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Into the ‘Sunset’

July 14, 2013

In the spring of 2012, I saw a blurb on Facebook (or maybe it was Twitter) that a local theatre here in Springfield was looking for volunteers.

I know virtually nothing about theatre or musicals or tech work or anything like that, so I really didn’t know of what use I would realistically be. I can’t sing, I can’t dance, I do play several instruments but none of them well, and I know nothing about lights, props, set design, wardrobe, or sound. But I decided to go ahead and toss my name into the proverbial hat. I wound up going intermittently, whenever I had occasion to get away for a few moments, and shadowing my friend Jeff, who is the lighting guy [extraordinaire] for the Legacy, as he installed lights for various shows. I was both mentally and physically trying to take notes, in the hopes of learning… SOMEthing, or at least not looking like a total doofus. I eventually got to where I was climbing ladders and scaffolds, hanging and aiming lights, things like that. It was really pretty cool. I “helped” Jeff with an effect for the Jennifer Holliday concert that wound up being pretty damned amazing. He has also tried to show me the lighting board through which he controls all the lights, and I remain to this day very deer-in-the-headlights when it comes to that thing.

It frightens me.

So about a month and a half ago, Jeff somewhat reluctantly texted me with an opportunity. He said that they would be putting on nine shows of ‘Sunset Boulevard’ over three weekends, and asked if I wanted to run a spotlight for the show. He added the caveat that, due to the rather involved nature of the job, he really needed me to be able to commit for the entire run, but that he understood if I couldn’t commit to the whole thing. Family obligations and all.

I talked with Dawn about it. She was in a couple shows in college, and ran lights for several others, so she knows the theatre experience, and she was all, “Absolutely! You should do this!” So I told Jeff, I’m in!

Being as this would be not only my first venture at the Legacy, but also my first into theatre period, I was very, VERY self-conscious and was really wanting to become a piece of the background so I would hopefully have less of a “NEW GUY!!” blinking neon sign on my back. My first day, I just kinda hung back with Jeff in the booth and watched the rehearsal, to get somewhat of an idea of how the story goes. I then spent the next couple days up in my light tower, listening to Jeff give me cues over a headset, and trying to make it look like I know what the hell I’m doing. I think I fooled them.

Last night was closing night. It wound up being one of the most incredible three weeks I’ve ever spent. It was such a great production. I had no idea what a blast I would wind up having. Sure, I screwed up a few times, but I realized that I wasn’t going to get my head thumped in for doing so. Jeff gave me a great pep talk before opening night, saying that I will screw up. It’s going to happen, and there is nothing I can do to prevent it. But when it happens, what I have to do is own it and move on. If I stew over it, it’ll snowball and I’ll screw up the next 10 cues. I’m SO a stewer, but I took his advice and soon discovered that he was exactly right. I made some mistakes, but a few of them he said he didn’t even notice. And I’m grateful for the little white lie.

I had THE best time. This final weekend especially. Everyone was loose, having fun, and cutting up. Great cast, great crew, and the set was seriously awe-inspiring. The closing night party last night was a blast. Wendy, our outstanding props magician, gave each of us a photo collage of Cotton the dead monkey (you had to be there) in various poses on the set and backstage. Scott, our director, gave us a Radko-type ornament of  a monkey. Again, you had to be there.

It suddenly occurs to me that if I were to talk about my entire range of emotions, the ups and downs, and everything else that happened during the last three weekends, it would take about four hours for you to read it. So I’mma just sum up and say some thank yous.

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To Cynda, Jeremy, Sara, Mark, Ashley, Missy, Greg, Dorothy, Emilie, Jim H., Jim N., Grant, Rachel, Allison, Joe, Nathan, Frank, Ed, and Sarah: It was my honor and privilege to light you up these last three weeks. I am absolutely stupid jealous of what incredibly talented performers you all are, and I hope to at least watch you perform again soon, if not to work with you again. You guys all rock. And some of y’all crack me right the hell up.

To Hillary, Emerson, Xander, Nancy, Wendy, Ron, and Nick: You guys are awesome. From the second I walked in the door, you all instantly treated me like part of the family- and the Legacy clearly is a family- rather than the FNG that I am. It was a blast working with you all, and I hope to do so again as soon and as often as possible. One more thing: You are ALL friggin’ nutjobs, and I love that about you.

To Scott: I greatly appreciate everything you do and have done not just for the Legacy, but for the performing arts scene in Springfield in general. I’m also grateful for the chance to come in and help out once in a while. I only wish I were able to do more.

And last but by no means least, to Jeff: What can I say, Homie? You have no idea how overwhelming it was for me walking completely green into this ‘Sunset Boulevard’ gig. Yet you believed in some abilities that you had no idea I even possessed- hell, *I* had no idea I possessed those abilities- and you turned me into a bona fide spotlight operator. You’re an incredible teacher, mentor, guru, sensai, whatever word you want to use. I could follow you around and listen to you spout technical jargon all day long. Granted, I wouldn’t understand a damn word of it, but by God, once you explain it in English words of five letters or less, I’d do my best to do it and make you proud. I hope I did a good enough lighting job these last three weeks that you actually felt comfortable putting your name on it. And, if you’ll have me, and as long as I can work it out at home, I’d be honored to climb a light tower for you again. Or hang lights. Or run cable. Or all three and then some.

I’m just not ready for that goddamned board yet.

Anyway, Jeff, thank you for giving me the shot and for believing in me. You’re the best. And thank ALL of you, again, for welcoming me into your world.

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“MAX!” [“What?”]

“Call me a taxi!” [“You’re a taxi!”]

One Comment leave one →
  1. Marjorie Stearns permalink
    July 16, 2013 7:56 am

    Very enjoyable read. I love the theater, so I lived a little vicariously when I read it.

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