by Courtney Hebb
“Now make sure you give me the rope right after I end the act” explains Eric Newton, the trapeze artist. “I’m going to be exhausted and will be hanging in the air by my neck”. I nod my head in agreement, but all I can think is if I don’t get him the rope in time, I could kill Eric! Realistically, I know that if he did (God forbid) fall, there would be a cushy blue mat to break his fall and prevent certain death; but when you work in the theatre (even in its offices) it is easy to be overly dramatic.
So how does an administrative assistant get roped into working a promotional show in the middle of a bustling shopping center? Honestly, I’m still not sure, but here are some confessions of my journey from desk jockey to stagehand.
Script in hand, I meet everyone in the heart of Pacific Place for the first run through of the event. There is Eric with his mega-watt smile, chiseled abs and trapeze tricks. Manuela Horn is tall, blonde, and yodeling — toting around a furry sheep on wheels. Trevor Nassler gracefully bounds across the stage, diabolos soaring in the air. He catches them and whips them up and around, through the air and under his leg. What talent! I secretly pray that I won’t somehow mess up any of their acts. I pray that I will always have their props set properly and entrances open in time. I pray that in the end, Eric will always have his rope when he needs it and in effect, I won’t kill Eric.
We are in the middle of a four-story shopping center, which is the epitome of an unpredictable environment. Despite all my efforts to have things in place and to make the show run smoothly, inevitably things go awry. Audience members steal preset chairs from the stage for their personal use. Drumsticks disappear in a suitcase and are nearly forgotten to be placed on stage. But nothing overshadows the tale of the ball, the ring and the flying radio.
It is our preview show and the script is recently changed. I know, as the stagehand, that I have to move the ring to station the ball on which Eric walks (yes, you read that right, he balances and walks on a big silver ball). I know the placement of the ring. The problem is that I don’t know when it needs to be there.
During the show, Eric is suddenly and unexpectedly off the ball and I quickly dive under the stanchions. A blaze of speed and frenzy, this causes the radio attached to my waist to shoot off with such velocity that within a split second it has completely disappeared from the stage area. As you can imagine, nothing sabotages one’s efforts of being invisible like an eight hundred dollar radio flying into a captive audience. Oops. But as the adage goes, the show must go on!
Aside from that supremely embarrassing anecdote, my experience at Pacific Place has awarded many more amazing moments. From hearing kids gasp with delight as Eric somersaults around his trapeze to watching mouths drop as Trevor cartwheels and catches a flying diabolo to seeing faces searching for the source of Manu’s soaring voice yodeling from the edge of the 4th floor.
As I write this at my office desk, back to working on the tasks outlined in my actual job description, I must admit I miss the dazzle and chaos of Pacific Place. Luckily I must only wander a few steps to reach Teatro ZinZanni’s whimsical spiegeltent where similar magic illuminates every show. On reflection, I can personally take consolation in that during my short gig as a stagehand, I may have briefly lost my radio but at least I managed not to lose Eric. Aerial Antics in the Atrium will continue to run, Thursdays through Sundays at 6:00 p.m. for the rest of August.