Sunday, January 15, 2017
a unicorn--a rare occurrence, so rare it's like a dream. "Some early investors at 'Jersey Boys' earned 22 times their initial investment. That show was really a unicorn." (Paraphrase from the New York Times piece on "Jersey Boys" investors, January 15, 2017. "Jersey Boys" ran for 12 years and earned $2 billion worldwide.)
Saturday, January 14, 2017
BELOVED ELECTRICIAN ON THE CUSP OF RETIREMENT: "All I'm trying to do is get out of this theater without going feet first."
"A lot of guys have gone nuts after watching TV in the basement for years"...said of the stagehand condition, especially on long-running shows.
Friday, January 13, 2017
NEW YORK STAGEHAND GLOSSARY
January 13, 2017, v.20
Many of the terms in this Stagehand Glossary come from elsewhere, from other proud blue-collar worlds like the longshoremen of the New York piers and the ditchdiggers of all eternity. Influences include Yiddish, gangster terms and harsh, misogynistic phrases. I stayed away from bland technical terms and went for words that have color. I didn’t include some racist terms I was given. Some words are specific to the men and women who use them, and other words are related to specific shows and theaters. Sometimes I feel like this glossary is the equivalent of creating an alphabet for the Apache language.
The language we use in the stage business is earthy, comic, angry and profane. There are plenty of obscenities, so this glossary is not for children. Wait 'til your children get their union cards before you show this to them.
If you have any words, e-mail me at email@example.com.
8 bells, eight bells--8 a.m., start of most morning calls (nautical) 9-to-5 bump-and-grind--the work grind
ten stories on repeat--when a stagehand tells the same 10 stories about him/herself over and over again. A precursor to anecdotage.
20-foot rule--when an actor or stage manager points out a flaw on a prop standing two feet away from it, you can say, "Hey, use the 20-foot rule," where the first row of the orchestra actually is.
30 and 55--stagehands in Local #1 with 30 years service can retire at 55 with a reduced pension.
a vista scene change-- scene change in view of the audience. "The flying out of the 32,000 pound mansion unit during 'Sunset Boulevard' was one of the greatest a vista scene changes I have ever seen."
above my pay grade--indicating you are not qualified to make a decision, deferring a difficult or embarrassing decision to the bosses above you. Washing your hands of a matter.
ACT Card--Associated Crafts and Technician card. It is a backdoor way to join IATSE. If you are given a job offer and the IA approves, you get an ACT card and can hold pink contracts. Usually, a stagehand holding an ACT card will apply to another local, to cover his or her pedigree.
acts with his props--an actor who may damage his props or puts too much emphasis on them. This actor may be ripe for shunning.
adult supervision,"Get adult supervision"--find a supervisor, a head or even a designer to detail the work that has to be done. When a small crew of extra men needs direction, sometimes a loudmouth in the group will start barking out orders. A saner crew member might say, "Let's get adult supervision," meaning get the person responsible for the project to sign off on it or to explain what has to be done.
"Advance contracts can point, but they can't touch!"--new restrictions on what advance pinks can do in the theater. They can direct local stagehands, but can't do work themselves. "Under the League contract signed in 2015, advance pinks can point, but they can't touch."
advance propman, advance carpenter--a roadman/roadwoman who will set up a show and will leave after the first preview or after opening. The advance carpenter hands the show off to the house carpenter, etc.
(the) advance--ticket sales in advance, ticket sales before opening. "Phantom had a $10 million advance before it opened on Broadway." A healthy advance is a good promotional item and can help sell more tickets.
alta kaka--old timer, old person. (Yiddish) Can be used to refer to the blue-hair matinee patrons or old stagehands. "The carpenter is an alta kaka...he was in Local #1 before we had an annuity."
ambush-- In the TV studios, the use of non-union workers (i.e. interns) to shop props for what should be done by union workers. This is done with knowledge of the producers and handed to the prop heads as a fait accompli.
"An actress wouldn't piss on you if you were on fire"--said by an elderly New York actress, circa 1991. A reference to the cutthroat competitiveness in the New York theater world.
And what, quit show business?--the punchline to the old elephant joke. To be said when doing a really disgusting task.
anecdotage--nonmedical explanation for the condition of an older stagehand who tells the same five stories over and over again, usually with him/her as the hero/heroine of the story or airing old grievances, often with most people in the story dead or retired.
animal--stagehand who uses brute force to great or disastrous effect. Can be an expression of admiration or a derogatory term. "He was an animal...he picked up the jammed wagon out of the track and pulled it offstage."
annuity-buster-- a showgirl. After the divorce, the ex-wife gets half your annuity for all the years you were married. "Bobby Bobby Bobby (an infamous stagehand) showed up to work catatonic when he found that his ex-wife had sucked half his annuity out of his account when the divorce was finalized. He had married an annuity buster."
antenna farm--(sound term) lots of rf antenna clustered together. (antenna may be called whips, sputniks, paddles)
archival taping--taping for the Lincoln Center archives, which is stored at the NYPL's performing arts library near Lincoln Center.
asbestos curtain--fire curtain. There is usually a linolium knife tied to the upstage side of the proscenium to cut the lines in case of fire. These curtains are being replaced, because they are hazardous to people's health.
ass-kissy-- adjective describing a stagehand known for laughing at head's bad jokes, buying unasked-for cups of coffee.
asshole factory--harsh, unhappy union shop that creates many assholes.
asshole move--when one department in a theater intentionally blocks another department from getting their work done.
assholes--knots in a rope “Get the assholes out.”
audience plant--in the old days, stars had the right to have a certain number of “plants” in the audience to encourage laughter (may be myth)
Audience Extras--steeply discounted ticket service, known for its bizarre members
Audition slippers--kneepads (Sarah Gowan, Sapsis Rigging)
automated flies--automated flying pieces. System can be run by house flyman with an overage or by the contract flyman.
B-roll footage, B-roll--footage of play or musical shot for promotional purposes only
bad stagehand, no doughnut
“back on your heads”--break is over (punchline of devil joke)
backers’ audition--when potential producers see a crude run-through of a play that aspires to Broadway. May be held at the end of a workshop.
backstabby--an adjective describing a stagehand prone to backstabbing, but not a major shit-stirrer.
"Watch your back, he's a bit backstabby when it comes to union politics."
baksheesh--small bribe to grease the wheels. Indian slang.
ballyhoo--doing a figure-eight trick with a frontlight.
banged--to get drunk, to get hit (with a piece of scenery)
(a) Bartleby--stagehand who refuses to work. From the Herman Melville short story.
battlefield conditions--during the brutal production period, repairs are made with materials at hand and props are built and scenery rehashed in the alleys of theaters, often during the freezing winter. Sometimes miracles are pulled off in primitive conditions. When asked why a certain decision during production was made, you can mutter "battlefield conditions.".
“beat the clock” mentality--to do everything as quickly as possible, possibly making unnecessary errors.
bent 20--a 20-penny nail that is bent for use in loose-pin hinges on sets that are set and struck quickly and repeatedly, like at the old network soap operas (mostly dead) or at the Metropolitan Opera, which runs shows in rep. A rite of passage for theatrical apprentices is to spend hours at the vise making thousands of bent 20s.
bent out of shape--to become angry, to blow up. "The head was bent out of shape when he found his guys took a 40-minute coffee break."
"The best part of the production period is when the producers run out of money and stop holding 8 a.m. work calls.""The frantic work calls during the production period were suddenly cancelled. We realized the producers had blown their wad." "Even if the producers cry poverty, if there are still work calls, there is still money."
"Better than delivering Chinese food on a bicycle"--Whenever a character actor at one of the long-running shows on Broadway is asked how the show is treating him, he says "Better than delivering Chinese food on a bicycle."
between hangovers--sarcastic comment about a stagehand with a drinking problem. "He's a good head if you catch him between hangovers."
BFD--big fucking deal...jaded sarcasm.
BFH--big fucking hammer, like a sledgehammer
board op--board operator
Big-Ass Broadway Show--a hit. The same character actor on the long-running show says, when you ask him how he's doing, "I'm on a big-ass Broadway show, what could be better?"
Big Ben -- a person who doesn't know a thing about his task at hand but can tell you to the tenth of a second when the next coffee break, lunch break, end of the day etc.. is going to happen. Also used for persons who continually ask when the next break is. (For those who live under a rock, Big Ben is the famous clocktower in London.) (from Dennis Moore, Local #8, Philadelphia)
“Big trouble”--“How are things going?” “We got big trouble.” Sarcastic response, usually means everything is fine.
bike racks--crowd-control barriers. See also: Giuliani barriers
bio break--polite way to say, often during industrials and possibly over the radio, that you are taking a bathroom break.
bird-dog someone--to harass a coworker, usually maliciously.
birdie--small light put in deck or in scenery
birth defects--legacy stagehands who don't care to work hard.
bit--how a prop is used, a gag onstage. "What's the bit? During the bit, how does the prop keep getting broken?" See also: the business
bitch box--communication speaker (Kip Connell). Also known as a biscuit.
black out--stage goes completely black for several seconds (often for scenery changes, to strike props or for cast to exit). To see in the dark, you do pirate eye before you go onstage.
blackball--to vote against someone coming into the local. They can't really be blocked from joining the local. The two or three people this happened to in Local #1 were all accepted into the local at the next e-board meeting. Sometimes as a prank, when a young stagehand is coming in, their friends may present him or her with a black ball.
blacklist--to prevent someone from getting work on a long-term basis (from the McCarthy era)
bloodbath-rough job or load out, or sarcastic opposite
blood cannon--sprays fake blood on stage (Lieutenant of Innishmore)
blood curtain--clear, plastic curtain lowered in before the blood cannons go off in "American Psycho," to protect the audience from blood splatter from the copious amounts of blood used in the show. Allegedly, the blood splatter, without the curtain, can hit the first seven rows. After a recent performance, a patron was heard screaming, "Who's gonna clean the blood of my Louis Vuitton bag?" She's the perfect yuppie demographic.
blood capsule--gelatin capsule that an actor breaks in his/her mouth during a fight scene or to simulate being shot.
blood money--hard work or long hours that beats the crap out of you.
