Stage Management Handbook – when friends work together

She was the Stage Manager

My friend is uber-talented. Recently she and I ran a performance stage for a local event. She was gracious and awarded me the title of Assistant Stage Manager, even though I ended up being mostly eye candy, in my own humble opinion.

We arrived at 6 am, coffees in hand, to manage the setting up of the stage. Mostly this entailed waiting for the guy to deliver the sound equipment and admiring all the folks that were already meandering about in full costumes. I wondered aloud if perhaps they had slept in them.

Finally he arrives and I can demonstrate that this is not my first rodeo by cobbling together parts for the mike stands, unfolding sticks, figuring out the stuck cotter pins and arranging speakers. That took all of thirty minutes and I was back to sitting cross legged on stage drinking cold coffee. 

Around 10 am both my friend and I were in full costume, with all of the sound equipment set up. The sound board was back away from the stage perched on a card table with folding chairs all around under a shade structure that was keeping the rain off of us at the moment. My friend was busy tying a lovely scarf to the underside of the Easy-up to give us some privacy when Jack happened over to tell her something important.

I guess I should mention, right about here, that my friend was a tiny bit stressed out. We weren’t just running a stage. We were running the stage that was showcasing the biggest talent at the event and it was one act right on top of another for the entire day. In fact, we had five bands and one magician act and all of this had to be managed without a single hitch or our scheduling would go straight in the toilet. We were already dealing with sound equipment that was less than stellar, which meant my friend would have to pull a lot of the quality right out of her ass. And it was now raining.

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My friend seemed totally immersed in tying the pretty knots to get the scarf to hang properly and Jack was prattling on about some bit of information he thought was very important when I started chattering away just because I wanted to talk too. My friend never stopped what she was doing, but let us know quickly how she felt about both of our diatribes “You see, you’re both talking about something at the same time that I really don’t care about.” She  is so powerful in her conviction that this was all it took for Jack to stomp over to his stuff and leave. I, on the other hand, continued with my day, the same as it always was. I figured that eventually I’d get to say something to my friend and she’d respond without baring her teeth at me. And anyway, stuff like that doesn’t really bother me.

Later in between the first band sets I was sitting next to her at the sound table and she was turning knobs and still being stressed out. I decided to ask about the stage schedule. Keep in mind that I had my own copies of the schedule along with a map of the festival and all the memos printed out and stuffed in the bottom of my bag. But seeing everything neatly put together on my friend’s clipboard was too much of a temptation and making her explain everything out loud seemed so much better than actually looking for the information myself…so I’m asking “Hey, what band is coming up next?” My friend never even looked up and said “You see honey, you’re doing it again.” Assuming that I had finally engaged her in a worthy conversation I started reaching for her clipboard saying “Hm. I don’t remember seeing the name of that band, Honey, You’re Doing It Again. Where are they from?” This time she did pause for a moment to drive home her intended point since I seemed to be in a clueless fog, “No, you’re talking again while I’m trying to figure something out.” I pursed my little lips and made a sound and perused the clipboard trying to figure out which band was actually next…all by me onesy. I’m pretty sure I actually turned away from her in my folding chair, hiding the clipboard from her sight so maybe she’d think I was doing something important and ask about it so I could respond with some I’m-doing-something-and-whatever attitude, but she was very focused and probably happy I was being quiet for a change.

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As the day wore on and the rain stopped, the bands started showing up at the last second and there were minor difficulties with feedback, etc. My friend grabs my arm and tells me “Go up there and move that mike right in front of her! I can’t hear that violin at all!” I scurried to the front of the stage and frantically moved the mike directing the fiddle player to position herself better and looked back for my friend to give me a thumbs up. She wasn’t even looking at me, but everyone in the audience was, so I scurried back to my position under the Easy-up and tried to look like I had just saved the day.

Screeeeeeeeeech!!!!!!

The horrifying, ear-splitting, earth shattering sound of feedback fills the air. I had not saved the day. I had positioned the mike so it faced the speaker head on and nothing was electronically happy at the moment.

My friend tears across the ground towards the stage and grabs the mike to move it out of the speakers path. The really great thing about this whole scene was about her costume at this point. She was wearing a very short dress with ruffled panty bloomers underneath so when she reached up high to grab the mike, the audience got a nice burlesque teaser minute as she frantically tried to fix the sound problem. The fact that I had royally fucked up seemed to not be the point anymore.

