Tech Week: "This Better be a Cute Baby... "

Ashley Underwood

Last night at about 3:00AM, my director stood before me, her hair in a messy ponytail, bags under her eyes, her paint clothes splattered with all kinds of interesting colors, and she said, “Sometimes directing is like having a baby. You’re in the worst pain of your life. You want nothing more than for it to be over and for to have never conceived at all. All you can think of is the stress and the pain that your body is going through. But then, you’re holding your baby in your arms, and she’s so beautiful that you cry.” 

She paused. Looked around at the theatre and half-finished set. 

“This better be a damn cute baby.” 

It’s tech week. The Lighting Designer is having a panic moment because the blocking has changed. The sound operator is crying because she’s running ten mics, three CDs, and having to perform various other sound effects from the booth. Costumes aren’t quite ready. The lead broke his suspenders. The set has a hitch in it that could make the whole show go up in chaotic flames. We’re praying for another two weeks so you can finish the giant mural and have three more music rehearsals. The set artists are staying up until 4AM and doubling as members of your chorus. The scene changer had a stroke, and his wife, who is your props mistress, has to quit in order to take care of him. The leads don’t know their songs. The chorus is fed up with everything except for their desire for a stiff drink and they keep mixing up the lyrics. The director is defensive about her every decision and the music director (that’s me) has bald spots from pulling out her hair. Even the best of friends are snippy with each other, and the costume mistress is rocking back and forth in a corner, redoing a hem she’d lengthened before the major supporting character lost her shoes and had to find a different pair that are the wrong heel height. 

Ah, how we love theatre. 

But these are the weeks when people walk out. 

I understand why. Sometimes the stress that can come from these moments is as terrifying as singing Sondheim while you’re having an asthma attack, but I also feel sad for those people. They are missing out on the best part of community theatre. The birth! They’ve gone through five weeks of labor. They’ve put so much effort into the process, and then they leave before they can reap the reward.

That feeling, that jubilation and victory in the success of running the show smoothly; the applause that vibrate the floor; the moment in the post office where someone says, “Hey, weren’t you in that show? It was amazing!” The achievement, the comradery , the family built from overcoming adversity. It’s almost a high, that feeling. The baby is born and it is beautiful. 

Stick with it. It’s worth it. It’s why I keep going back, even when it means working my real job on two hours of sleep just to go straight to the theatre at 5:00PM to prepare for a dress rehearsal. Anyway, now we get to fix the problem of the printer in our box office quitting on us. “Where are we going to print our program inserts?” 

It better be the cutest baby ever born.