(to) blow someone up--to attack another stagehand's reputation to others.
blowing their wad--to run out of money, when the producers run out of money. "The frantic workcalls during the production period were suddenly cancelled. We realized the producers had blown their wad." Of course, there is the dirty meaning as well.
boneyard--area at concert ground load-in where scaffolding that is about to be used is stored. If the area is large enough, stagehands working in the boneyard may drive a golf cart back and forth with necessary pieces to the work areas. The scaffolding is brought to stagehands working on steel as it is needed.
bond--producers must post bond to cover salaries and liabilities in case of sudden closure.
book--union card (possibly Teamster term)
book man--man with union card.
book the flat--open a bifold flat so it doesn’t fall over
born to the blue--person born into a stagehand dynasty, often with a sense of entitlement and arrogance.
born with a union card in his mouth--son/daughter of multigenerational stagehand family
bounce the curtain--bring the curtain in, then immediately out (on
two-man curtains, the man on the left-hand line flies in the air and comes down quickly) so it gives the appearance of bouncing. Also called an opera bounce or bouncing the main.
bowler--man who hides in the bathroom, puts his feet up so he can’t be seen (Gershwin)
bouncing around--working different places, no full-time job
box call--dropping off road boxes and empty electric and motor boxes at start of load out. Sometimes the day before the real loadout starts.
box of rocks--dumb stagehand
box-office poison--a leading actor or actress who is capable of killing a show. Sometimes, a crew member who has worked on a string of bombs will call themselves box-office poison. "The young stage manager, who had worked on a string of bombs, called herself 'box-office poison.'" "Baywatch's David Hasselhoff was box-office poison for the original 'Jekyll and Hyde' in the late 1990's."
brain surgery--"It's not brain surgery"...The work is easy. "It's not brain surgery; it is more like rocket science."
break a leg--good luck (actors)
break the locks--to unlock the linesets on the fly floor, in preparation for pulling.
break your chops--to make fun of someone, sometimes harmless, sometimes malicious
break your shovel--destroy contact, lose job
breaking down conditions--to work during breaks, to work with less men than is required, to cross departmental lines.
breaking the fourth wall-- when a character addresses the audience
breast--to move a pipe or a lineset, or even the house curtain, so you can get something by. "Breast that pipe for me, I can push this dolly by." (Ruth M. Atcherson, Eugene, Ore.)
brick--stage weight, 25lb or 40lb lead, “throw another brick on it,” “throw a lead on.” A leaf is a 1/4 brick
brick in the wall--to ignore existence of another person in the theater (“From now on, he’s another brick in the wall,” said the head carpenter, of a rude PSM)
bringing him along--to mentor or help a young stagehand, to bring up to speed
bring in the rag--pull in the house curtain
Broadway hungry--when a stagehand tries hard to get work on Broadway, after coming from the TV studios or the industrial world, where the pay is lower. "The former apprentice was Broadway hungry, trying to work in the theaters."
Broadway quality--sarcastic comment of quality of work being done. "That's not Broadway quality!" "Those streamers are Broadway quality."
Broadway schadenfreude--a secret or not-so-secret desire for a show to close. Schadenfreude is the German term that means "joy at other people's sorrow." Taking joy at a show closing.
broken flip-flop--worse than a shoe
break the hour--to move into overtime
broken stud=shovel...”If you break a stud while working on the seats, you are out. You’ll be digging ditches.”
broom up my ass--a statement of exasperation..."If you want me to work any harder, I could stick a broom up my ass and sweep while working." I once faced down a psychotic tech with this line and it worked. What do you say in response? "I'll get the broom."
bug--union stamp on scenery, with local and shop numbers. “They loaded in scenery without a bug.”
buck back--when management pushes you, you buck back to ensure that the work rules are met.
bucket brigade--when stagehands line up to hand pieces or boxes down the line.
bump cap--basically an oversized baseball cap with a hard plastic lining, distributed to many Local #1 stagehands a decade ago, but never used. The brainchild of former trustee Danny Dashman.
buried alive--when you work at the long-running show like "Phantom" or "Wicked," people think you have retired.
bury the curtain--when the house curtain is pulled past its trim, the curtain hits the deck hard and the curtain goods bunch up.
"Bury this"--order from the head to get rid of a hamper, a cut piece of scenery or a dead prop, buried deep in the basement or against the upstage wall, possibly blocked by other items.
buyout--in filming or recording, a one-time payment for crew members.
bus and truck--tour with one-week stops or less.
business--the business, the bit where a prop is used. "What is the business where the notebook is used?"
bust a hump--to work hard
bust a move--to start a project, to change a job. Or a dance move. "Break's over. Let us bust a move and store the dead orchestra seats."
busted valise--pathetic soul, screwed up
busted valise local--local full of bad stagehands
Butcher of Broadway--Frank Rich, Times theater critic known for erudite, self-indulgent reviews and for savaging shows in the 1980s and early 1990s.
butter hands--stagehand known to drop things.
button up the truck--closing a truck up after it is loaded
button up the trap--closing the trap in the deck after automation and roadboxes have been lowered by motors into the basement. The show deck usually covers the trap for the run of the show.
button job--run automation
(the) buzz--the advance gossip, can help make or break a show before it opens. See also: word of mouth
“Can’t we all get along?”--when the departments are fighting, Rodney King line during the Los Angeles riots. See also: "Aren't we all on the same side?"
Cha-Ching!--sound you make when it is clear we are going into overtime. (mimicking the sound of a cash register opening.) Also: Ka-Ching!
California screwdriver--hammer (road term)
to get called before the board--stagehands who break important union rules may get called before the Executive Board of the Local.
(the) call-- how a stage manager calls a show. "The ASM was traning to do the call for "Gypsy."
“Call the hall”--calling the replacement room of the union hall, looking for a man to work at that moment.
calling the show--done by the PSM or another stage manager. Calling lighting, sound and automation cues, turning on cue lights for automation and even actor entrances. An adept PSM will call a great show and things run smoothly. Some PSMs call a dangerous show.
can’t get arrested--hard time getting hired
card time--In Local #1, it takes three straight years of $37.5K in the jurisdiction, then you have to wait on the organizational list for a year. If you miss a year, you have to start over again. "I am trying to get my card time done."
carpenter focus--when the carpenters smack into a low-hanging light ladder or a light boom, usually with a large rolling unit, changing the focus on the instruments.
Casper--stagehand who hides well, like a ghost
casting couch--the reason to become a producer
"catch of the day"--when a head hires different extra men and women on different days of a load in, with varying skill levels, so there is no consistency. The poor contract head doesn't know what he or she is going to get.
ch, rch--to move a piece of scenery or a unit a small amount. An rch is even less than a ch.
“Checks are Bouncing”--nickname for the financially troubled 2001 Broadway revival of “Bells are Ringing”
character actor/actress--actor who plays important comic or dramatic roles, that is neither a lead nor a member of the chorus. Often actresses that age out of playing ingenues, and actors that may not have the charisma or looks to be leading men.
cheap it out (v.): to use cheap, inappropriate materials when building scenery. "The shop used pine when building the deck instead of a hardwood...they cheaped it out."
chewing the scenery--overacting. See also: "tooth-marks on the scenery."
chicklets--teeth punched out
Chicken Little--a doom-and-gloom stagehand, always sees the sky as falling, can rip the silver-lining out of every cloud.
“coke the stage”--to put Coca-Cola on a slippery deck (adding a small amount of Coke to a mop bucket). Also, propmen will use the liquid rosin mixture called "Slip No More." Sometimes the deck becomes too sticky after mopping with Coke.
climb the trucks--get up on the running boards of nonunion trucks, intimidate drivers during union disputes.
