Back in the day Ringling Bros would play the Armory in Washington D.C. for a two week stand right around Easter. Arlington is also the home of the executive offices for Kenneth Feld Productions so it was fairly common to see many of the higher ups from within the company visiting the show.
Usually the sound and lighting consoles would be placed on a riser out in the audience, but this town was a little special. Up in the Armory bleachers was a tiny little control booth with just enough room for myself and my fellow crew member John to sit side by side while he ran the lighting console and I called the ques for the spot light operators.
Now, the folks in IATSE Local 22 in Washington are a pretty friendly bunch so by the time Easter weekend rolled along the booth was also home to a toaster oven, a small refrigerator, a coffee pot, and a large assortment of everything snack related.
Prior to the show the crew would stop by to say hello, and we would all swap the token “showbiz” horror stories that come from a lifetime of running live theater shows. Then folks would head up to their positions for the show itself.
The show for this particular evening was in full swing, the opening parade about half over, and the topic of conversation over the headset was how one of the ice show lighting crew had recently been fired for being disrespectful to the producer’s wife.
Since we were already 3/4 through the run in D.C. and we had already been on tour for well over a year things were pretty much on auto pilot. John was relaxing to a magazine having just popped a bagel into the toaster oven and I was chatting away with the spot operators.
“Really? Come on there had to be more. You don’t fire a guy over a shirt.”
“No seriously, he was wearing the wrong shirt in there and she had him fired.”
“Nah come on. He had to have been rude or something. I’ve met her, and she is a nice person.”
At this point John looks up to show me something in the magazine and I see him look past me and over my shoulder. Then his eye got big, really big, really really big. In the scuba diving world there is a term for a panicking diver, its called “Eggs On Mask”.
His eyes were that big.
I turned and saw our producer, Kenneth Feld standing in the doorway.
Kenneth’s wife might be a kind person, but Kenneth himself has one h@ll of a reputation for firing whole chunks of crew, managers, and acts seemingly at random.
What transpired then were a few of the longest seconds of my early career as a lighting guy.
Just then to fill that silence, and you couldn’t have personally ordered worse timing, the toaster oven let us know that John’s bagel was ready for consumption.
Without missing so much as a beat John said in an upbeat voice, “Care for a bagel Mr. Feld?”
Thoughts going through my head at that moment.
- Ah Crap!
- How long is the drive back to Albuquerque from here?
- Is it too late to get my old job as an RA back?
- I wonder if he’ll even let us finish the show…
Kenneth looked at John, then he looked at me, he then looked out at the show, and then he started to laugh.
“Thank you, no. You guys continue on.”