Every once in a while a song from a musical will get in my head, and I’ll be reminded how much I miss working with the theater. It was one of my escapes in high school, from tough tests and tougher life experiences. Oh, I wasn’t onstage. No, I was behind it. I helped build sets for the plays at our school, and helped run the shows when they went on. This was called being a ‘techie’.
We had so much fun building the sets. We’d have music blasting through the entire auditorium, while we painted, hammered, and drilled. But mostly, we talked. We all were some type of nerd -let’s put it where it’s at. The ‘beautiful’ people were out front in their costumes; we only held everything together so they could look so good.:) As we were a group of differents, we each had our high school angsts and troubles, and it was a great way to unload while we’d pass a roller back and forth over the particle board floor.
The first play I worked was an afternoon children’s showing of Alice in Wonderland. I was one of the kids dressed in black, who moved the roses around on the rosebush after they’d been painted red. I was able to work my way up to more desirable positions- like sound tech, lighting tech, stage manager, and finally, the coveted Assistant Technical Director. The Technical Director was a teacher in the school, so assisting her in a play was the best a techie could get. I have so many sweet memories of my years spent in that auditorium during the shows. There was the play I did followspot (on a balcony in the ceiling), and tried my hardest to forget where I was and focus on the lead actors- hot job! I remember The Wizard Of Oz, how years of watching the movie had never made a dent in my emotions, but watching a real-live actress saying goodbye to the tin man had me in tears every night. The King And I- how every song was catchy and meant to be sung, over and over again, still in our heads as we tore down the set. Then there was the big one I got to stage manage- Little Shop Of Horrors. It was difficult calling certain of the cues with the lighting and the plant just at the right times, but I remember getting it right on the nights of the shows, and feeling so grown up, such a feeling of accomplishment.
I was Technical Director for a lesser-known play called The Lark, about Joan of Arc. Being in that position caused me to get to know this play through and through- that and we took it to the Thespian Festival that year. What happens to be a beautiful, true story about a beautiful heroine comes to life that much more for those who to get to see it play out before their eyes on stage. It was such a lovely experience.
So it came to be that I heard “Whistle A Happy Tune” in my head tonight, and all these memories elbowed their place alongside it. I’m grateful to have been a part of the theater in high school. It was good for me.