"clear for talent"--sarcastic and usually friendly term used when actors are walking through a group of stagehands.
climbing steel--building scaffolding at concerts. "I am doing steel," "I never do steel."
clockers--around the clock work. "Last week, I did two clockers in the TV station."
clown hammer--large orange hard plastic sledgehammer used for banging deck pieces together. Can be short-handled five-pounder, as well. These hammers don't ding the things they hit.
cluster fuck--things are all screwed up, boxed in, big disaster
coffin key--long-handled allen key used for locking platforms together or unlocking them. The recessed lock in the deck is called a coffin lock.
coffin carry--two or four men on a long, rectangular piece, often platforms or actual coffins.
collateral damage--unintended victims. "When the head was fired and replaced, his regular stagehands never worked in that theater again. They were collateral damage to regime change."
combo crew--ramp/studio crew at NBC, may perform some carpentry functions. Responsible for delivering scenery and props to the NBC studios.
company manager--handles finances of the running show, responsible for payroll and approving expenses, reimbursing petty cash.
company meetings--on Broadway, these company meetings are usually called to announce new principals and closings. See: Producer Pep Talks.
conditions--work conditions(i.e. breaking down conditions)
construction rate--additional money for stagehands rebuilding a set in the theater,
building scenery, modifying or manufacturing props, usually skilled mechanics.
costume money--the $160 a week paid to a stagehand for wearing a costume in a Broadway show. "I only work for assholes if they pay costume money."
counting the house--Looking out into the house surreptitiously, to estimate the box office success of the show.
cover a track--to do a stagehand's cues.
conversational headlock--when a co-worker talks too much and won't let you get a word in. "Working with Jimmy is like being in a conversational headlock all day."
cracking the code--figuring out a solution to an ongoing problem.
crash-and-burn--major automation screw up or failure, probably causing a chain reaction.
cross pick--four men carry a heavy piece of scenery
cross the line--cross pickets
crossing departmental lines--doing work in other departments, breaking down conditions.
crushed/crusher/crushface--drunk, got drunk, a drunk
cue lights--lights flipped on by stage manager to indicate cues to men on the fly floor or on the deck. There was a legendary flyman and drinker who would take the bulb out of the flyrail cue light and stick his finger in the socket. When the SM calling the show would flip the cue light, it would jolt him awake. throwing the cue lights.
curley shuffle--moving motor boxes and road boxes back into the theater at the end of a load-in day.
curtainman--man who pulls the house curtain. Until several contracts ago, there was a curtainman even when there was no curtain.
cut a man/cut a job--to get rid of men
cut list--men producers want to cut after opening, also a list a carpenter draws up
cut your language--watch your language, no cursing, often because there are children backstage.
cutie pie--sleazy, manipulative person (term favored by Scott Mulrain)
CYA--"cover your ass," a "cover your ass" moment.
D-rate--lowest-paid stagehand on Broadway. "'Til the strike, my wife didn't know she married a D-rate stagehand."
to do the heavy lifting- -a day or period of hard work (unloading trucks, carrying couches to the fifth floor)..."we had some heavy lifting to do," "We already did the heavy lifting.”
dance floor--raised platform in the front of a trailer. "Make sure the hampers are on the dance floor."
dance captain--actor designated to teach new cast members their roles and to keep the standards up for cast members in long-running productions.
day player--stagehand hired day by day on a load in, usually doesn't have a spot on the show.
day work--work done by wardrobe members to maintain a show, mending costumes, ironing and more ironing. Also, for stagehands who have a regular show on Broadway, day work means working at other theaters, loading in other shows.
Dead baby seals--sandbags made out of old inner tubes (Sarah Gowen, Sapsis Rigging)
Debbie Downer-- constant complainer. SHOULD be used for both sexes. Based on the old SNL skit.
deck carpenter/deck electrician--man who does cues on deck, as opposed to flyman or front light operator.
deck man--stagehand famous for building stages, a master carpenter. Charlie Rasmussen, a Shubert carpenter, was rumored to have leveled his decks with playing cards.
deaf and dumb (D & D)-- an old longshoreman's term. "He's deaf and dumb, he didn't hear anything and can't say anything about it."
deluge curtain--firefighting device, sends thousands of gallons of water to the deck in seconds
departmental lines--props, carpentry, electric, sound.
design associate--underpaid assistants to scenic designers, costume designers and sound designers. Can be useful, can be an ignorant nuisance. Some try to do the work of stagehands during production period.
(to) diamond--diamond the piece, turn a piece on wheels 90 degrees to push it up the ramp of a trailer.
diaper--box with baffling, to muffle chain motor sound
diggers--people who buy large blocks of tickets for ticket resellers when hot new shows start selling tickets. "The box office treasurer limited sales to 10 tickets a day per person, to try to thwart the diggers who buy large blocks of tickets for ticket resellers. "They buy weekend and holiday tickets," she said. "They are digging out the show."
dim the lights on Broadway--when a famous actor or director dies, someone of a Helen Hayes stature, the marquee lights on Broadway are dimmed. To be precise, the marquees of all open theaters are turned off for one minute, from 8:00 p.m. to 8:01 p.m., for the marquees are not on dimmers.
to get dinged--to get hit, usually on the head
dinner theater--productions done at the Roundabout Theatre or Manhattan Theatre Club, known for their low rates. "This is real theater, not dinner theater."
“Diva Las Vegas”—pejorative term applied by a wardrobe supervisor to a female lead with a long list of complaints.
divot--cut on the head
do me a solid--do me a favor
doe-see-doe--spin piece 180 degrees (misuse of square dancing term...in square dancing, you move 360). Also: end for end dog house--cursed Broadway theaters, where the theater owners always put the doomed shows. Often theaters located east of 6th Avenue. donkey/narrowback--Irish immigrant/Irish American...narrowbacks have much less muscular backs from less hard work. For me, this comes from the Irish influences of Local #1.
"don't get a sunburn"--Warning by a head not to go out drinking on breaks (to get a flushed face)..."Don't come back from coffee with a sunburn."
"don't get captured"--what you admonish stagehands being sent off on a mission...taken from a police sergeant's stock line from "The Wire" when sending his officers out on the street.
"Don't pee on my back and tell me it's raining"--great line for confronting a boss or another stagehand who is trying to force you into a bad situation by misrepresenting what will happen.
Don't show your teeth until you have to--controlling signs of aggression in a confrontation.
to doop someome--a small bribe or tribute to grease the wheels. "I dooped the elevator man a twenty so we had express service while loading in at 890 Broadway." See also: baksheesh.
Don't fight, girls. You're both pretty--When two stagehands or actors are fighting over something trivial, you can say this to them. Should be for both sexes.
double dip--working two jobs at once.
doubling, to double--working two payrolls at once
double double--meal penalty
double handle--move pieces multiple times
down low--keep it quiet, also: "on the QT"
Dr. Nice--famously nasty head, who often terrorized his men. He was the curator of Schindler's List.
Dressers’ Rebellion--At “Check’s Are Bouncing” in 2001, the dressers rebelled against producer Mitchell Maxwell to get paid.
dressing--nonmoving items that are attached to the set by props during the load in.
drop a dime, dimedropper--fink, to report someone.
drop character--for an actor to lose focus, to go out of character.
drop a line--when an actor forgets a line and continues.
dropsy--the tendency to drop things. “I have a bad case of the dropsies today.” Also: Butter hands
dry waterboarding--an incredibly boring job, where there is not enough work to keep busy. Several years ago, we were standing around at the 69th Street Armory, trying to look busy. In the prop department, we would run out of work often, for we had to wait for the props to arrive from England for the big Shakespeare festival. As we kept sweeping and re-sweeping the already clean parade floor, an old timer said, "This is like dry waterboarding."
dumb end--straight casters on a moving piece or a dolly. The smart end has swivel casters.
dummy proof--to mark something or to arrange a preset so that even the dumbest stagehand will get it right.
dummy up--keep quiet, often when management is around
e-board--the Executive Board of the Local.
early man--goes home before the end of the show, often when several stagehands whack up the last cues.
Edgewater Boys--New Jersey stagehands from the rough waterfront town of Edgewater, wear shorts until December.
elder tantrum--sudden, usually inappropriate bursts of anger from older stagehands, set in their ways.
(to be) elevated--when a Broadway head proves him/herself at a small house, they may be elevated to a more lucrative, larger theater
end for end--180 the piece
equity cots--cheap camping cots provided for actors to sleep on. It is a contract requirement, something like one cot per five or six actors.
Evil Gene--Gene O'Donovan, notoriously nasty and dishonest tech, former owner of Aurora Productions. Also known as Mean Gene.
exit preset--when you get your bag and coat ready so you can run out the door to make a bus or train
extra man--works under a head
fahcocked (Yiddish) or "on the valoop": something is not square or straight.
fade-- to quietly leave the job early, one at a time. “Okay, fade out guys,””you guys, fade”
fade into the woodwork--to not be noticed
failure to answer the call of the union--not accepting or paying for your union card
familied up--family connections, that's why someone has a job.
fatootsed--(Yiddish, or maybe fake Yiddish) to be distracted, to be frustrated. "I was all fatootsed learning the new prop track."
Fava patent leather left shower sandal--worse than a shoe
front line in, back line out-- flyfloor term
featherbedding--to be paid for a superfluous job
fill in--subbing around, "fill in work."
fill in the pit--to fill the orchestra pit in with platforms to add extra seats in the orchestra section.
fight captain--fight consultant, choreographs fights. On a production with a large cast, it may be a designated actor.
