Ashley Reed, Production Assistant
I have never been a theater kid. Through middle and high school, I always choose track and cross-country over the performing arts. For some reason, spending my afternoons soaked in sweat was more attractive than painting props or performing on stage. Once I graduated from high school and moved onto college and then onto my career, I assumed that any opportunity I may have had to participate in theater had vanished.
All of that, however, changed this September. I was given the opportunity to work as one of the Production Assistants for Los Secretos de Santa Monica’s showing in Phoenix. “Production Assistant” is basically a glorified term for “backstage crew member.” You keep the prop table organized, move things on and off stage, help actors change into new costumes for the next act at the speed of sound (I feel like helping an actress change into a complicated dress and accessories in 45 seconds is resume-worthy), and help make sure that everyone is where they need to be.
So what does backstage life look like? It involves hours of setting up, hours of waiting around, and hours of tearing down. You are usually waiting for your cue to move something on/off stage, help with a costume change, or making sure that an actor with an upcoming scene is ready to go. After hearing and seeing the show over and over again, this can get monotonous – especially since everyone backstage needs to stay quiet! But knowing that there are members in the audience who are really enjoying and taking something from the show helps you remember that as tedious as the little details in the back can be, they make all of the difference.
Slipping away to the lobby during intermission and after the show on a few occasions, it was fun to see families who had never been to a theater event together talk about their favorite characters in the show, laugh over their recounts of humorous scenes, and snap pictures together in front of the Los Secretos backdrop. The atmosphere could be best described as “happy” – I didn’t see one person with a grimace or sullen expression on their face.
Working behind the scenes can be monotonous, hard work – but knowing that your efforts help keep the production running smoothly feels really good when you know the positive effect that the production is having on the audience.