My friend and I were blessed that day to have two volunteers helping us. One was wearing a fabulous costume and seemed more content to ditch us throughout the day and enjoy herself, stopping in occasionally to say Hi and tell us about all the fun she was having. The other volunteer actually knew something about stage sound and proved to be quite helpful, way more helpful than I was.

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We were all sitting under the tent in between sets when I decided now would be a great time to complain about my hair. I turned to my friend feeling she would understand my distress better than anyone since my hair was supposed to be a large part of my overall look, which was way more important than any stupid old band, “All the curl has fallen out of my hair.” My friend never even looked up, “I really don’t care.”

I guess I should tell you that my friend has naturally curly hair that was about eight feet wide at the moment from the rain and humidity.

Having become accustomed to my friend’s working demeanor by now I never even flinched. I turned to Volunteer Girl like I had never even uttered a word about my hair two seconds before and said “All the curl has fallen out of my hair.” I got exactly what I looking for, “Oh honey! Your hair still looks gorgeous!! I would never had known it was curlier. You look awesome!”

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I did sneak away with my cell phone at one point to call my husband. It was my birthday and I wanted someone to make a big deal over me and I knew I could count on him. He asked me how my birthday was going and I put on my best, small pouty voice and said “My friend is being mean.” My husband is quite the diplomat and really had no clue of the kind of pressure we were under to produce this huge show since his wife, me, had made little mention of the actual job we were supposed to be doing and instead talked more about the fact that I was wearing a tutu the whole day. “Well, you can’t take it personally. She’s probably stressed so it’s your job to anticipate what will happen next instead of being hurt.” I listened to him and told him in my other small, whiny voice “okay” even though I probably had no intention of anticipating anything because that just sounded too mature and I was wearing a tutu, sitting on a curb and perfect strangers were stopping in front of me with their cameras snapping my picture without even asking my permission.

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At the end of the day, after we realized one of the bands had stolen our handcart and we’d have to carry the four folding chairs by hand to our car that was parked in the nether regions, we were sitting in the car talking and laughing about some of the things that happened that day. My friend turns to me and touches my arm and says “I feel horrible. I feel like I didn’t pay enough attention to you today.” I assured her that she had and I had a great time being there with her and being a part of the event. And I really did feel that way.

My point is this…when you have a friend, a great, irreplaceable friend, you develop a comfort level that allows you to be who you are, no matter if it’s good or bad. You just know that your friend will understand what’s happening at the moment and still be there for you when it’s over. You learn to anticipate what will happen next and you make good decisions about how to behave so that your friend realizes that it’s okay to be themselves because your love for them is unconditional.

We did that for each other. My friend allowed me to be myself, just as I allowed her to be herself, without conditions or threats. We knew that our friendship will always be strong enough to weather even the most stressful of any situation because above all else, we love each other. And that’s all that matters.

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About Madeline Scribes

A writer with a sense of humor. If anyone can laugh at life, it's me.
This entry was posted in Artsy and Poetic and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Stage Management Handbook – when friends work together

  1. Regyna Longlank says:

    You are so good to me. It was awesome having you there, and here is a secret. I didn’t need any help with the sound gear. You did just what you were hired to do, what no one else could have done. You kept me grounded and focused and sane. That is no easy feat ok, and on your birthday too. ( she is not exaggerating for effect, I really am that abrupt and self absorbed ) thank you thank you thank you and a thousand times happy birthday, and if you ever need an assistant to abuse to keep the general public from harm I am your girl. Xoxoxo and your hair looks fabulous dahling, mwah

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  2. Oh Regyna-weinah!!! You are some kind of special. I love, love, love you!!! I will work with you anytime, anyway, anywhere! You just let me know when.

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  3. Lisa (Woman Wielding Words) says:

    If I had a good friend to get me through the stress of technical rehearsals and other theatrical craziness, my life would be complete. Well, in a way I do, because my husband is often working with me, but if things go wrong and we both become stressed life can become a challenge. Good friends are hard to find.

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  4. Regyna Longlank says:

    You are so funny. The more you tell me I am perfect the more I want to change the things I don’t like about the way I communicate so I can be nicer to you. Because you are awesome and I would never want to hurt your feelings even if you are great at not taking it personally. Which you are. And yet the gaps are apparent, and I know where the work needs to be done. loving…

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  5. whine-wine-whatever says:

    When you find a special friend who understands you and “gets” you and knows your heart and cherishes your soul, sometimes communicating without having to use words comes naturally. You are both so very lucky.

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