"Fire in the hole!"--warning that pyro will be tested. I think it is an old mining term.
fire watch--stagehands or actual firemen hired to standby with fire extinguishers
first broom--assistant to a head propman
first cover--an actor paid to cover the star of a show, who may have no role of their own in the show. If so, they are a standby, meaning they are required to be available for every performance to cover the star, to be on standby. The standby is a principal contract and can only be on standby for principals in the show. (A standby may cover multiple principals. Sometimes by contract, the standby must be within a 15-minute walk of the theater while the performance is on. A second cover is often an ensemble member who is rehearsed to cover the star role when the first cover is sick or on vacation.
first sweep--prop man's #1, the first assistant. "Bill is the first sweep at that theater." See also: first broom.
flop sweat: when producers start to freak out during production or previews that they may have a flop on their hands, so the creatives are directed to make radical changes, adding or cutting songs and monkeying with the book. Sometimes the freak out is justified and the show is saved, and other times the cuts or additions damage the living organism. "The producer broke into a flop sweat that the show was going to bomb and demanded radical changes to the finale." (term from Patrick Healy, New York Times, April 17, 2014)
fluffer--prop person who is skilled with fabric goods (drapes, pillows and bedspreads). Has different meaning in porn world.
flush the house--before the first preview, to clear the FOH of all production garbage and tech tables.
flush the truck--to empty a truck of all its contents.
fly floor--where the linesets are located. Usually up on a high concrete platform, but sometimes on the deck (call it a fly rail then)
flyman--stagehand responsible for all drops and flying pieces, supervising men on the flyfloor. Nowadays, pieces are often automated, cutting number of stagehands working the flyfloor
fly rail--the actual linesets and locks.
force majeur--act of nature, acceptable delay without overtime
four bag--four men on a piece ("Let’s four bag the piece”)
foot the piece--put your foot on the bottom of a piece (usu. a flat or column), so somebody can send it up to you
"Forever came"--the end of "Cats." The 18-year musical "Cats" had the motto, "Now and forever." At the loadout, some stagehand wag noted, "Forever came."
forever job--long-running Broadway shows like "Phantom of the Opera," "Lion King," "Wicked" and "Jersey Boys," where stagehands plan their retirements off of them. "Cats" felt like a forever job, but closed after 18 years.
"Fork it"--to move something with a forklift.
four-by-eight--standard-sized platform (4'x8' sheet of plywood top, 2"x4" legs of varying lengths, 5/4" frame)
Foy rig--flying equipment
fragile cookie--person barely holding it together
French alteration--placebo alteration for a troublesome actor, calming them down by pretending to fix a costume (from SAPSIS Rigging)
from the trades: when a stagehand comes from another related industry like construction, the carpenters' union or the electrical workers (IBEW)...usually means that he or she comes in with specific skills, usually a recommendation. "Oh yeah, the new carpenter at the load in comes from the trades."
fuck knuckle--idiot, affectionate term
"fuck the road...this is Broadway"...standard response to a roadman who repeatedly bleats "This is how we did it on the road."
fucked up beyond repair--FUBAR (military term)
fuck-you fund--money saved so you can quit a job and buy time to look for another job. Money so you can say "fuck you" to a bad boss and leave.
fugazi--Italian Mafia slang for a fake item, or a phony.
to futz around--to waste time. (From the Yiddish arumfatzen, to fart about.) "I was futzing around in the basement before my first cue."
garden-variety asshole--difficult stagehand with no power.
George M. Cohan's's back pocket--the planter surrounding the statue of the composer and performer George M. Cohan on the island near 46th and Broadway...during industrial events on the island, which is known as Father Duffy Square, after the heroic World War I chaplain of the Fighting 69th (the Irish unit, many recruited from Hell's Kitchen), bottled water is stored in the planter for the working stagehands.
get it on the load out--when a prop, a flashlight or an important piece of hardware rolls under the show deck, it is often impossible to retrieve. Someone will say, "We'll get it on the loadout," meaning the item will be retrieved then, or possibly never.
get on--to get a job on a load-in or a show. "Did you get on Spiderman?"
"get adult supervision"--find a supervisor, a head or even a designer to detail the work that has to be done. When a small crew of extra men need direction, sometimes a loudmouth in the group will start barking out orders. A saner head might say, "Let's get adult supervision," meaning get the person responsible for the project to sign off on it or to explain what has to be done.
to get panned--to get a bad review. ""In his typical self-indulgent reviewing style, Ben Brantley panned 'American Psycho' while still extolling the virtues of Ben Walker's hardbody."
ghosting--people on the payroll not actually there
ghostlight--keeps the ghosts of failed shows away; also, a safety light for firemen) ...on deck, after curtain is pulled out when house clears.
Giuliani barriers--metal crowd control barriers put out in front of theaters, named after Mussolini-like former mayor of New York City. Also called bike racks.
ginsu--two-sided Japanese saw, name comes from old knife infomercial
give 'em the hook--take a bad performer off the stage. Old vaudeville bit, literally using a hook to take a singer or comedian offstage.
to give props-- respect, proper respect, respect that is due, a compliment. "I have to give you props for that beautiful dance number you choreographed." "Give him his props...he's a head of department."
glue the locks--sabotage of nonunion trucks during labor disputes
"glue guns in the air"--break is over, start work; sarcastic prop version of "hammers in the air"
GM--general manager, person hired by producer to set up the show, hires the tech and the production crew.
God's gift to chorus girls--several older stagehands on Broadway, with an inflated sense of their sex appeal to young dancers.
go medieval on someone-- to go out of your way to hurt somebody who has wronged you, to torture someone for a slight or a screwing...borrowed from the dungeon scene in "Pulp Fiction." "I'm going to go medieval on his ass after that load in."
"Good manners in the sandbox"-- all departments have to work together and behave. May be said when there is a history of bad blood between different heads. See also: "Hey, we all have to play in this sandbox."
good provider--stagehand good at supporting family (mob term)
good soldier--follows orders, keeps mouth shut, does his/her work as fast as he can. "I want to recommend a guy to you...he's a good soldier."
“going to the balcony to hear what the show sounds like”--the sound designer is going to take a nap during the brutal tech period.
“going to the grid”--if a soundman says this, they mean they are going to take a nap
golden triangle--theaters between West 44th and West 46th Streets.
go-to guy--hard worker (can be sarcastic)
“Gimme a rub”--help me, usually to pull a heavy piece
Genie weight--big lug, only good for stopping a genie from falling over, person who stands at the bottom of the Genie, usually the least skilled stagehand.
get your ticket--get your union card
good-enough stiff--a stiff good enough to sub, but not good enough or connected enough to take a full-time job on Broadway.
good government job--job on a long-running show. Dependable pay, like the post office or some other civil service job. "Working on 'Phantom' is a good government job."
gravy--extra benefits. “Working the show is gravy after the load-in.”
(the) Great Land Grab--when the different departments during a load in grab different areas of the basement or other available places of the theater to store their road boxes, put chairs and tables, as well as to make sleeping berths. As a rule, wardrobe tends to grab most of the basement, the house heads tend to have their own offices and the stagehands who work for the theater might have a crew room. The remaining space is usually divvied up among the contract stagehands, who work for the show.
great lady of the theater--usually affectionate term, applied to older character actresses who have been around for a while or older dressers or wardrobe supervisors. Can be sarcastic.
(The) Great White-Out Way--a pun on the old term from Broadway, the Great White Way, referring to the blizzard on Saturday, January 23, 2016 that shut down Broadway shows for the third time in recent memory. People who bought $1500 "Hamilton" tickets were bummed out because there was no rain-date show. All they got back was the face value of the tickets, which is around $177.
“Greek it out”--cover up the brand names on products seen on camera (TV term)
guillotine reveal--house curtain that drops in vertically. Standard in most Broadway theaters. I believe this is an archaic term. Some places use the Austrian curtain, which is pulled up in large swags. You can't go wrong by saying "Pull out the rag."
gum chewers--men, usually in small groups, who come back from meals chewing gum to cover up the smell of booze. "Gum is a necessary evil," said the carpenter.
Gypsy run-through/invited dress--paper is given out to dancers and members of the theatrical community. They clap at everything.
Hairballs--obsessive fans of the musical "Hair" (2009-10 Broadway version)
(a) haircut--when you cut the top off a prop or a small piece of scenery, so it can be accommodated backstage. "We had to give the bookcase unit a haircut so it would fit on the set."
half an asshole--stagehand who is unpredictable...not always nasty, but not very nice.
half and half--dangerous procedure for getting a long, heavy item off a liftgate truck, where you hang half the item off the lift, and men hold the weight up as the lift goes down.
hammer--obnoxious stagehand who enforces rules of a head, often lacking essential skills.
hammer time--flipping sets during a changeover. At the CBS TV studios on 57th Street, it meant poker on the break.
hammers in the air--break is over, get back to work.
hand off--production stagehand sets up show and hands it off to house head(head gets the overage), to give an actor a prop
hang out--wait for orders where you are
"Happy to be here!"--as Rome burns and the load-in goes south, don't complain or pick sides. Put a broad smile on your face and say, "Happy to be here!" It is a personal shield more appropriate for Indians than heads. Also, you can say when there is blood on the floor, "Happy to have the job."
