Among the many important life lessons my father taught me was to never piss off the stage hands – or really anyone on crew. Lights. Sound. You don’t want to mess with any of that.
This is common advice in the theater, where over-privileged actors have a tendency to incite the ire of the people who actually get stuff done.
That is, some actors make the mistake of thinking the show is all about them. Confident of their right to do whatever they want, they abuse those around them – most notably those at the bottom of the totem poll. The stage hands.
My father had a whole host of stories about actors who were upstaged by slighted stage crew.
My favorite was about an actor playing Martin Luther. When his character received an edict from the Pope condemning his actions, he was supposed to defiantly post the (actually blank) scroll to his church’s door. This all went as planned until, stirred by the actor’s continual mistreatment of the crew…there began to be problems with his props.
One night, as he was about to reveal the typically blank scroll to the audience, the actor was surprised to find himself instead confronted by a simple message:
“F*** you. – The Pope.”
Well, it was written somewhat more colorfully than I’ve put it here.
The actor was able to recover with some dignity – tearing the scroll to shreds rather than revealing it to the audience. But let that be a lesson to you: Never mess with the stage hands.
Of course, the power of vindictiveness ought not to be the thing that keeps you in check.
It is true that you shouldn’t mess with the stage hands because they can mess with you better, but the real lesson was deeper than that.
Actors get all the credit. They get the fame and the glory. But the crew – they’re the ones who deserve the real respect.
They don’t get rich and they don’t get famous, but they get everything done.
No matter who you think you are, you shouldn’t disrespect that.