What goes on behind the scenes

@Fleura (7195)
United Kingdom
May 17, 2016 8:22am CST
As some of you know I volunteer as an usher at our local theatre. Yesterday we were offered the chance to have a tour of the backstage area. Although I've worked there for many years, the 'front of house' staff who deal with the audience virtually never interact with the backstage people, so I have always been curious about what goes on out of sight and how it all works. It was really quite fascinating to see behind the scenes. After the auditorium, the stage itself takes up most of the building and everything else is squeezed in above, underneath or behind the stage. It was a real maze in there - banks of power outlets, a whole room full of fuses, stacks of huge lights, enormous black cloths to mask the top or sides of the stage, huge 'flats' to construct the scenery or to build quick-change cubicles if they are needed in the wings (which are virtually non-existent so must be incredibly cramped!) gantries to hold the lights and a whole bank of rope and pulley systems to raise and lower scenery, lights etc. - not to mention literally tonnes of weights to counterbalance whatever is hoisted, all operated by staff high up on a 'fly bridge' at the side of the stage. There were stores of smoke machines, bags of ropes, equipment to provide all sorts of special effects from disco lights to clouds or snow, a big workshop to create bespoke scenery, a laundry for costumes, a lounge/kitchen area for actors to relax and have a snack, trapdoors, a huge motor to raise or lower the front part of the auditorium floor so when the front rows of seats are removed it can be used to enlarge the front part of the stage or to create a pit for the orchestra. Space for musicians to unpack their instruments and a computerised desk for live captioning; a master desk for the deputy stage manager who basically tells everyone else what to do and when to do it, a vast door at the back where each touring company unloads truck-loads of scenery, a store for pyrotechnics, a locked store for weapons (!) and shelves and boxes of spares to fix anything that might break at a critical moment. And a stage door reception desk and offices. What did make me laugh though were the dressing rooms. The 'best' one was nearest the door, while the more lowly the actor the more stairs they had to climb. Dressing room one was equipped with a shelf and hanging rail for clothes, a shower and toilet, a 'dressing table' (basically a length of kitchen counter-top) with lighted mirrors - and a tiny balcony which looked out onto the back of the pub next door. It made me laugh to think of stars fresh from the red carpet (and yes our little theatre has had its share of famous people over the years!) standing on the balcony and enjoying the view of the selection of rubbish bins and junk outside. Apparently they have often complimented the theatre on their nice dressing rooms so some places must be worse. The life of a famous actor may not be quite as glamorous as it seems! All rights reserved © Fleura 2016
10 people like this
11 responses
• Preston, England
21 May 16
I worked backstage on prop management during a show I was involved in at one theatre - very hard work but great fun
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@Fleura (7195)
• United Kingdom
21 May 16
Yes I got the impression there are some crazy long days at the start and end of a run, and no doubt occasional panics in the meantime!
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• Preston, England
21 May 16
@Fleura that show was certainly chaotic
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@DianneN (79896)
• United States
17 May 16
Lol! I've been behind the stage. Most recently was in October during my 7 year old granddaughter's off Broadway production of Peter Pan. She was asked to audition for the role of an Indian. After the show, she showed me her dressing room, a few flights downstairs. She shared it with other actresses and had her own lighted makeup mirror and bathroom. I still thought it was glamorous!
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@Fleura (7195)
• United Kingdom
17 May 16
Ooh I bet that was exciting for her - and for you too!
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@DianneN (79896)
• United States
17 May 16
@Fleura Very! Her mother is good friends with a Rockette. The Rockette showed her the behind the scenes a couple of years ago, then let her watch a performance. So exciting for her!
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@JudyEv (125832)
• Bunbury, Australia
17 May 16
This would have been such an interesting tour. It is so cool to learn about what goes on behind the scenes.
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@Fleura (7195)
• United Kingdom
17 May 16
Some people think it destroys the magic, but not for me. Even though I know how things work I still love to watch and marvel at the effects!
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@JudyEv (125832)
• Bunbury, Australia
18 May 16
@Fleura It wouldn't spoil the magic for me at all. I love knowing how things work - especially magical things.
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@Ronrybs (7392)
• London, England
17 May 16
Sounds fascinating and something I'd like to do. Only ever seen backstage on TV.
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@Fleura (7195)
• United Kingdom
17 May 16
I've never wanted to be in the spotlight, I would much prefer to be out of sight with a more hands-on role!
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@Ronrybs (7392)
• London, England
18 May 16
@Fleura Same here, you can get away with so much more!
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@jaboUK (54446)
• United Kingdom
22 May 16
Thanks so much for this behind the scenes tour, it was really interesting. Most of don't get the chance to go there, as you say.
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@Fleura (7195)
• United Kingdom
22 May 16
It was a real maze back there, I'm surprised visiting company members don't get lost!
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@Dragonairy1 (1414)
• Newcastle Upon Tyne, England
17 May 16
It sounds fascinating, I always thought they had more space.
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@Fleura (7195)
• United Kingdom
18 May 16
There really is very little room in the wings or behind the scenes!
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@amadeo (67585)
• United States
17 May 16
that is great to achieve this in seeing what goes on in the back.Love the flowers
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@Fleura (7195)
• United Kingdom
17 May 16
Thanks - I didn't take a camera with me so I don't have any photos, so I just put some random flowers instead!
@BelleStarr (38978)
• United States
17 May 16
lol I always love to get a glimpse behind the scenes it is rather eye opening isn't it?
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@Fleura (7195)
• United Kingdom
17 May 16
It's amazing what magic can be created with the right lighting!
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@PainsOnSlate (20328)
• Canada
17 May 16
That sounds like a huge theater, it must have been fun to see all the "stuff" and rooms in the back. The only stage I've ever see from the back was in School. Must be an interesting job.
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@Fleura (7195)
• United Kingdom
17 May 16
It really isn't very big, the big ones are twice the size!
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@just4him (120066)
• Green Bay, Wisconsin
21 May 16
Sounds like you had a great time touring backstage, the dressing room sounds wonderful up to the balcony scene.
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@Marcyaz (35651)
• United States
17 May 16
That really sounds interesting especially the part about the stars dressing room and looking out over the balcony at the rubbish bins and junk out there. I suppose things are not as glamerous as is made out.
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