It started with a simple question from my new friend, Evan. “Do you want to be part of the run crew for The Pillowman? The director needs a volunteer.” Written by Irish playwright, Martin McDonough, The Pillowman is perhaps one of the darkest of comedic plays I have ever seen, but I didn’t know this until after I’d seen the first rehearsal. I had seen two of his other plays in previous years and knew him to be a writer with a dark and twisted sense of humor. Black comedy at its finest and a type of genre, if done right, can be close to genius and something I really enjoy. Evan gave me the director’s number after we finished our dinner and were bidding adieu. At first I was hesitant to get on board. I had only just arrived in Barcelona a few weeks prior and was applying for teaching jobs with a fervent vigor and enthusiasm akin to that of Clark Griswold (if you don’t get this reference, it’s time you did yourself a friendly favor and watched National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation). I wanted my nearly empty calendar to be replete with English classes, like a bowl of ramen with the noodles spewing out over the top. It wasn’t, at this point, however. At all. Just a few noodles of students swimming in tepid broth at the bottom of the bowl.
So I called Josh, the director. I liked him immediately upon chatting on the phone with him. If it’s possible to exude warmth over cell phone waves, he did just that. I said I could be part of the run crew but that if any schools offered me classes during the run time of the play that I would have to take them as I was eager to begin teaching and didn’t want anything to prevent that. He said if that happened we would figure something out so I said count me in.
Up until that point I hadn’t known what the run crew was until Evan explained it to me. You know when you see a play and there is a set change in between scenes? The lights dim and people come out on stage dressed all in black to alter the set, move a table onstage, take a chair offstage. That is the run crew. That’s what I would be doing.
I have always wanted to be more actively involved in theater rather than the excited audience member at the edge of her seat in eager anticipation before the start of a play. When I was in college I had to do the sound for a play for one of my classes and I loved it up there in the booth, tucked away like chocolate chips in a cookie. I remember tacking the work in the sound booth with exuberance. There was another girl working on that play with me whose name escapes me but I well remember she always wore a cape a la Lord of the Rings. People thought she was weird but sharing that dark, womb-like space with her and getting to know her a little bit, I really liked her and respected her cape. That was over ten years ago now but I still remember how much I loved the work. I figured this was a great way to meet some new people who at the very least had one thing in common with me- a love of theater.
After saying yes, I started to have doubts. I’ve never done this before, how will I know what to do? What if I screw up? I’m not going to be good at this. I shouldn’t take on any commitments because I should have an open schedule for possible jobs. Well, what was I going to? Sit at home twiddling my thumbs waiting for the jobs to roll in? It was that form of fear we all have that tells us we can’t do something. We shouldn’t do it because of x, y and z. I remembered my friend, Katie’s, advice a few years ago when I left for Mexico, “feel the fear and do it always.” That may sound a bit dramatic for this particular circumstance but it applied nonetheless as I was beginning to doubt myself and my potential skill as a newbie crew runner.
Forging ahead on the path of the run crew, I ignored the doubts that were really ridiculous anyways. And what a great experience I gained from The Pillowman. What a lame experience I would have had if I had given into my fear and stayed home every night that week hoping for a school to call. Waiting for schools to get back to me made me revert back to being a teenage girl with a crush before the age of cell phones and caller ID jumping every time the phone rang hoping it was whatever cute boy to whom I had been doling all of my attention. Minus the braces and plague of acne that had once adorned my face as plentiful as Christmas lights on a tree, thank god.
It takes guts to live a full life, to stare fear in the face and tell it to eff off. It can be so all-encompassing and it can penetrate even to the smallest of things, like being a run crew member. For this particular play it was incredibly easy too. So my advice to you, dear reader, is to do as Katie told me to do, feel the fear and do it always.