In some European countries, stage crews and roadies are up against public authorities conducting investigations into their working conditions, trying to define the scope of their employment which, by definition, defies such approaches and depends to a great extent on their personal commitment. Stage workers endeavor to sort things out as best they can, but public opinion sometimes dismisses them as spoilt brats.
Stage crews and roadies are not what could be described as standard employees with standard working conditions. They work challenging hours, often on duty at dawn, then late at night, sometimes doing an 18-hour day before grabbing a couple of hours sleep and going on to the next gig. There is physically demanding labor, and great concentration is required. It is a rare occasion if they have an evening off or a weekend off, so it is difficult to have a normal family life. And to top it off, given the number of hours worked, the pay is not fantastic.
But they have their own way of thinking, their own way of working. Whenever I have asked why they chose their job, they invariably say it is because they love the stage, the shows, the atmosphere, the freedom and the experience of meeting so many different people. From the outside, it might look as if they are doing the same things all the time, over and over again, with the same jobs, yet for them every day is different, and they all say that even though the work is tough, they do it because they enjoy it and feel a sense of freedom. “If the day comes when I don’t enjoy the job, then I’ll stop!” (The tiny minority that never finds any fun in it, gives up very quickly.)
From my point of view, I have always enjoyed being with them, listening to them recount their trials and tribulations, their stories of shows and tours, and they all have their stories to tell. With time, tales are often embellished; for example, that great night out when they were off, or the truck packed with gear that broke down in the middle of nowhere just before the show had to be on stage. They love exaggerating. But no matter what happens, the show must go on, and while they might notice the glitches, the audience will still be delighted. In the twenty years I have spent with stage crews and roadies, I have never seen a last-minute cancellation because the crew was unable to get their job done – and that is a source of great pride for them.
The report focuses attention on the stage crews, seeing them as individuals, and it stands as a tribute to all stage managers, lighting and sound engineers, technicians, stage hands and roadies working behind the scenes while we in the audience applaud our favorite performers center stage.
Claire Allard, May 2016