September 3, 2011
A Labor Day Ovation for All the Real Bit Players
My Labor Day weekend post is usually a salute to the people who work hard to make the shows we all love. Past tributes have been to struggling playwrights and blue-collar actors. But I’ve got another, less-lionized group in mind this year. For not even the most stage-struck kid grows up with dreams of becoming a prop manager or a wig maker. And yet those folks and scores of others also do their bit to contribute to the magic we see on stage.
The American Theatre Wing has been celebrating all of these below-the-line workers over the past couple of years in a video series called “In the Wings.” Each episode (most run around seven minutes) takes a look at what goes into performing one of those under-recognized theater jobs.
Many of the people who perform these tasks started out thinking that they wanted to be actors but, for one reason or another, drifted into something else that needed doing and then discovered that they loved it.
Among my favorites have been dramaturg Anne Cattaneo, special effects designer Gregory Meeh and sign language interpreter Alan Champion
(I mean how cool is it to find a way to bring theater to people who might not have been able to enjoy it otherwise).
Now it’s true that I’m on the Wing’s Advisory Committee but I’d be touting these videos even if I weren’t. Watching them (I’ve subscribed on iTunes so that I don’t miss a one) has made me value all the hard work that goes into making good theater. Click here to see the full archive of videos. In the meantime, here's a round of applause to these underappreciated players. And Happy Labor Day to you too.