Happy Valley--theater or TV studio where the stagehands and actors, and even stage managers get along. The opposite of the places like the House of Hate. Can be sarcastic, as well.
hard exit--when you have to leave a call at a set time to go on to another call. You are not able to do overtime that may suddenly come up. "I told the boss I had to make a hard exit at 5 p.m. to get to my Broadway preset by 5:30."
hard flat--wood or metal-framed flat, skinned with plywood. Opposite of soft flat.
hard-soft rule: a rule that is on the books, but that is rarely enforced by management.
Hate Island--mezzanine in CBS scenic shop full of hateful old mechanics
have at it--hit me with your best shot
"Having fun and making money"--another good sarcastic line when there is chaos at the theater. Nothing rankles your enemies more than being happy and unflappable.
"Having the time of my life"--sarcastic response when asked how you are doing. see: "Living the dream."
"He had handles on his back"--noticing an obvious candidate to be thrown under the bus.
He hates his men almost as much as he hates himself"--said of a famously difficult head.
headbuster--lighting unit hanging on an offstage boom that is perfect for whacking cast and crew in the head. (Sapsis Rigging) See also: kneebuster
head hubris--when a long-term head decides that he or she will hire people without cards.
headitis--same as head hubris.
"Heads!"--yelled, usually too late, when something like hardware has been dropped from the grid or a high platform.
head up his ass--pompous ass, doesn’t know what he is doing
head up So-and-So's ass--an asskisser.
header, take a header--to fall head first, usually off a ladder (a header is also a scenic piece)
"heard it on the Erie"--to discuss gossip with someone, often the subject of that gossip. "I heard it on the Erie that you got the head's job at the Booth."
heavy hitters--men who make a lot of money, techs, heads
hemp house--house where fly system is rigged with hemp lines and sandbags
"He's got a heart of gold, but a head like concrete"--said of a self-destructive stagehand, who is well meaning, but makes foolish decisions, often getting himself fired from different venues.
Hessians--short-term labor, not necessarily high-quality stagehands.
“Hey now, there’s a lady in the room”--what is said when a male stagehand is using obscene language or telling offensive stories in front of a female stagehand (or any female) in the room.
"Hey, we all have to play in this sandbox." When stagehands from different departments are bickering over turf issues during a call or a workcall, a cooler head might point out that we all have to work together. Often said with humorous intent.
hissy fit--hysterical behavior by designers or actors. May result in permanent shunning. See: "brick in the wall"
"Hit me with your best shot"--from an old Pat Benatar song, implying that one stagehand in a confrontation doesn't have the guts to hit another. See also: "Have at it."
hit your marks--for an actor, to be at his/her right spot on the stage.; for stagehands, getting a large prop or a piece of scenery to the onstage spike marks.
hit with a rolled up newspaper on the nose--when you are reprimanded by your boss
hoofer--outdated term for dancer
Hold clipboard, point light"--when overeager stage managers start trying to do stagehand moves, like doing handoffs, moving props or paging tabs, they can be reminded gently or not, "Hold clipboard, point light," indicating what their responsibilities are, and that a conscientious stagehand will do his/her moves.
holidays--missing spots while painting or fireproofing. "I don't want any holidays," said the shop foreman.
Hollywood sober--where someone has given up the hard drugs like coke and heroin, but smokes a lot of reefer to make up for it.
honey badger--a stagehand who rips stuff apart without consideration, fear or skill...taken from the classic YouTube video (D. Chisholm, SF)
honorable withdrawal--to leave a local on good terms, with the possibility of rejoining
hooks--, stagehand who gives you work, places to work. "My first hook in the business was the head at the Wintergarden."
horse cock--heavy cable used by electricians
horse shoes--custom-made wooden cover to protect sawhorses while cutting
house deck--basic plywood deck that the theater provides. Can be covered with painted masonite or the show deck goes on top
house seats--good tickets reserved for creatives, stars, cast and crew. Must pay full freight, but you can get them at the last minute.
House of Hate--Majestic (where “Phantom” is).
How’s the pack?--how is the truck packed?
Hum head--sound man
humping scenery--moving a lot of scenery, or any kind of hard, repetitious work...”We humped the couches up five flights of stairs.”
hurry up and wait--to do all tasks quickly, then to wait and do nothing
hyphenate--Local 1-IBEW in TV studios, dual cardholder, can move camera equipment (International brotherhood of Electrical Workers).
I.A./International--IATSE (represents only the United States and Canada)
idiot check--to double check a preset before a prop is used in a scene. Also: dummy check.
"I'll cut you," "I'll cut your pretty face"--mock threats of violence, when somebody crosses the line.
"I'll Sleep When I'm Dead"--self explanatory, stolen from the Bon Jovi song.
"I'll turn you into a hood ornament!"--Jerry Lewis, when he was at "Damn Yankees" in 1995, told his dresser, "I'll turn you into a hood ornament" when he was dissatisfied with something, meaning that he'd run him down with a car. I think that must have come from Jerry's years in Las Vegas.
The Illustrated Propman--young, earnest and nebbishy road propman for a big dance company who has out-of-character full-sleeve tattoos.
I’m golden--everything’s okay, everything’s great (can be sarcastic)
"I came from the back of a truck"--No matter where you wind up in the stage industry, the vast majority of us started by unloading trucks. A lot of heads should remember this when they make decisions that affect stagehands working under them.
Indian--basic man on Broadway, no power. "I'm just an Indian."
"I don't mean to be an asshole, but..."--by Broadway standards, the polite way of pointing out an obvious error..."I don't mean to be an asshole, but you've hung that drop backwards."
“I got mine, start the car”--I’m done. also: “I got mine.”
“I got it, Mr. Feller”--sarcastic, brown-nosing line using name of late, famous tech.
"I love the smell of overtime in the morning"--on that hard-to-achieve sixth day of work on load-ins, those who work all six days start the day at time and a half. The quote is a takeoff of the Robert Duvall line in "Apocalypse Now."
"I only work for assholes if there is costume money involved"--who wouldn't want to make $184 a week for changing your pants?
ice--money made by box office personnel for selling tickets to hit shows to ticket brokers and scalpers, also to line someone's pocket.
ice cream line--cotton line and bucket thrown down from fly floor, to pull up paychecks or other items (cups of coffee, ice cream)
I pick stuff up, I put stuff down-- the stagehand life of humping stuff.
"If it's free, it is for me."--an expression explaining the stagehand romance with swag.
"If you kill me, I'll haunt you forever"--said to the young stagehand controlling the chain motor that suspended the piano I was working under.
"If you like him, invite him to dinner": When two stagehands are engrossed in conversation at the expense of working, the crew chief might yell, "If you like him, invite him to dinner," so they go back to work.
"If you shit on your job, sometimes your job will shit on you"-- the risk of firing if you are blatantly lazy and don't work.
"I'll keep you in mind"--if a head says this, he or she will never hire you.
in confusion, there is money--when the tech does not have his or her shit together, there is always unforeseen overtime and extra hires, making stagehands extra money.
in his cups--to be drunk (archaic)
in the bag--drunk
infared--camera that can see in the dark. "The automation man used an infared to make sure the cast and crew were safe and clear as pieces moved during blackouts."
ingenue--young actress, plays romantic roles. Short shelf life.
"ink still wet (or not dry) on your card"--new Onesy, reference to inexperience. "Shut your mouth...the ink isn't dry on your card yet."
injured reserve list--when half the stagehands in a department claim (or exaggerate) injuries (back, neck, wrist, etc.) that prevent them from unloading trucks during a load in. "Five of the guys in the prop department were on the injured reserve list at “Dracula,” so that left three of us to unload the steel."
"I don't know. I'm not paid to know"-- the ultimate Indian response...I'm just doing what I'm told to do, I don't have any answers.
I pick stuff up, I put stuff down-- the stagehand life of humping stuff.
Irish affirmative action--Italians
"I speak fluent Irish American"--since Local #1 still has a large number of Irish American members, it is useful to understand the Irish American psychology. There are specific subsets, like the Westies of Hell’s Kitchen, Rockland County Irish, Queens Irish and Long Island Irish.
isle of sloth--theater or TV department where the stagehands have no interest in working, often stocked with badly trained children of stagehands. "The Outside Prop Room at NBC was a real isle of sloth, where the young stagehand wouldn't stop watching TV as the interns raided the prop bins."
"It's an old man's job, but I'll grow into it"--A relative of mine got a plum job as a TV news studio head, which is a "light on, lights off" studio. Somebody said it was an old man's job. His response was, "It's an old man's job, but I'll grow into it."
The "It's Over" Meeting--the load-out meeting. When an actress at a recent show of mine saw the production crew and house heads sitting in the house discussing the load out, she said in a chirpy voice, "Oh, it's the 'it's over' meeting." She was right.
It's My Turn in the Barrel"--It is my turn to do an unpleasant task, or it could be your turn to be in trouble. Could also be "It's your turn in the barrel." It comes from an obscene, homoerotic myth about how Navy men dealt with their sexual urges on long voyages. Ask your Navy veteran uncle to explain it, for I won't.
"It's not my circus, it's not my monkeys." Whatever fuck up is happening right now is not my responsibility.
"It's not my first rodeo"--sarcastic response when someone explains a simple task (road slang), also: “It’s not my first picnic,” “I ain’t got no ketchup on my shirt.”
“It’s live theater, man”--explaining away little errors. "Ah, the joys of live theater."
