Yes, This Is A Real Job

Ah, the first show of the year at the high school is over! We just finished Miss Saigon, and, yes, we did build a helicopter. A "theatrical" helicopter, at least, that "flew", had working doors, and was about 80% the size of an actual Huey Vietnam War-era helicopter. It got applause every time it came in and every time it left! And it was awesome, if I do say so myself. haha.

And this was just taken on a little point-and-shoot camera. Imagine being there!

Besides bragging (as you can tell), the end of a show brings a lot of reflection. Our parent Booster Club actually requested me to reflect recently, too, for a spotlight in one of their recent newsletters. A parent sent me a list of questions to answer so the parent readers could get to know me a little better.

Some of the questions I found harder to answer than others, particularly ones like, "Why do you like theater?" and "What's been your favorite Theatre Guild moment?" Partly those were difficult because I have been involved with 30 shows over the past 5+ years, but mostly because I was aware that parents who entrust their teenaged babies to me would be reading!

Here are some of the highlights of the article:

Ask any Theatre Guild student, and he or she will tell you that Ciara is like a �cool big sister.� This dynamo serves multiple roles for TG � as scene shop supervisor, technical director, webmaster extraordinaire, and mentor for the students. Ciara is a constant presence back stage, working with her crews to help build sets that bring musicals like �Roald Dahl�s Willy Wonka� to life...

Ciara says she loves her job because �no two days are the same; each show brings new designs, new problems, and unique solutions.�

�I love working with the students,� she said. �My crews are so funny and creative, and I have a lot of fun on the days we all work really hard together. I also enjoy tech week, because we finally get to see everything come together after weeks of planning and building. The staff and crew get to spend lots of time together polishing up all of the last minute details. And of course, I love the snacks that the Booster Club provides!�

I think that ended up being pretty parentally appropriate, don't you? :)

I thought I'd share with you all, my diaryland friends, some of my most memorable moments at work over the past half-decade that may have not gone over as well with the parents!

In no particular order...

The Sneeze: When my now-senior sets crew member Leslie was a freshman, I took her into the theater to explain something to her. On the way back to the shop, she was walking behind me and I realized I had to sneeze. There was no one else in the room so I just turned my head to the side and "ahh-ccchoooo!"ed. I realized too late (i.e. mid-sneeze) that Leslie had chosen that unfortunate moment to stop following me and start walking besides me. I will never forget the look on her shocked and recoiling face! I felt so bad!

Crush the Babies: We have a garage door in the shop that we open for lumber deliveries or to get a breeze on nice days. One day last spring, I found myself asking Devin, my sophomore crew member, to "crush the babies", when I wanted him to shut the garage door. Oddly enough, he did it with no further explanation. I asked him, "How did we start calling shutting the door that?" and he reminded me of a dream I had shared with him weeks earlier. I suppose I dreamt that I was being chased by killer babies and ran through the open garage door and told Devin to "crush the babies!!" by shutting the door on them. Take that, Dr. Freud!

Devin and Leslie still like me despite (or because of?) my randomness!

Jigsaw Cord: During his junior year, Jaren had a ridiculous amount of jig-sawing to do for our spring musical, The Wizard of Oz. After one particularly complicated cut on a thin piece of luan, he set the jig-saw down, and removed the stage weights that were holding the lumber steady. He set a stage weight absent-mindedly on the floor, and we all heard an odd sound from the drill and saw a spark. The stage weight fell on the cord of the jigsaw and cut through the 1/2" cord like scissors. We all stood around it in silence for at least 5 minutes at the complete freakish-ness of the situation.

Lydia's Hair: hahaha. Sorry, it always makes me laugh. During High School Musical, I had two freshmen working on their first show. Understandably, it takes new sets kids much longer to build things, but it was taking them what seemed like forever to just put about 12 screws in. I came over to see if they needed help, and Lydia, whose hair was down to her waist, had a chunk of it wrapped around the barrel of her drill! Every show I warn new kids to wear long hair in a ponytail, but had never actually seen hair caught in anything! I stifled my laughter long enough to help untangle it (she came away unscathed)! :)

Scraping Sparkles: Every year, we have a singing competition called FutureStars that I tech direct (i.e. "in charge of all tech" for). We like to involve sparkles and spectacle (within our means!) and now that I've done 5 FutureStars shows, I am a much better at knowing good ways to make the stage shine. During my 2nd show, however, I had the "brilliant" idea to glue millions of pieces of glitter to the scenery. Not only did it not look that sparkly, but since we reuse scenery, the poor paint kids had to scrape off the sparkles for many shows to come. Dan, our student paint crewhead, said of the ordeal, "We should make a FutureStars behind-the-scenes documentary. It'd be 20 minutes of putting on the show, and then 2 hours of scraping sparkles!"

