand. This I might have mentioned before. Theater, live theater is a real trick to pull off. It's a legion of people you see, supported by a legion of people you don't see, who were provisioned and equipped by a legion of people who just set up and pack up the shows.
I'm an electrician, I pull wires and manage setting up lights, and cables and such for the show. However, I was pulled aside during install this time and asked to do wardrobe which was new for me. I've been an electrician for years, I've only got a theoretical knowledge of costumes during production. Curtain call was at 18:00, I thanked them for their confidence and I said I'd be there. The night before Purim no less!
As wardrobe I was sort of a valet for three actors, three young men, and my job was to see to it that all their costumes were ready for them and to aid in getting them in and out of the more complex changes while the show was running. Three of us each had a group of actors to attend to and we would lay out, as needed the costumes on chairs for them in front of a cabinet on wheels called the gondola. It's fast, there's a lot of dressing and undressing. Sweat, stumbling and fumbling, shoes to chapo. There's a tremendous amount of trust required. You trade first names and from there our men trust us to have them looking the part, literally, every time they step out.
In theater you know your part of something that will enliven the lives of hundreds of people when you're setting the stage, but it's really something else when you're standing there with an actor who's sweat through his costume and is struggling to change into the next one in time to get back out there. It's a concrete exercise in applying all our gifts in a timely and meaningful way where real stakes are on the line. It's live, there are no do overs, only recoveries.
I live in a place where it can feel dull. Like things are more often neutral to bad than the other way. Life here is a working one, distractions are canned and metered and lives are tied to the punch clock. And for what the house charges in tickets, I often wonder how many we are reaching that could use this exercise and if they could afford the ticket, could they afford the time?
Night one was so so. The guys came back between scenes and said the audience wasn't really responding. It was amazing how much they are paying attention to the audience and to individuals in the audience during the show.
Night two was want they had hoped for and the audience was into it. The guys said they it was the mood they wanted!
My stage manager was methodical, a commando, on a mission. My men were joyful, and sweetheart-ed and clearly in their element and enjoying their moment.
This was a road show, and odds are good I'll not see my guys again. They were going to West Virginia and post-show we packed them up. Final curtain fell at ten at night and we had then on the road by two thirty that morning. My young men were miners of a sort, pulling sparks up and out of the air as audiences find beauty and meaning in small cities across the country.
I told my men, that they did a great job here. I have to assume they are used to hearing that, but it was necessary to say all the same. A young woman seated in center front cried out "He's Shakespeare!" once she understood the plot. She couldn't contain herself, and my men came back to me at the end of the scene laughing and talking about her and so energized by the moment.
I turned their sweaty shirts back right side out and laid out the costumes for the next act. Hung the costumes that were done with. Hurried to get one of them out of a rough dress and into his gown for the final scene.
It's a reactor, the sparks we drew up in all our roles were forged together and invigorated a worn audience looking for the renewal theater can grant.
Oddly enough, the literally naked beauty and potential we managed back stage could only come through in costume to the audience. Painted and masked faces beaming energy into the room before packing up and heading on to the next town.
Never discount your part, never think that the faint sparks you bring up are insufficient or that they are not multiplied in the world. When we work towards something joyful together, even if it is temporary, we are shoring up the future.