*WARNING: SWEAR WORDS AHEAD*
Ah, the theatre. A wonderful place full of magic, music, and several awful backstage personnel. Except for Kayla and I, of course.
For some unknown reason, my friend Kayla and I decided that it would be a bright idea to join the Theatre Club at school. But not as actresses, but as backstage workers. I had always had an interest in equipment that was used to run such productions and it was my dream to work with this fun technology (this was back in a time when there was no such thing as “Smart-phones” yet).
However, the first day we went, Kayla and I were split up. She went to the costume department (per her request) and I was assigned to the lighting department (per my request because of my biggest dream ever).
As soon as I got near the “birdhouse” in the back of the theatre that housed the light boards, a thin, wiry boy with more metal in his mouth than a box full of screws glided into my path. He had fair red hair, a thick layer of freckles, and a permanent sour expression plastered on his face. (Let’s refer to him as…Pinchy Face.)
He was less than pleased when I explained that I was to join their group. Scoffing and sighing every time I tried to tell him I was ready to learn everything about the equipment.
After what seemed like an eternity, I finally convinced Pinchy Face to let me get near the light board. He kept on glancing over his shoulder as if I was going to suddenly reach my hand over and fuck up the whole board with one foul swoop.
Minion Two (I like making nicknames…I’m sorry…but not really) was organizing chords on the theater floor below as Minion One was discussing lighting options with Pinchy Face in the booth. After completing their conversation, Pinchy Face turned around and stuck out his hand. I stared at it like it had green scales all over it, quizzically looking up to his face and wondering what he wanted.
“Like hell I’m gonna give you my glasses. Why do you need them?”
He signed like this was his millionth time telling me.
“You can’t wear your glasses on the catwalk.”
“Just give me your damn glasses, kid”
I’m a Junior, you’re a Freshman. Call me “kid” one more time and we’ll see what your face looks like punched inward ya beanstalk…
He impatiently flicked his fingers at me like he was motioning a dog. I rolled my eyes and pulled off my thin-framed glasses and handed them to him. I had to play by his rules if I ever wanted to touch, let alone learn about, the equipment.
It was a bit fuzzy after that, literally. I helped him carry some giant, boxed light bulbs up a flight of creaky wire stairs to the catwalk. Along it was strung several lights, aimed towards the stage. As I walked, carrying the bulk of the packaged lights, the catwalk swayed ever so slightly with every movement. When we reached the middle of it, he placed the boxes on the catwalk, I proceeded to do the same.
“Did I tell you to put them down” he asked.
“Pick them up before we trip on them.”
I began to scoop them back into my arms angrily all while huffing, puffing, and flipping him off when his back was turned to me. By the time I had gathered them up into my arms, he had already changed two of the giant lights with ease. We moved down the catwalk a bit before Minion Two (or was it Three) yelled up to us,
“Dude, [insert random tech babble here], we need your help!”
“Okay, I’m coming!”
He turned to me and spoke like he was the damn president of the United States, “I have to go, it’s urgent. Say here and don’t move.”
He pivoted on his feet and began sprinting down the catwalk. The catwalk began to shake violently.
“Hey! HEY! DUDE! Don’t go so fa…”
I was interrupted by little alarms going off in my head as my balance began to waiver. Then that little Shit decided to dismount the catwalk like a damn monkey. His giant leap cascaded a devastating quake right to my little feet and I felt them begin to levitate off the catwalk.
In a panic, my arms instinctively reached for anything to grab onto, forgetting the precious cargo that was in their care. When I landed on my back, my hands gripping the lower guard rail, I watched helplessly as gravity carried the fragile boxes to the ground below.
With every sickening sound of glass smashing against the ground, my fate as a stage technician slowly began to disintegrate.
No one was injured by the expensive boxes that fell from the sky (except for my pride).
I wasn’t allowed to touch any of the equipment again.
So naturally, they assigned me to the woodworking shop with giant band saws and nail guns. Perfect.
At least my dear friend Kayla was with me this time. Even though we didn’t know shit about how to build anything but the occasional piece of Ikea furniture, we were still determined to prove the boys wrong.
The woodworking shop backstage was anything but a lumberjack’s dream. It was dirty, grimy, and full of the smell of burning wood. The walls and floors were painted an unappealing grey with touches of paint splatter outlined on the floor. There were giant grey shelves, which took up most of the room, full of lumber with one band saw. Nails, hammers, screws, and candy wrappers littered the ground and counter space like little elves had a party and trashed the place while drunk on sugar.
This was also at a time when no one wore goggles or earplugs when running the machines because the department apparently couldn’t afford to keep the drama students safe (but the football team did get new jerseys. So much more important…)
But what made it even worse was the other group of boys that were building a simple table. Kayla and I, on the other hand, were given the blueprints for a window with no actual windows, (‘cause apparently the football team needed a new locker room…which is apparently more useful than the arts… just sayin’).
