There are many things I hoped to do in my career, many that I never imagined I would do, and some that I never imagined I would do, but always secretly hoped to do. Free-lancing as Lighting Designer for a production of Swan Lake was one of those that I hoped I would do, stage managing a professional production was one of those that I never imagined I would do, and being part of a professional production in New York City was one of those that I never imagined I would do, but always secretly hoped to do.
Last Friday, I did all three.
That’s right. Last Friday, I loaded a show that I designed into a theater in the Bronx, teched it, and called the show to a crew of Local One stagehands. Successfully. A feat which I’m pretty damn proud of, especially when you consider how young my career is.
And yet, the entire accomplishment is tinged with the scent of irony. For the majority of my youth, I dreamed of being in a show in NYC, at first it was as a member of the New York City Ballet Company, then it was as a dancer in a Broadway show. For theatre and dance, NYC is the mecca, and to have performed there is the ultimate measure of success. I studied dance for almost 20 years, sacrificing much of my youth to drive myself towards this singular goal: to be on the stage of a NYC show. And at 24 years old, I accomplished that dream…sort of.
I’ve loved dance for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until four years ago that I picked up my first wrench and began learning the ways of light. Even then, lighting was something I did for fun; I never planned to turn it into a career. And yet, here I’ve accomplished a level of success as a lighting designer in that I never came close to accomplishing as a dancer, all in 1/5th the time. I finally made it, but did so walking in completely different shoes than I ever imagined I’d be wearing.
I have to say, though, those shoes were oddly comfortable. It was one of those experiences that if I’d stopped to think about what I was doing, I probably would have thrown up. Giving intensity levels to a programmer who has been doing lighting for longer than I have been alive. Explaining audio cues to a man who toured with KISS in the 70’s. Calling a show where every crew member on headset is a member of Local One, the most elite stagehands in the world. And all with a confidence and authority that I never would have imagined could be mine. Of course, I’m immensely proud of the fact that I was able to see a design of mine come to fruition on a professional stage, and that I was able to successfully call a show. (Especially when you consider that that was my first time stage managing anything!) But I was also very proud of the fact that at the end of the day, I left with the respect and acceptance of the crew. I held my own among Local One stagehands, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is no easy feat.
If you’d told me five years ago what I would eventually accomplish last weekend, I never would have believed it because I never could have imagined it. At this rate, I can only imagine that I’ll be an astronaut by 30!