I used to do a lot of theater. Designed in my twenties, moved to directing in grad school, shifted to directing and writing. It was all about being the one telling the story, and I kept shifting jobs until I started to feel like I was the one who got to choose the story, not fill it out.
Back in the early days of doing tech for the local community theater in high school, I started off in lights and moved into sets. I don’t remember the show that we were working on, but I do remember that the script called for a big storm.
Sound is the great, under-appreciated design component – in theater and film, both docs and narrative features alike. Sound tells us where we are without saying it out loud. Its atmospheric. Like lots and lots of theaters, we didn’t have a sound system so much as a boom box hooked into some speakers on stage. There might have a been a reel-to-reel deck in the storage room. For this show, we decided to go old-school. We fastened some 1×4 lumber at the top and bottom of a long thin sheet of metal, hung it from a beam and attached a pull-rope at the base. Voila, a thunder sheet. Make that steel roil correctly, and you can get the long rolling distant thunders. No major claps, but distant rolling. Right.
For whatever reason, it wasn’t hung up for tech. I think something had broken, because we’d had it up for testing, then it was down, so here we are, trying to get ready for an audience, and my friend Michael is in the house, calling out the words, “Crash! Boom!” every time thunder is called for in the script. Up in the light booth, we nearly wet ourselves laughing.
I’m all set to get started writing today and Word crashes and I discover I’ve lost 4-5 pages of writing from yesterday. Boom.
This never would have happened if I’d done it old school and written it all out by hand.
I am now trying to get motivated again.