We thought it would be a simple build. It’s literally a box with a few little pieces crisscrossing the inside to make it resemble a window. Nothing to hard, right?
Wrong. Very, very wrong.
Kayla and I struggled for what seemed like hours that day, trying to figure out what the hell we were doing wrong. We would measure the wood to the exact length needed. Mark it with a pencil. Bring it to the saw (I let Kayla do that part, I preferred to keep my limbs intact), and place it on top of the full-size layout where it should go. Then we would rifle through the large industrial shelves full of wood, find another piece, and repeat.
It wasn’t rocket science.
But every damn time we cut a piece of wood, went to get another, cut it, and placed them together, they wouldn’t fit the outline. It was a phenomenon that Kayla and I couldn’t comprehend. What the hell were we doing wrong?
Kayla and I were getting a bit riled up. I mean, we weren’t stupid. The wood couldn’t have suddenly shrunk when we were gone. We weren’t cutting it wrong.
And then it happened.
As Kayla and I were picking out another piece of wood from the shelves way in the back. I managed to catch a glimpse of the other group that was building the table. I peered through gaps in the wood piled on the shelves all the way to where our project lay on the floor.
I watched Dumbo One (Yay! Nicknames!) reach down and pick up a piece of our wood.
Strange. I thought, Oh! He’s going to help us out…
WHAT THE FUCK! WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK YOU LITTLE WARTY BASTARD!!
Dumbo Two laughed as Dumbo One placed the piece of wood that we had been working on for hours back on the layout.
Little light bulbs starting going off in my head like fireworks on the Fourth of July. Kayla, after realizing I wasn’t responding to her request to help her carry the wood back, turned to face me. She froze,
“Natalie, what is it? What’s wrong?”
I shot off like a jackrabbit and swerved between the shelves, my eyes locked on the target.
“NATALIE, WAIT!” Kayla yelled.
But I drowned her pleading voice out. “Crazy Natalie” had come out to play.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” I yelled.
“What do you mean?” said Dumbo One, coolly.
“Don’t play coy with me you asshole! Why are you cutting up our wood when we’re away?” I said.
“Geez, don’t get so worked up.” Dumbo Two said as he headed for the exit.
“Are you serious? You’re making us look like fools!” I said, on the verge of tears in pure rage. My whole body began to shake like a leaf as it rushed with adrenaline.
“Well, you shouldn’t be working back here anyway. You guys obviously don’t know what you’re doing.” Said Dumbo One.
Kayla had emerged from the shelving unit in a tizzy, frantic to defuse the situation, “Seriously guys? Just stop doing that and leave us alone. Natalie, dear, calm down. It’s okay, they’re just being stupid boys.”
“What are you gonna do about it? She’s the stupid one here. She cost the department thousands of dollars breaking those bulbs. Isn’t that right, ya clutz.” Dumbo Two said.
“I’m going to get the director, this is unacceptable.” Kayla said as she bee lined for the door.
“Yeah, go run to daddy and be the tattle tale you are, “Dumbo One said, “Geez, what a bitch. Can’t even take a joke.”
At this point, I honestly blacked out in a full on rage. According to school lore, I proceeded to pick up a piece of thin wood and hurled it like a javelin. I hit Dumbo Two, who crumpled to the floor. Dumbo One tried to make an escape for it, but I launched myself at him like a cheetah and slammed him against the wall. (Side Note: I was 4’11”, he was 6’1”).
I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I think it was enough for him to know that if he ever called my friend that name again, I’d break every bone in his body, let them heal, then break them all again out of spite.
By the time the director came with Kayla in tow, I was back to little quiet Natalie. Shyly rocking back and forth on my heals as the Dumbos hid behind their table. (Let’s just say I had a bit of a temper when I was younger…okay so a really big temper similar to a supernova on steroids.)
In the end, they never got in trouble.
The director didn’t believe Kayla and me.
They continued for harass us.
So we quit.
Not because we couldn’t handle it, but we were sick and tired of being treated like ditzy girls who knew nothing. Because we were so much more than that, and we didn’t need their approval to convince us that.
So, to Pinchy Face and his Minions along with the Dumbos, I don’t have time (nor the space) to write out word-for-word the life lesson that you should have learned by the end of this story.
Because I’m too busy working with the EQUIPMENT at the television station I help run and building COFFEE TABLES to be bothered to remind you that woman can do just as good a job as any man. Sometimes even better.
True story, Bro.
(P.S. Shout out to the awesome folks at TV10. Thanks for believing in me! Also thank you to the “teachers” who taught me all I know about the equipment in the studio…you guys are da best)