(Short story inspired by a tech rehearsal for my stage play Electric Serenade last September in New York. There were a number of mishaps, and I exaggerated them greatly for artistic and comedic purposes. 1,764 words long.)

“So you’re experienced at running tech?” Valerie asked with concern.

“Trust me, I’ve been doing this for years,” Jesse reassured with a sweep of his hand. “So you can rely on me.” He sat behind the light board in the control booth.

“Good, now turn on the blue light.”

Jesse looked at the board. “Hmm, I wonder if this is it?” He flipped one the switches then all the house lights suddenly went off plunging the theater into darkness. “Oops.”

“Hey, the house lights went off!” one of the actors shouted from the stage.

“Yes, Daryl, we all noticed,” Valerie replied with subtle sarcasm.

“How are we supposed to perform in the darkness?” Daryl asked as he walked around on the unlit stage. He then tripped over a prop and made a loud crash. “Ouch! My face!”

“Hang in there, we’ll get this fixed,” Valerie said to Daryl, then turned to Jesse. “Can you get the lights back on please?”

“Of course, all I have to do is find that pesky little switch,” Jesse said as looked at the board in the darkness.

“Your hand was just on it,” Valerie pointed out.

“Oh yeah, that’s right.” Jesse felt the board where his hand had been until he found a switch. He flipped it and the house lights came back on. “Let there be light!”

“Are you the new tech?” Daryl asked from the stage as he laid face down atop a damaged coffee table with a framed canvas wall on top of him.

“Sure am,” Jesse replied proudly.

“Could you do us all a favor and learn where the damned house lights switch is?”

“On it.” Jesse looked at the board. “You know, we should label all these switches and buttons.”

“I gave you a diagram of the lighting plot,” Valerie said. “Didn’t you look at it?”

“Oh, that’s what that was.”

“You don’t recognize a lighting plot?” Valerie said incredulously.

“I’m more of an intuitive tech,” Jesse explained.

“That’s not a thing, now look at the damn lighting plot.”

“You got it,” Jesse answered cheerily, then looked around the control booth. “Now where is it?”

Valerie let out a breath. “I brought an extra copy.” She pulled a sheet of paper out from her folder and handed it to Jesse.

“Thanks!” Jesse looked at the lighting plot with confused amazement.

“A little help here!” Daryl called out from the stage.

“Will someone help him up?” Valerie ordered. “He doesn’t have an understudy.”

A pair of stage hands jogged onto the stage from one of the wings. “How should we help him?” one of the stage hands asked the other.

“You can start by lifting this canvas wall off of me,” Daryl suggested truculently.

“Good idea,” one of the stage hands agreed. They lifted the canvas prop wall off of Daryl, set it aside, then lifted up Daryl off the damaged table.

“Thanks,” Daryl said then rubbed his face as he walked away. “I think I’ll be all right,” he said to the control booth, “just in case anyone was worried about me.”

“That’s good,” Valerie replied without looking up. “Now is any of this making sense?” she asked Jesse.

Jesse looked at the sheet of paper studiously. “I think so.” His hand went to the control board. “So this must be for the blue light.” He flipped a switch and the entire stage was bathed in red light.

“Wrong again,” Valerie groaned.

“How about this one?” Jesse turned off the red light, flipped another switch, and the stage was suddenly covered in yellow light.

“Will you look at the diagram?” Valerie said impatiently.

“At least I’m still on the primary colors,” Jesse said positively. He turned off the yellow light, flipped another switch, then a disco ball lowered from the light grid and sparkled multicolored light beams all over the theater.

“We’re not putting on a production of Saturday Night Fever!” Valerie fumed.

“But you’ll be ready if you ever do, am I right?” Jesse smiled at Valerie. She was unmoved. “Okay, okay.” He flipped the switch again and the disco ball rose back up into the light grid and out of sight. “But every mistake is a learning lesson.”

“I’m sure your parents said the same about you, but we open in three days, so you have to learn this light board quick.”

Another actor emerged from backstage. “I’m having issues with my costume,” he complained.

“Can it wait, Lorenzo?” Valerie asked. “We’re kinda busy here.”

“But what’s more important than my character’s appearance?” Lorenzo pleaded. “What will the audience think?”

“They won’t be thinking much of anything if the lighting is all wrong,” Valerie reminded.

“And never fear, I’ll figure this out,” Jesse proclaimed confidently. He then flipped a switch and the stage was suddenly covered by crisscrossing laser beams. “Cool!”

“Not cool,” Valerie corrected.

“I say,” Lorenzo remarked as he looked around at all the shafts of light.

“This is in no way part of the show,” Valerie flummoxed.

“But it looks like a scene from a heist movie,” Jesse said excitedly.

“This isn’t a heist movie!” Valerie decried.

“Got it,” Jesse relented.

“But I still have a question about my costume,” Lorenzo went on.

“One catastrophe at a time, Lorenzo,” Valerie said. “Can you get rid of those laser beams? They’re freaking me out.”

