The Difference Between Them Is Theatrically Large

, , , , , , | Working | December 26, 2019

I work as a stagehand in a theater that tends to have high turnover. A few months after getting hired, the technical director — my boss — leaves, and a new one is brought in. We get on right away, and as I am new to the industry he quickly becomes a mentor figure for me.

On one of our first shifts together, we have to stay late after a show to put up the orchestra shell. This is basically two side walls that we have to assemble piece by piece. To put it together, we need to screw the top layer together, hook it to the motors, lift it in the air, assemble the next row down, screw that to the top row, lift it in the air, and so on. I’ve only done it twice before, but the new technical director hasn’t done it at all, so he trusts my judgement on it.

There are two other guys he brought with him from his last theater. They’re not technically employed with us yet, but no one else can work tonight. These two men decide that my method is inadequate, despite never having done it themselves; they would rather lay all the pieces of the shell on the floor, screw them together, then attach the motors to the top of the shell and lift it up like a drawbridge. I have my doubts about this method, but they’re insistent, so we leave them to do their method while the technical director and I put our section together properly.

Lo and behold, we finish faster than the other guys, and the wall is safely constructed and secured. When the two men finish screwing the pieces together, they find that the motors don’t reach far enough to get to the top of the shell — which is lying flat on the stage — so we have to shove the assembled shell close enough to get the motors hooked up. Once they start to raise the shell, it looks at first like it will work… and then we hear the cracking. They don’t stop, though, and by the time the wall is up, there are significant cracks in the wood — thankfully not visible from the audience.

My boss commends me for sticking to my guns and doing things the right way, but it still bothers me that he allowed those men to do something he knew wouldn’t work and which ended up permanently damaging the shell. A few months later, one of the men leaves to go on tour and the other is fired for stealing equipment. The boss is fired less than a year after he starts for inappropriate use of budget funds, which severely sets the theater back financially after he leaves.

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