"I've seen a lot of buses go over me at this show"--hostile work environment where people are routinely thrown in by others...told from the perspective of somebody thrown under the bus. see also: thrown under the bus, thrown in.
Iwo Jima--(v) to Iwo Jima something, where a group of stagehands pushes an item up, with one stagehand footing the item, i.e. a boom pipe. "Iwo Jima" comes from the WWII flag raising. (Inspired by Ruth Atcherson, Portland, Ore.)
Jekkies--fanatics of the Broadway show "Jekyll and Hyde"
jerkbag--jerk, technique to raise a pipe in a hemp house
Jerry rigged--sloppy, improvised job, i.e. to jerry rig a Genie so you don’t need the outriggers (slur against German building techniques from World War II)
Jerry’s Jerks--men who work for Jerry Harris, owner of PRG.
Jesus nails--any nail 4” or longer (Sapsis Rigging)
Judas meal--meal offered by some Broadway producers right after the 2007 strike.
jump ship before it sinks--when the contract men and women on a show start leaving for other jobs as the ticket sales start going down.
junior shit-stirrer-young stagehand who tries to stir up controversy without guile or skill. Often not aware of the alliances that he or she is stepping on.
juke-box musical--musicals based on the pop music of one old star or a time period (1950's or 1960's). Some hit big ("Jersey Boys" will have run for 11 years when it closes; "Moving Out" ran for about two years, and "Beautiful" is still going strong), but most fail.
keep jurisdiction--to ensure a stagehand presence in certain places in the theater, i.e. preventing stage managers and interns from doing stagehand work. "The house propman ensured that props carried out all work in the dressing rooms, keeping jurisdiction for the local."
keep your toilet shut--shut up, also: keep your toilet mouth shut.
key man--archaic term for “key” job, with extra pay. Does exist in certain contracts, like the one for the Lincoln Center Festival.
kick line--an old-style vaudeville/Rockettes number.
King of the Flops--producer Mitchell Maxwell, as per NY Post in 4-01, after the Dresser Rebellion at “Bells are Ringing”
kiss the ring--paying tribute to the head, like a loyal vassal...I have also heard a more obscene interpretation of this action.
knife the dog--attach scenery or large props to the automation system with a metal or fiber knife, can be L-shaped or round
knucklebuster--a stop put on ropes on the fly floor.
a knuckle-dragger--not a bright guy, exhibiting ape-like qualities, maybe strong for his size.
kowtow--to bow down, to show servile deference. From the Chinese.
laid and paid--happy stagehand, or a usually mopey stagehand who shows a brief moment of happiness. "It looks like he just got laid and paid."
lay masonite--masonite put down to protect carpets during a load-in/loadout, or to protect a painted deck when you roll a Genie over it.
The League--The League of American Theatres and Producers, Broadway management.
lean on the piece--do something, just don’t stand there
Le Miza Bob--a miserable stagehand named Bob, always complaining and sucking the life out of those he works with. A takeoff on the title of the never-ending musical “Le Miz.” In Local #1, we have a Le Miza Bob working Legit and one in TV.
leash--radio, “I’m going to put my leash on.”
Legit--legitimate theater, Broadway theater, working under a union contract, as opposed to (mostly) nonunion off-Broadway. "I'm working Legit."
"Let's blow this bar mitzvah"--Let's get out of here.
"Let's go get an olive soup"-a martini, "Let's go get a martini."
light pink--IA contract ("light pink contract") that allows the producers to pay stagehands lower rates. "The tour has a 'light pink' contract that is below Broadway rates." Also: modified pink.
"lights on, lights off" studio--a TV studio where there is not much to do, where basically the electrician running the board spends most of his/her time raising and lowering the lights.
like rats in a box--to play men off each other, no room in the basement of a theater, so people begin to argue. "Bobby Bobby Bobby treated his men like rats in a box, playing them off each other."
line through your name--to lose a contact, to cross a name off the list, a head intentionally crosses your name off his hiring list... “I just put a line through your name.”
lit up--drunk, can be gregarious or aggressive
little swinging dick—stagehand with big mouth and little power. Can easily be shut down.
"Living the dream"--said when doing work that is particularly filthy or boring.
Local #1 express--the 11:10 pm Metro North train (to upstate New York, Peekskill, etc.)
Local 1A--segregated Harlem local (now defunct), absorbed into Local #1
“lock it”--to lock a light after it is focused
long in the tooth--a little too old, too old to be a chorine or ingenue
longitis--in the case of long-running shows, individual stagehands turn on each other, whole departments stop speaking with each other. See: Phantom
load-in season--March/April and August/September
loading bridge--bridge or platform where stagehands load weights on to arbors.
lurgy--British/Australian slang for an unspecified illness, possibly a fictional illness, that travels around small communities like the backstage of a theater, often referred to as the "dreaded lurgy."
lush roller--a petty criminal who specializes in robbing drunks passed out on the subway. It is a lost art, where the robber cuts a U-shaped hole in the front pocket of the passed-out drunk and pulls the wallet out. This happened to a famously drunk stagehand in the last few years on the subway going out to Queens.A man is his early eighties was arrested for lush rolling last year.
mahoney, lobby pan--dust pan on a stick
Major Nelson--"Who’s watching the Genie? Major Nelson."
“Make it safe”--put a safety on a light, tie a piece off. “Make it safe and take coffee”
make a federal offense out of something--when a boss overreacted and makes a big issue out of a small mistake. "You are making a federal offense out of this small mistake." Sometimes, it is gathering offenses to force a stagehand out.
man up--"Stop complaining." (Should be used for both sexes.)
manna from the heavens--an unexpected job. From the Old Testament reference. "My show closed and I had no prospects. The sudden opening on the prop crew at the Wintergarden was like manna from the heavens."
marry the pieces-interlock two similar-sized pieces for storage or to make room while loading a truck.
Martini Beck: an archaic nickname for the Martin Beck, the former name of the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, a Broadway theater located on 45th Street, west of 8th Avenue. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, there were some hard-drinking stagehands working there, thus the nickname.
masking--drapes, legs used to block sightlines of audience
Mastercard--swing actor who is always in the way of stagehands backstage while he is learning his different tracks. "No matter where you go, he's there," to paraphrase the old credit card commercial.
Mastercard Jr.--the swing actor who takes Mastercard's place
Mastercard-ish--having the annoying trait of always being in the way. "That new swing strikes me as being a bit Mastercard-ish."
maybe the moon is made out of cheese--it will never happen, it will never be true. "Maybe So-and-So may retire, but maybe the moon is made out of cheese."
meal penalty--twice the prevailing rate
mechanic--stagehand who is a good carpenter. "Call the replacement room and have them send a real mechanic."
M.E.S.: mysterious electrical shit. “Recently at my show, an automation console crapped out. The man from the shop had no answer to what happened, but we thought that it was a case of M.E.S."
mercury poisoning--When a TV star very suddenly quit the revival of David Mamet's "Speed the Plow" a few years ago, his publicist said that he had "mercury poisoning" from eating too much sushi. Other sources say he had a problem with his nose.
met at the back of a truck--to meet your peers in Local One when you are 18 or so unloading trucks. "I've known Bobby for 20 years. We met at the back of a truck when we were 18." It can be an intense bond.
Metropolitan Opera, the Met--the Met stage crew is like the Marines of Local #1, where after a brutal apprenticeship, if you can work there, you can work anywhere in the Local. The hard part can be shedding the combative attitude. Humping 30-foot flats requires great skill.
minting cards-- heads who promote unorthodox (or illegal) methods for men to get Local One cards...”They're minting cards at _____ Theatre.”
minuteman--showing up at the last minute (Scott Mulrain)
Misery--good nickname for perpetually unhappy stagehand. "Move that header downstage with Misery over there."
Moody Judy--stagehand with famous mood swings. Should be used with both sexes. See also: Debbie Downer.
monkeys trying to fuck a football--major screw up involving multiple players. Fun to watch. "Watching the new carpenter and his inexperienced assistant fit the oversized rolling unit through the tiny stage door was like watching monkeys trying to fuck a football."
mook--moron (from the movie "Mean Streets," as far as I can tell)
mop money--money for daily mop call for propman. After the 2007 strike, it is a weekly fee. "The producers tried to take away the prop person's mop money during the last contract negotiation."
mope--constant complainer, depressive
Moscow sprayer--plastic Coke bottle with cap on, hole cut in cap, full of water to spray on wrinkled drops (used by the Eifman Ballet, satire of Hudson sprayer)
mouse, mouse off--to attach the pin to a shackle with a tiewrap.
"moving deck chairs on the Titanic"--making small changes too late to fix a doomed show. "They made changes to the first act, but it was like moving deck chairs on the Titanic."
moxie--guts, pushiness, persistence in the face of rejection. "The young dancer had the moxie to come backstage and introduce herself to the choreographer during tech." Amazing etymology...I always thought it was a Yiddish word, but it was the name of a bitter soft-drink popular in the 1930s. The word itself is believed to come from a Native American tribe from Maine, whose meaning is "dark water."
"much, much better than new"--after a repair onstage or after a paint call, where the set looks all bright and new, a stagehand or a scenic may say, "Much, much better than new," in a sarcastic or boastful manner. The line comes from an old Meineke Muffler commercial from the 1980's.
to muscle it off—using brute force to take a trapped automated piece offstage, a group of stagehands moving an impossibly large piece. “We need to muscle the piece into the truck,” “George and I muscled the shower unit offstage.”
