Why work so hard at being a grump?
In addition to my work at the black box theatre, I do sound for The Norton Singers – a great local musical theatre group that does two productions every year. Recent fall/winter productions (A Christmas Carol, Salute to Disney) have extended the normal cast of adult performers by embracing a wide range of kids from the surrounding towns. They range in age from 5 on up. This is such a great opportunity for the community as well as the kids and their families.
For many of the kids (especially the very young ones) it is their first introduction to the wonders of technical theatre – like getting a mic taped to their face. The looks on their faces range from yeah-whatever-coolness to I-have-questions to genuine terror of the unknown. We typically get one or two tech rehearsals for these shows and I pride myself in trying to make the young ones feel comfortable. This year I actually had one of kids introduce me to another as the “friendly mic guy”. Mission accomplished.
But this got me to thinking – I just can’t leave this stuff alone, right? Why would anyone working in this environment approach first-time mic-ees any other way than with a smile on your face. And yet I know several sound engineers that seem to enjoy creating a facade of being the grumpy sound guy. Yes, we all have to give first-timers “the speech” about being careful of the gear blah blah blah because it’s expensive blah blah blah, but I just can’t see approaching this as a curmudgeon. If we want more kids to at least experiment with theater, introducing them to a microphone needs to be a fun experience.
And it’s not just the kids. During the MMAS production of Cabaret last year, I worked with an incredibly talented actor who was playing the MC – a very demanding role. We decided to mic him – and I assumed as a veteran actor that he was an old hand at the whole microphone thing. Silly me. As I was taping him up the first time he looked at me sheepishly and said “What do I do now?” My simple answer was “Just be yourself. I’ll make sure the audience hears what you’re doing”. After a few tech rehearsals he seemed fairly comfortable with the whole process (not sure if he was just acting confident, but if he was he fooled me). And I have to say I enjoyed the fact that he went out of his way to thank me before and after every performance. That’s not something I personally strive for but it was a nice feeling and I think it’s good feedback that kindness is the best approach.
So… I choose to be Bruce the friendly mic guy.