Lamps, Clamps, and Painting – What’s It Like Working as a Theater Tech
The Foundry Theater at Antioch College is an old brick building adjacent to the farm and right on the outskirts of campus. It’s a quiet place without many visitors, save the occasional Yellow Springs tourist looking for a bathroom. The building is home to Antioch’s performance department, as well as two performance spaces, a dance studio, a workshop, and multiple classroom spaces. It’s a location for art and exploration and the development of one’s self. It also happens to be the location of my first co-op job.
My official title here is “theater production assistant.” I feel like this definition may change depending on what theater you work at, but this really means that I will do literally anything and everything to assist the running of the Foundry. Each day is kind of an adventure at the Foundry. My supervisor and I are convinced this building is haunted by technical directors of Antioch past, and they are causing mayhem in this building for fun.
While my duties change day-to-day or even hour-to-hour, I always manage the Foundry’s calendars and main email account. It’s difficult to maintain a routine with the unforeseeable difficulties of working at the Foundry, but I always manage to clear through emails and adjust events each day. I occasionally will handle theater request forms and I am typically the point of contact for students who wish to use the theater space, which is fun for me. In the past, I have worked strictly customer service jobs, so it’s nice to still be doing that. In addition to emails and calendars, I’m working on a safety manual as well as a catalog of chemicals here in the building; busywork that, while dull, seems incredibly important.
Aside from administrative jobs, I also work on fixing theater lamps. the Foundry has an obscure amount of lamps for the size of theater we are, and with a large number of lamps comes a large number of broken ones. I can now rewire a stage in and do simple troubleshooting for broken stage lamps; it seems like a largely obscure skill, but interesting nonetheless. I’ve also gotten increasingly good at picking metal splinters out of my fingers.
It’s difficult for me to really describe what I do at the Foundry Theater. Once I was twelve feet in the air to take down a bunch of dead Christmas lights. I reset the chairs in the Main Theater because people move them around after shows and then they don’t comply with fire safety. I mop and clean lobbies and floors. Sometimes I just babysit the building during events and be a point of contact in case something goes awry. I’ve run the soundboard for multiple events and assisted with lightboard development and programming. I’m getting better and gaining a lot of experience setting up sound equipment, which has been really interesting and fun.
A really exciting project I was able to work on was the Yellow Springs high school’s production of Oklahoma!. I assisted in the construction of the set and kind of got to take on the role of a mentor. This also happened to be my first experience with high schoolers after graduating myself, which proved interesting. We built an entire prop house and I did most of the painting, as I did not have a large amount of experience building things. It was really fun and hands-on, and I hope I can do something similar in the future. Below is a picture of the prop house, pre-roof installation.
My experience with co-op has been wonderful. I never expected to work in a theater, but I was pleasantly surprised with my time here. It’s offered me a learning experience I otherwise would have never received only taking classes. It has provided me a chance to learn hands-on in a one-on-one environment with my supervisor, which can be difficult at times in classes. With my time here coming to an end, it feels bittersweet. I’ve greatly enjoyed being here and developing my skills, but I look forward to next quarter and taking classes once more.