The Easy-Bake Oven: Oftentimes my sets crew members go on the running crew for the show, where they do all of the scene changes. For Tommy, two kids, Josh and Amira ("Jamira" for short), had to sit inside of a platform to work some doors and move scenery without being seen. During a few of the scenes, smoke and bright lights would fill the open doorway in the platform, and as a result, the area under the platform would get very hot and steamy. My poor kids just had to grin and bear it under there, though, but aptly nicknamed their space, "The Easy-Bake Oven".

Jaren Apologizing: I typically ride the buses with the kids when they are traveling to other high schools for our Competition play. It's fun to be with the kids, but a huge downfall of that I often have to arrive at the school around 5am to meet them (I usually work at around 2pm!). For A Lie of the Mind, I hadn't slept well the night before, so I was particularly groggy that early morning. Jaren, though, was so happy to see me that he literally tackled me when I walked in and I fell to the ground! Later that day, my mom came to see the show, and afterwards my kids all wanted to meet her, but Jaren pushed his way to the front of the crown and apologized to her for knocking me over!

My Blacked-Out Teeth: For Halloween, I like to do something small at work just to look a little different, but not go too overboard. Halloween tends to fall during the week of tech (i.e. "crunch time") for our fall musical. Last Halloween, I blacked out two of my teeth and wore my hair in pigtails as a "costume", and it also happened to fall on a particularly stressful day at the theater. However, when I'd yell at my kids to work, or try to discuss problems with co-workers, everyone would just look at me and laugh! At first, I'd get more frustrated, but then I realized, "could I blame them?" :)

Could you take me seriously?

My First Paper Plate Award: At the end of each year, we hold a banquet to celebrate all of the kids' hard work, and the student board makes paper plate awards full of inside jokes for all of the kids involved in Theatre Guild. For my first 3 years there, I watched kids get their awards, and I laughed, and I secretly wished that they would make me one, too. Then, in 2007, they did! Back-story: When my roommate Karen got her cat Zooey, I found that most of my pictures of her were in various containers (she'd jump in anything!); so I decided to make those pictures my screensaver on my work computer. Therefore, to reference that and the popular Justin Timberlake SNL digital short, I received the award, "It's My Cat In A Box". :)

Trust Fall: For our traveling Competition play, the cast and crew get pretty tight, and it's necessary since it's our most teamwork-oriented show. In order to encourage bonding, the company plays focus games during one of the first rehearsals. They usually end the games by doing trust falls... as in falling backwards off of the 4'-high stage and into the arms of other company members! I successfully avoided it for several years, but for The Elephant Man, the kids begged me to. It was cute, actually, they were all fighting to be one of the ones who caught me. I stood at the edge of the stage and nervously let myself fall (I think I squealed!), and sure enough they caught me! It was super cool.

Nick's Mistake: Last fall, we were all surprised with the addition of five new freshmen to sets crew! We were working on Thoroughly Modern Millie whose set included a very complicated wall of doors, ala Frank Lloyd Wright, made out of 1by4. These freshmen could not seem to screw wood together at right angles, so I made them redo them until they got it right. During one such re-do, a freshman Nick was putting in a screw and the wood split. He started apologizing, and I casually joked, "It's okay, it'll just cost you $5." At the end of the day, he was about to leave and said, "I don't have the $5 today, but can I give it to you tomorrow?" and my heart melted! He wasn't used to my joking!

Head-Butting Josh: I was sitting in our paint shop, trying to work out some dimension details for our set, and a paint student, Josh, excitedly came over to me and outstretched his arms to give me a hug. For some unknown reason, I instinctively head-butted him in the stomach instead of hugging him back! Needless to say, he wasn't too pleased (but he wasn't hurt either, in my defense!). It was very bizarre, even to me.

