In an earlier blog, I related how my 30 year career as a stagehand taught me lessons for life. You can read it here –>
With some reflection, I thought of some other lessons. That is the subject of this blog post. Nothing here is cut and dry, it certainly can be tossed aside or taken as new tool in your box.
- It’s Happening When You Cash The Check. This was pounded into our heads when we were young and hopeful and speculative. That a new job or venue would be our pathway to riches. Like a movie or TV series was coming into town. The old timers would say, “It’s not happening until you cash your first check, kid.”. This sounds very pessimistic, but in reality it is realistic. You can apply this to new jobs, relationships, buying a home, going on vacation, retiring and so on. It just goes back to not counting your chickens before they are hatched. It’s more gritty though.
- The Amount of Sociopathic Behavior is Astonishing. I’ve NO training in psychology, but the complete absence of empathy must have a spectrum or grading system. There seems to be people who are largely unaffected. This void seems to work in their favor. I worked years with people who could walk in, cap a room full of people and then eat a sandwich. Sometimes it’s hard to think about. I wrote about sociopaths in this post. https://www.tomfurman.com/dark-rant-the-cards-are-stacked/
- Organization Is A Process, Not a Destination. The idea of, “organizing”, is not static. You don’t get organized. It is dynamic, you organize. The is a habit. This is process orientation. If the average person saw how “organized”, a large Broadway Show was after being on the road for several years.. they’d be shocked that 10 trucks of gear could be managed and staged within 16 hours by a crew that you had never seen before.
- The Show Must Go On. This is a saying, but it is true. It’s the end point. It is how you get paid. I never participated in 30 years, a show that did not go on. Storms, fires and even death. The show went on. It shows how compelling a common goal can be. I didn’t say it was healthy or moral.
- Mistakes Are Harder On You Than Your Audience. The level of scrutiny of stage managers, directors, lighting directors, choreographers, designers and others is extremely high. They would say they are perfectionists, but then they are setting standards that even they can’t reach, which is a psychological issue. However the viewing public is largely ignorant of tape on scenery, the wrong colors gels in lamps, audio that is a few decibels low or slightly longer intermissions. This applies to life. Mistakes are felt harder by you than those viewing you. Do a speech and record it. Your audience, unless they are critical to the max, will hardly notice your pauses and flaws. You will be harder on you than they are on you. This is important. You are often not the focus and everyone makes mistakes.
- Take A Picture. This is an old saying in the theater business. It meant that if you really made a bad error, you were gone. Take a picture of the building you were leaving because you never would see it again. It’s kind of holding something, in this case your income, over your head. It works well. The deadliest punch is to the wallet. The power to control income can control a lot.
- Back On Your Heads. This simply means, work is work. Don’t confuse pursuing your passion or loving theater with the absence of hard work. Work is work and don’t pretend it is not. “Back on your heads”, is from a joke. A man goes to hell and sees a demon who is directing where you will spend eternity. One room is people shoveling coal into a furnace. The other room is people sitting in horse manure drinking coffee. The demon gives the man a choice of rooms. So he figures he hates shoveling but loves coffee. How bad can it be? So he gets into the waist deep horse manure and starts drinking coffee. All of a sudden the demon steps into the room and yells, “Back on your heads! Coffee break over!”
- Gravity Wins. One rule is that gravity wins. Things fall and things break and end up on the ground. Your body has to resist gravity for 16 hour days consecutively. If you are stronger and leaner, you can manage. Age, weight and strength make a difference. Gravity does not discriminate between age, sex, race or religion. The same rule exists in life. Realize that being stronger, smarter and lasting longer is more important than most anything.
- All Is Forgiven. This is the verse from a corny song. It has validity thought. All is forgiven if you get the result. We used to be ready to kill one another while building and stressing over a show. Fights would break out and in the, ‘good old, bad old, drug days”, people would pass out or sleep or go to the ER. However, once the curtain went up, all is forgiven. This is the same with building a home, going on vacation, finishing a project, having a wedding, producing a movie or book or concert. Get the job done… All is forgiven.
Here is a Pet Shop Boys concert I worked. That is me dressed in a white jumpsuit getting ready to move the scenery.