When I was in college I worked in the scene shop where we were tasked with building the sets for all the shows the college put up each semester. There was a wide range of shows that we built the sets for and we had a wide range of things we needed to build for them. A few stick out as being really eccentric and lead us to cart in garbage from a local dump, cut cars in half so we could have a junk yard scene, carry bags and bags of sand in to build a beach and go antiquing in search of avocado green refrigerators. There were some interesting times that came out of all that.
Most of the time, however, we just did relatively simple, straight forward stuff. Put flats together, painted them a billion times over, constructed door frames or book cases or chairs and built so many risers that I scarcely could find a pair of pants in my drawer I hadn’t left an allen wrench in. It wasn’t complicated but damn, was it fun. I loved being a scene shop chick. I loved working with power tools, I loved covering t-shirt after t-shirt with paint splotches and spills, I loved coming back to my dorm smelling of sawdust and perpetually finding screws in my pocket. It became equated with the creative spirit I so worshipped.
And I didn’t realize how much I missed it all until today when we built the set for the show. As soon as I got there I grabbed a screw gun and handful of screws and went to work. I loved it. I loved the things that you wouldn’t think about loving in such a circumstance. The smell of the smoke as you screw into the wood, the cold metal of the level as you try to even the legs on a platform, the high-pitched moaning the wood makes when you screw it into place, even the scrapes and bruises from a run away block that hit my arm when someone lost their grip on it. It had nothing to do with aesthetics or how everything looked when we were done; it had to do with the hard labor of putting everything together.
It’s such a simple activity, a necessity of any production that most people don’t even think about. But it brought up so many great memories for me and reminded me of how much I’ve missed this whole theatrical world I’ve been without for so long. And even though we’ll tear down the set even quicker that we put it up as soon as the run finishes I can’t help but be a little giddy about what we built today.