Stepping on a Screw: We always tell the kids to sweep up the shop at the end of each day, to pick up any screws they see on the floor, and wear closed-toed shoes in the shop (actors sometimes shuffle through bare-footed! bah!). My second year at Pioneer, I was in my old sneakers (my "work" shoes) and I happened to step on a vertical screw and it went through my shoe's sole and into my foot! Luckily I stopped stepping before it pierced me, but I definitely showed everyone my visual example of why we have that those rules!

Jaren as Indiana Jones: For the end-of-the-year theatre banquet, the kids like to all dress in costumes. During his senior year, my 4-year sets-guru Jaren went as Indiana Jones. He had won the senior award for "Best Overall Tech", and he orchestrated an entire scene as he was leaving the shop for the last time. While the Indiana Jones theme music blared from a stereo, another kid started slowly closing the garage door. Jaren replaced his tech award on the table with a bag of sand, and ran and slid under the lowering door. He even "dropped" the award so he could reach his arm under the door and grab it with seconds to spare!

He not only looked the part, but he also went the extra mile.

Kicking Amira: For our FutureStars 2007 singing competition, we wanted to make the theater look like a club, so we hung fabric from our catwalks (where lights hang over the audience). Our catwalks have low I-beams that run through them, so we end up crawling a lot up there to avoid hitting our heads. Plus, two of my kids, Amira and Stefie, and I had to lay on our bellies to attach the fabrics in the right place. While I trying to stay lower than the I-beam, I flipped over really quickly, heard a "ye-ow!", and realized I had kicked Amira in the face! Apparently during my apology, as recounted by Amira, I explained myself by saying, "You know that feeling when your foot hits something it shouldn't...?" (is that a common feeling??)

Lights Coming Down: While working on A Streetcar Named Desire, we often found that several crews needed to work on the very small set of our very small Little Theater all at once. One afternoon, I was on the second-story of the set methodically screwing on the stiles of a railing. The next thing I knew, I had flattened myself onto the platform and there was a lighting instrument hanging inches over from my head, while Andrew, a freshman on lights crew, yelled, "Are you okay??" Apparently there were too many lights hanging from that pipe and when Andrew tried to raise the pipe, it fell instead! I made sure he knew safer light-hanging procedures, and I was relieved at my reflexes!

Susan on the Pipes: During my very first show, Les Miserables, on the night of dress rehearsal, our scrim (an important theatrical curtain) ripped and needed to be replaced asap. Our lighting designer rented the only one in town, but it was way too long. My crew tied it up for Opening Night, but the staff was determined to come up with a better solution for the rest of the shows. My coworker started putting large threaded pipes on the floor to possibly use to roll up the bottom of the scrim. Then my other co-worker Susan walked in and slipped, rolled, and fell on the pipes! She was fine (mostly embarrassed), but we all were in hysterics! It was like a "Home Alone" moment come to life!

Moving the Safe: Sometimes my kids are too dedicated for their own good. In the fall of 2007, we wanted to surprise my co-worker Mysti by replacing the old furniture in her office with newer pieces. I had a couple of kids, Amira and Kelli, clean out some boxes and such under her old desk and told them to move our TG safe. They noticed right away it was pretty heavy, but continued to try and move it, and I encouraged them to try using a dolly. After about 45 minutes of not being able to budge it, Amira said, "If I didn't know better, I'd say this safe seems like it's bolted to the floor," at which point I realized, "Oh, yeah! That would totally make sense!" Whoops!

The Perfect Gift: Around March of last year, I had a bizarre dream that I was out with my friends, but I had to swing by work for a special awards ceremony. It went on forever, and I felt bad for my friends, but finally my crewhead Leslie presented me with "the perfect gift" as my award: a box full of jelly beans and (used) makeup. In the dream, I didn't know how to react, but since Leslie was so impressed with herself, I pretended to be happy. I told my crew and subsequently forgot about it completely. In June, we had our end-of-the-year banquet and what did Leslie surprise me with? Yep, jelly beans and used makeup! They are so thoughtful!

Ahhhh, memories. Many, many, long memories (and I am sure there are even more in my brain somewhere!).

How could anyone not like teenagers? ;)


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