It's been a very long time since I was involved in the world of amateur theatre and these past few days have been like dipping into the chapters of a most beloved book from my past entitled: The Art of Coarse Acting.
Coarse actors are described as those who 'know all their lines, just not the order in which they come'. Their talent is for enthusiasm and ingenuity rather than any ability to perform adequately. There are also coarse backstage crew, and sadly, I am one of them.
Coarse backstage crew like to reminisce constantly about shows they have worked. They like to describe in intricate technical detail the lighting/sound set up they have utilised for any one of a number of productions. They have Channel Envy (I have 3 x 14 channel dimmers at home, you know) and Wattage Envy (We bought 8 x 1000watt globes for the last show, you know) and Delusions of Indispensability. They have pet names for each actor based upon characteristics (we call her Terry because she dances like a bird of prey...a pterodactyl) or former failures (we call him Mr Bouncy Bouncy because he couldn't keep the follow spot still) or previous hi-jinks (I call her the BN, Bunny Napper, because she stole my two authentic Spamalot Bunnies).
Which is another thing. There are a lot of sci-fi/comedy/cult nuts in am-dram. Star Wars, Monty Python and Dr Who
T-shirts abound and conversations skew wildly from Comic Con to the latest Medieval Re-enactment get together. In jokes fly thick and fast and everyone has a favourite one-liner. ("Ooooooo, I SAY Duchess!")
And gossip! Everyone seems to know everyone else and many of the local am-dram theatre types come to see the 'opposition' at work:
"Lovely show dear! No, reeeeeally! Mwah, mwah..." etc etc
One director is known as Voldemort because he has such a bad temper that no one likes to mention him by name anymore.
There are hierarchies. Lesser types like to list the well known directors/actors/companies they have worked for, while the superior types roll their eyes at the very mention of lesser types and are loathe to admit ever having worked with them. And don't even start me on who's sleeping with who!
Another fascination, is the fiscal difference between cast and crew. Way back in 'my' day, when we were co-opted into the ranks of chorus and eventually speaking roles, by the directors of a drama school I attended, we received a book token at the end of each performance season. As we got older, we may have received $20.00 for the run and, when I was 17, I was elated to find a cheque for $100 in my little brown envelope!!!! Now, the actors pay for the privilege of being in the show (it's called a performance fee) but, weirdly, the crew get paid. I find this most perplexing. I suppose back then, the company I worked with was professional, whereas these companies are am-dram; but even so, this qualitative difference between the backstage crew and onstage cast amuses me. I protested loudly that I didn't want any remuneration for my efforts but was quickly squashed as the other crew pointed out I would be setting a dangerous precedent!
How strange that the performers doing all the hard work are not rewarded financially, whilst backstage crew are....
But now, The Student Prince has finished its run. I learned a lot about painting sets; I learned a lot I had forgotten about amateur theatre and I had a fair bit of fun. I have a whole new bunch of facebook friends and more invites to social events than I have had since I was married.
Next, I'm crewing again, this time on a production of 'Cats'. After attending rehearsals tonight, I can already see that this company is of a different ilk. Mind you, after a brief chat to some of the management I can see that the 'gossip' factor still applies :-D