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Better than $50 in Your Winter Coat

Some people are lucky.  They have a knack for being that right place at the right time for the world to drop wonderful things into their lap.

I am not usually one of those people.  My name  is never the one on the raffle ticket, and the only time I’m finding money on the street is when my stories suck.  But there have been two momentous incidents of sheer, blinding good luck in my life.  Moments when I unknowingly walked into situations that introduced untold happiness into my life.  One of those was the night that I met my husband.  And the other happened the other day.

Remember my new job?  The one that is awesome?  Yup.  So, I went to work on Saturday, totally gassed up to be working the Margaret Cho show.  But when I showed up, I was informed that our Head Electrician had quit, so they were moving me over to the Bo Burnham show going on in the adjacent theatre.  Okay, that makes sense; I’m sure whoever was the original electrics tech was getting bumped up to Head Elec, and I was getting put on spotlight.  Yeah, that’s definitely what’s going.

I continued to think that while the Technical Director started discussing color washes with me.  I continued to think it while we talked about which fixtures to use for specials.  I stopped thinking it, however, when he told me to go to the color room and pick color.  Because, that’s not technician responsibilities; that’s Head Electrician responsibilities.

Which totally explains why I found myself standing in the color room, staring blankly at the files full of color, with my hands shaking and sweat drenching my t-shirt.  At that moment in time, I felt totally and utterly lost.  I knew that I was being given the job of Head Electrician, if only for one show, and I felt in no way prepared for it.  I’ve been on countless lighting crews, but I’ve almost never been the one leading those crews.  It’s sort-of like the Mayor of Plainsville, Pennsylvania being greeted one morning with, “Good morning, Mr President!”  There is literally a moment when you’re truly terrified that you might loose all control of your bowels and shit yourself.  For the life of me, I couldn’t even figure out how in the hell I got this job, let alone what to do with it now that I had it.  This was only my 5th day of work!  I still didn’t know if we had a microwave, and here I was a crew head!  Was there no one more qualified sitting around?  One of the other technicians, maybe?  An over-hire?  A janitor?

There wasn’t.  Just me.  That right person, with a healthy lighting resume, at that right time, when the Head Electrician quit.

So I did it.  I picked some colors, I focused some lights, and I sat behind the board and ran the show.  Because what are you going to do when you’re handed a glorious opportunity like that? Say, “Oh, sorry, I don’t think I’m quite ready for this job, can I try again in a few months?”  No, you put your head down, you close your eyes, and you fucking do it.  Granted, I was absolutely terrified, from that first moment I selected R49 (a magenta-ish color) for my pipe-ends system until I shut down the board at the end of the night.  But it was also absolutely exhilarating.  To know that it was by the touch of my fingers that the lights on stage changed during songs, and that someone had enough faith in me after four days to trust my fingers to do so.  I’m not going to pretend it didn’t feel pretty good on the ol’ ego.

And truth be told, I didn’t totally suck, either!  Okay, so maybe I did accidentally plunge the audience into total darkness at the top of the show; it’s cool, they seemed to dig it.  And I may have accidentally turned on the house lights in the middle of the guy’s act.  Luckily, my boss and co-workers are very cool guys, and were very sympathetic to the situation I was, ahem thrown into.  To be honest, I was just shocked that they wanted me to come back.

And they did.  I did a rock show the next night, (Robin Trower, anyone?  Me either.) and I’ve got two more this weekend (Bernie Williams and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.)  I still can’t totally believe that it’s real, and a part of me is afraid that at any moment someone’s going to jump out of the curtains, twiddle their mustache, and yell, “Ah-ha!  An impostor!  She’s not a real Head Electrician!  Look, this wig comes right off!”  Or something of that nature.  But until someone does, (or I loose the duel,) I’m going to enjoy the fact that for once, it was my perfectly placed life that the Universe felt like dropping something random and wonderful into.

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • doahleigh September 30, 2009, 10:55 am

    I’m like you, that stuff NEVER happens for me. I’m never in the right place at the right time, and I know several people who always are, so I know it’s possible.

    Sounds like this was a very cool break for you, and sounds like you kicked a lot of ass doing it!

  • Princess of the Universe September 30, 2009, 11:11 am

    Awesome! I hope it came with a pay raise 🙂
    And maybe a parking spot!

  • allison September 30, 2009, 6:30 pm

    That’s so cool, way to go!

    I saw Bernie Williams and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and was like HEY, they’re playing here too! I guess we’re a stop or two before you on tour schedules.

  • Katy September 30, 2009, 10:13 pm

    Enjoy it and I hope it lasts for a while – welcome to the ranks of real-live, working lighting types! 🙂

  • Jeff October 1, 2009, 7:21 am

    Fake it till you make it….

  • Mike October 1, 2009, 9:23 pm

    Hey there! Just started reading. That story felt VERY familiar. Like the first time I was given a ME job (because the ME flaked, it was a 200 instrument show in a thrust when I was a sophomore in college) or my first two rep lighting designer gigs (which I got when the LD who held them left for NY) with a regional theater company doing 5 shows a season (in a REAL THEATER!!!) and a live music venue doing 3 different shows a week some weeks.

    I just remembered what my LD professor said in college. “If they ask you if you can do something, say yes, and THEN figure out how to do it.”

    Enjoy the ride.


  • Charm City Kim October 2, 2009, 9:15 am

    While I have to say it sucks you didn’t get to meet Margaret Cho… um, hello? What an awesome opportunity!

  • Charm City Kim October 2, 2009, 9:16 am

    wait – did my previous comment make sense? I just reread it. I mean – congrats on your promotion to head electrician!

  • George Spelvin October 7, 2009, 12:18 am

    Yeah, way to go. We tell kids they have to spend YEARS in the shop, paying their dues: humping 4/0, benching Lekos, and cleaning mud and dogsh!t off cables, and you waltz in and get promoted after FOUR calls. B!tch.

  • gem October 7, 2009, 1:06 pm


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