"my hook, hook--the stagehand who pulls you into a job or theater, often the head, a contact, a contact who gives you work. "My first hook in the business was the elderly prop man at the Wintergarden." "I have no hooks at the St. James...I can't get you house seats."
"My rabbi just got his own synagogue"--When your rabbi becomes the head of a theater, gets a head's job.
my zombie apocalypse stash--important, common-use items hidden by a propman or carpenter for future emergency use and only given up grudgingly. "Those are my last two rolls of double-face tape, from my zombie apocalypse stash...I don't really want to give them up."
national tour--big, usually moneymaking tour of a Broadway show. Usually do multi-month sitdowns. Multiple tours at the same time will be called first national, second national tours. Small tours that play one week and half-week stands are called bus and trucks.
NBC--Nepotism Before Competence, or Nephews, Brothers and Cousins, or Nephews, Bartenders and Cousins.
NCC--no card cocksucker
name over the title--star's name over the title. If star is out, customers can get their money back.
neck down--hired to work, not to think
Netflix role--when an older character actor has a role where they appear onstage for two five-minute bits and the bows, that is a Netflix role, where they can watch Netflix movies in their dressing room for most of the show.
"Never Missed a Performance"--this is the motto of the Theatre District firehouse on West 48th Street and 8th Avenue, which includes Engine 54, Ladder 4, as well as the chief of the 9th Battalion of the FDNY. The attacks at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 started at 8:48am, which coincided with the shift change at firehouses across the city. At Engine 54, Ladder 4, both the incoming and outgoing crews crammed into their rigs to save lives at the World Trade Center. Fifteen officers and men, including the battalion chief and his driver, made the supreme sacrifice that day when the Twin Towers collapsed. The firehouse also uses the comedy and drama masks as part of their emblem.
never saddle a dead horse--rigging term for wire rope clips.
nfg--no fucking good (label on busted tools).
nice-guy rage--when a self-proclaimed "nice guy" explodes, the results can be very nasty.
noble failure--a Broadway show that receives rave reviews and is an artistic favorite in the Broadway community, but has dismal ticket sales and dies a quick death. These shows are mounted on Broadway when producers follow their hearts, rather then their wallets.
non-Equity tour--tour with non-union actors (producers can use shoes from the original Broadway production)
no-show job--an aspiration
no stripes--"I have no stripes," that means that I am not a boss. Conversely, a know-it-all stagehand may start barking orders, and may be asked sarcastically, "Ooh, who gave you stripes?" Also: No feathers.
no votes-- when stagehands are voted into Local #1 after making the three years of card time, the number of "no" votes a stagehand receives indicates how well they are their father (or, now, mother) is liked. A large number of no votes means you or your parent is disliked by many Onesy voters.
normal up--restore lights, props (TV)
nose of the truck--front of the trailer.“Throw the furniture in the nose of the truck.”
NSFW-- not safe for work. Stories that are offensive, misogynistic or sexist and should not be told at work. Or in the digital age, videos or pictures that may be offensive. I wouldn't show people that video...it's NSFW."
“Nutsy” Miller’s “sabbatical”--nine years in a Florida prison (in his election statement, Nutsy referred to his “sabbatical” when he was running for B.A.)
180 the piece--spin it around. Also: end for end
obstructed view--discounted tickets on seats where a percentage of the view is obstructed, usually by scenic elements.
OCA--"on camera appearance," set fee for a TV stagehand who is accidentally or intentionally on TV.
off book--when an actor knows his/her lines. On book means that an actor still needs to refer to the script.
on deck--onstage...from the nautical history of stagehands. "The carpenters can be found on deck during the preset."
off the mark--piece is not set on spike marks
old-man speed--slow down, you are working too fast. "Go to old-man speed with your mop. The carpenters aren't done with their strike."
old rummy--long-term, hard drinker, an alcoholic.
on a light--to run a front light
on headset--during show, stagehand that can be reached by headset
on life support--when a show is losing money and ticket sales are going below the weekly nut (their operating expenses), the show is on life support because the producers are pumping in money to keep it alive until ticket sales pick up again. Sometimes these gambles pay off for the producers and a show survives with a longer, healthy run.
on the arm--you’ll get paid, but you don’t have to be there(must tap your arm at the same time).
on the boards, tread the boards--to be working in the theater, to be on Broadway, to be an actor.
On-the-job training--new, unskilled and cardless stagehand working at the prevailing rate. If they screw up, you can say “On-the-job training.”
on the pink--to hold a production contract
on the rail--working the fly floor
on your own time--when you've already broken the hour into overtime, or if you can get the work done in less time than the length of your call (8 hours or 4 hours), you are on your own time.
"One and done"--Sunday matinee. What crew members often say to each other on Sunday, at the end of a long week, when there is only one show.
one-punch artist-- a stagehand who can knock another stagehand down with one punch. There is a very famous story behind this one, involving a Christmas House coming offstage and chicklets punched out on deck, but it is better as an oral legend.
one-way sense of humor--can make snarky, cruel jokes but doesn't understand them when they are returned.
organizational list--list used to bring in new stagehands, now three years at $37,500. Put in place after legal activity by the federal government in the early 1970s to deal with charges of racism. Originally, you only had to make 9K.
orphan--stagehand with no family affiliations, has to make his/her own way in the business, or anyone in a particular local that has no relatives in that local.
Onesy--Local One man/woman
out-of-town closing, when the producers pull the plug due to the quality of show or no money is like a miscarriage--the show was not meant to be born.
out-of-town tryout--out-of-town stop, opportunity to fix the show
an out-to-pasture head--a head who has stayed beyond their expiration date, is physically or emotionally incapable of doing their job, or abdicates the decision making and hiring to underlin
overage--money paid to head or extra man for carrying out contract responsibilities ($300-$700 a week)
overhaul a pipe--bring a pipe into the deck to change the weight on the arbor. The pipe is often twitched off (the lineset is twisted with a twitchstick) for additional safety.
overhire--worker hired at a scenic shop during a busy season. Not a regular. "The overhires were let go after the Met shop finished building the new opera."
p.a.--production assistant, often young women, sometimes romantic targets for married stagehands. In film, p.a. stands for “parking assistant,” for they grab parking spots for trucks and actor RVs.
padding the payroll--adding extra hours not worked or extra men not present
page a tab--to pull a tab back for entrances and exits
"paid by the hour"--when a skilled stagehand's talents are wasted doing menial labor, like sorting garbage, it is a good thing to mutter, "I'm paid by the hour."
paint boy--scenic who mixes paint in scenic shop (can be woman or middle-aged person)
paint call--deck painting, touch up by scenics before opening night.
(a) pair of shoes from the hall--ordering two stiffs from the hall (brawn matters here, not skill) for a brutal day on the loadin or loadout.
panties in a twist--actor hissy fit
pendejo--dumbass(lit. pubic hair, Mexican slang). This term comes from a very talented, fiery star dresser from "Victor/Victoria," who if you got in her way, would bowl you over snarling "Pendajo!"
paper--comp tickets. ”They papered the house.” Standard practice during previews and when reviewers are in, but a very bad sign during a normal run. See: producers’ pep talk
payback is a bitch--you can say that when you get your revenge.
pay bump--to be bumped up to the next pay level, when an extra man subs for a head. Also: bump up
perfect load-in weather--it is inevitable that it will snow or there will be a hurricane when you are loading a show in or out. "Ah, perfect load-in weather," you can say sarcastically when the rain is coming down in buckets.
personal--tool belonging to an individual stagehand, not the company (“That Makita is my personal”), or a personal prop that remains on an actor’s person and is handled by his/her dresser (a lighter, a handkerchief, a wallet)
persuader--hammer, “Use your persuader.”
phantom/ghost--name on payroll, but no body
Phantom lift: When a stagehand is pretending too vigorously to lift a heavy piece of scenery and is letting others do the real work. See also: soft hands.
phantom production--a fake Broadway show. A theater agent named Roland Scahill was convicted in August 2016 of defrauding investors of $165,000 for a fake play on the life of the opera diva Kathleen Battle, which was to play at the Booth Theatre. Scahill claimed the actress Nupita Nyong'o was going to play Battle and that the show was going to be filmed for Netflix. Neither the play nor the Netflix connection existed. Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance referred to the Kathleen Battle play as a "phantom production."
Philly loadout--push the gear out of the theater and slam the door shut.
phoning it in--actor/actress doing bare minimum
piano call--move a piano, usually pushing it out right after the show for next day's rehearsal.
picket captain--responsible for maintaining picket
pickle--chain motor controller
picture call--actors or dancers will hold a pose as the curtain goes out for bows.
pig iron--stage weight (D. Chisholm, SF)
(to) pile on--often following the lead of a bad head, multiple stagehands will harass another stagehand. Sometimes in fun, sometimes it is vicious harassment.
places--the show is about to begin, actors and crew must be in the right place.
pirate eye—shutting one eye before you go onstage during a blackout. When you open both eyes onstage, you are acclimated to the dark and can grab relevant props or pull scenery.
piss line--funnel with hose attached running from fly floor to the alley (holdover from heavy drinking days). I think there is a piss line at the Broadhurst. Men in hemp houses have been known to pee in the sand barrel.