“Of course.” Jesse hit a switch, then a trap door suddenly opened below Lorenzo.

“Aaaaaah!” Lorenzo screamed as he disappeared from the stage and fell downward.

“Wow,” Jesse exclaimed, “I didn’t know this place had a trap door.”

“Well now you know!” Valerie replied with frustration.

“This wasn’t part of the show!” Lorenzo yelled from below the stage.

“Patience, Lorenzo,” Valerie said. “Can you turn off the laser beams?” she asked Jesse.

Jesse flipped a switch and the laser beams turned off. “Done! And I’m sure Lorenzo can find his way out of the basement.”

“That’s no basement” Valerie informed, “it’s a dungeon for playwrights who didn’t want their scripts changed.”

“Why are there skeletons down here?” Lorenzo asked nervously.

“Hang in there, Lorenzo,” Valerie called out, “we’ll find a ladder and get you out of there.” She looked around. “Anyone know where there’s a ladder?”

“Never fear!” The two stage hands from earlier trotted into the theater with a ladder. They went up to the stage and carefully lowered the ladder through the trap door. Lorenzo climbed up the ladder and emerged from the square hole. He stepped up onto the stage, straightened his clothes, and dusted himself off.

“Thank you,” Lorenzo said to the stage hands.

“Anytime,” one said.

“We like to be useful,” the other said.

Lorenzo looked at the open trap door suspiciously, then looked back up. “Now,” he began, “there’s still the matter of my costume.”

“I know a costumer who owes me a favor, I’ll give her a call when I’m done here, okay?” Valerie appeased.

“Well that wasn’t so hard,” Lorenzo said magnanimously. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to put some ice on my ankles.” He hobbled off the stage. “Ouchouchouch,” he muttered with each step.

One of the stage hands found a string attached to the trap door, pulled it up, secured the trap door in place, then it fell open again.

The other stage hand suddenly got up as if struck by an idea, went backstage, returned with a sheet of plywood, and placed it over the open trap door. “Ta da!”

“Good, now cover that with a rug,” Valerie instructed.

The first stage hand found a rug on the stage, pulled it over the plywood, looked up and gave a thumb’s up to the control booth. “Like this horrible incident never happened.”

“Sounds like my ex,” Valerie remarked under her breath. “So, the blue light.”

“All right, has to be this switch here,” Jesse said as he flipped a new switch. The stage was suddenly bathed in purple light.

“Purple?” Valerie seethed.

“Looks more like violet,” Jesse opined.


“Maybe it’s more of an indigo.”


“But whatever it is, it’s the color of royalty,” Jesse said grandly, “which matches a queen like yourself,” he added saucily, then held up his hand for a high five. “Up top!”

Valerie swiftly kicked him on the shins instead.

“Note to self,” Jesse said as he rubbed his aching shins, “never do that again.”

“It’s still purple,” Valerie said through clenched teeth.

“But at least it’s almost blue.”

“Well I’m almost ready to fire you!”

“Now hear me out,” Jesse appealed, “I bring other qualities to the table.”

“Name one.”

“Why I can name several. I have a plucky, can do attitude, I don’t let my numerous mistakes drag me down, I bring a lot of fresh ideas to the table because I’m not beholden to restrictive rules or time honored traditions, and I have an ability to learn on the fly.”

“So far you haven’t learned anything except how to piss me off so you better impress me quick or you’re out on your ass!”

Suddenly a protester holding sign reading SHUT IT DOWN! stormed into the theater. “Stop this immoral play now!” he shouted. The two aforementioned stage hands were running after him.

“Sorry, Val,” one of the stage hands apologized, “we tried to stop him.”

“How did this imbecile get past security?” Valerie demanded to know.

“You know Florence,” the other stage hand said, “can’t be bothered when she’s meditating.”

Valerie shook her head. “That’s what you get when you hire a Californian.”

The protester bounded up onto the stage. “Your immoral, godless play promotes perverted lifestyles and is an affront to God!”

“What the hell are you blathering about?” Valerie vociferated.

“This bilge presents a gay couple as perfectly normal people which tears at the moral fiber of America!”

“They’re roommates!”

“But what’s to stop them from becoming romantically linked?”

“The script!”

“But there’s a picture on your website showing the two of them perfectly happy with each other!”

“And that’s a bad thing?”

“They’re happiness could lead to them committing sodomy on each other, which treads on my values! And look at all this lavender lighting,” the protester denounced, “the color of homosexuality!”

“So that’s what color it is,” Jesse said to himself.

Valerie turned to Jesse. “Is there another trap door?”

Jesse looked at the light board. “Hmm, maybe this switch does something.” He flipped the switch then a weighted sandbag fell from the top of the theater and landed on the protester with a thud as he instantly crumpled to the ground.

“Okay, you got the job,” Valerie said.

A tech rehearsal going horribly wrong at the former Morosco Theatre in 1982, talk about bringing down the house.

©2023 Robert Kirkendall


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