"piss on that sandbag"--add more weight(sand) to that sandbag (Sarah Gowan, Sapsis Rigging)
“playing through”--(golf term) polite way to say “get out of my way”
please-and-thank-you house--houses with well-mannered heads. Yes, even on Broadway, good manners can survive.
to poach--to steal a good stagehand from another boss, to take without permission. "During the loadout season, the head of one theater poached several good carpenters from another head."
police the deck--making sure the deck is clean, usually during load ins.
Polish Tea Room--Edison Cafe, closed by the greedy landlords of the Edison Hotel at the end of 2014. Famous for its mixed clientele, including stagehands, producers and playwrights. Neil Simon used to eat there. Its matzah ball soup was famous.
post notice, notice is up--post closing notice, usually on Tuesday for Sunday. Equity rules requires one-week notice.
posting work rules--action by management that can provide a reason to strike
post-Tony shakeout--when shows that do not win Tony Awards close soon after the Tonys broadcast. Fragile shows are often vulnerable if they don't win, so producers may pull the plug.
preset--set props, check out lights and automation
producer pep talk--cast and crew pep talk onstage, “We are going to run it,” closing notice then goes up next week
prop and drop--to prop a show and hand it off to the house head.
prop genius--stagehand who usually works in props, who only works in props.
proptumes--costumes used only for set dressing, not worn by actors.
prop welder--glue gun.
props and crafts--making paper goods for a show, tools required are limited to scissors and glue sticks. "Get me some crafty people for tomorrow...it is a day of props and crafts."
prop welder--a glue gun.
playoff music--to get someone off the stage at an awards show
play-out music--orchestra plays as audience leaves
pre-resume culture--Resumes still doesn't matter that much in the theaters of Broadway. More often it is your skill set--you can build a spiral staircase or you can fix a Vari-lite, or it is who you are related to, or who is your rabbi.
principal(s)--star(s) of show
props is tops--self-esteem building line by propmen
props is mops--rejoinder to "props is tops"
"Props: same pay, half the weight"--propmen don't usually carry heavy scenery, but get paid the same as the people that do.
prop trauma--actor freaks out over prop and becomes a possible candidate for shunning.
PSM--production stage manager, supervises whole Broadway production, may take over directorial duties after production is up and running. Under the PSM are the stage manager (SM) and assistant stage manager (ASM)
psycho button--when you accidentally or intentionally touch the one thing that will make an easygoing stagehand go berserk. Often, the relationship is never the same or completely destroyed. "I pushed his psycho button and he never spoke to me again."
"puddle the dress": to carefully arrange a dress on the floor so an actress can step into it during a quick change. The dress is quickly pulled up, zipped and the actress can go back onstage. The preset dress looks like a puddle of fabric. (Wardrobe term.)
pull a show--when the contract electrician or soundperson will go up to the shop and pull the equipment needed for a show from the shop warehouse.
pull it out of my ass--when a director or PSM makes a ludicrous request--"Can you get me a taxidermied rabbit by tomorrow?", you can reply brightly, "Let me pull one out of my ass." Line may result in job termination.
"Pull out the rag"--Pull out the house curtain.
“Pull rope, get banana”--just doing my job and getting paid
pull the foot out--pull out the bottom of a piece so it doesn’t fall over.
pure stagehandese--stagehand slang, a stagehand who is conversant in the slang used by Local #1 stagehands. Often generational stagehands, whose fathers or grandfathers were in Local #1. I find that many stagehands under 50 don't understand what a busted valise is. "One of the extra men in the carpentry department speaks the purest stagehandese I have ever heard."
"Put the weight in"--leaning a heavy piece against the wall safely.
"Put your coat on and go home"--said when a stagehand really screws up, he or she is done. "Don't worry about your fuck up, just put your coat on and go home."
put your shoulder to the wheel--can be brute force to move a big piece, or handling the deluge of work during production. "Production is hard, but if you put your shoulder to the wheel, you'll get the job done."
pyro license--ability to do special effects, having a pyro license granted from the FDNY.
pulling focus--when an actor makes large gestures or overacts, they may succeed in shifting the audience's focus to him or her, away from main action of the scene.
pulls--number of fly cues a man on the rail will have. A two-man pull is for a heavy piece.
pull your punches--to not hit with full strength, to not criticize someone as fully as you can. From the stuntmen in the old Western movies, they were told during fight scenes to pull their punches. The opposite is I pull no punches, meaning I am going to tell you the truth, even if it hurts.
put a man on--adding a man due to heavy work
put-in rehearsal--rehearsal for new lead or actor going into show, usually using costumes (at least for the new actor) and automation, with most of the crew called in.
quarter rounds--blanks with 1/4 gunpowder charges (also half rounds and eighth rounds)
QC booth--quick-change booth, offstage or in basement. Can be made of hard flats with a curtained opening, or soft goods.
quick change--costume change by actors in a short period of time
raked deck--sloped deck, in vogue in 1990s. Equity maximum = one inch per foot. Bad for knees.
to rabbi--to rabbi someone, to mentor a stagehand, using rabbi as a verb. "He rabbied me, giving me work when I needed to get my third year to finish my card time."
raceway--metal trough attached to the ceilings of theater basements that hold cable
rag--house curtain. "Pull out the rag."
Real good, then--nonsense term, often said when you pass someone on a crossover.
redheads--red dumpsters, used for construction debris only. "Pull the redheads in the alley at the end of the day."
rehash--redoing chunks of the scenery during a load-in, rehashing the Broadway set for a tour (usually to make it easier to load into roadhouses).
rentals--fee for lighting package, automation.
renting the bus--instead of just throwing someone under the bus, you actually rent the bus to do the dirty deed. "That stage manager is going to rent a bus to take that stagehand out."
replacement room--where stagehands go to shape.
restore--put props, scenery back in place.
retirement job--a long-running show on Broadway like "Mama Mia" or "Phantom."
"Revenge is a dish best served cold"--old Sicilian saying.
Rialto--old term for Broadway, street of theaters
rice bowl issue--jurisdictional dispute over who gets the work. Can be between departments in a theater, different locals or different unions. "It was a rice bowl issue over who sets the tech tables, the carpenter or the prop man."
to ride someone--when a boss will nitpick or overly criticize an underling for every error, sometimes imagined ones.
ride it down to the bottom--when you sty on a show 'til the bitter end. "A friend stayed on Spamalot 'til the end of the run, riding it down to the bottom."
right of way--an actor or stagehand has the right of way on the stairs when heading to the stage.
road contract--pink contract for road stagehand
road dog--stagehand who sleeps around on the road.
roadhouse--suburban theaters with large numbers of seats, where producers make buckets of money off culture-starved Americans in the heartland.
road scum, road apple--contract stagehand. Also, contract scum
(not) rocket science--it's easy. "It's not rocket science." also: "It's not brain surgery."
robbing Peter to pay Paul-- when desperate for hardware, you have to cannibalize or steal from other parts of the theater. "To finish the seat call, I had to rob Peter to pay Paul, taking seat parts from other parts of the orchestra."
rope wrench--knife (Sarah Gowan, Sapsis Rigging)
round file--garbage can. "Put it in the round file."
rover--stagehand who works both sides of the stage, a deck light that is moved during the show (often in a wooden box). also: shinbuster
(the) run--how long a show will last, or how long it lasted. "We ran for only three months." "We have an open-ended run." "The show was a limited run of 14 weeks."
run-of-show rental--automation equipment, sound, electrics or a rare prop may be rented for the length of a run. Usually a flat fee. Weekly rentals are how the shops make money.
running crew--men or women who work the show
running in with my hair on fire--last-minute shopping experiences for daily TV shows. "I ran into Macy's with my hair on fire, desperate to buy 10 silver casseroles for 'The Tonight Show.'"
safety--cable used to secure lights to pipe; can also be a tie wrap as a safety on a shackle.
sandbar--incident or snag that stops a load-in or part of a load-in cold in its tracks. "PRG sent us a broken controller, so we weren't to operate motors to lower the empty road boxes into the trap. It was the sandbar that stopped everything."
sand bucket--backstage requirement by FDNY. Usually full of cigarette butts.
sausage bag--long, narrow sandbag
"Say anything, tell them nothing"--old Irish saying, good for dealing with shit-stirrers. Do not give any information that is useful. Give them blarney.
scab it out--hire scabs en mass
scenics--Local 829/U.S.A. scenic artists. Now part of IATSE
schadenfreude--joy at other people's sorrow. I think this runs in the mother's milk in NYC.
schmata--drape, cover (Yiddish)..."Throw the schmata over the table."
schmo--boring, stupid person. Originally from Yiddish, meaning moron or cuckold.
schmutz--dust, dust bunnies in unclean area, big chunks of dust that stick to stagehands working in the ceiling.
Screw me once, shame on you. Screw me twice, shame on me-- when dealing with dishonest people (tech, certain bosses), it is important not to get screwed twice. The second time is your own fault.
scut work, scut job--tedious, dirty work, often given to the youngest stagehand on the crew. "The young stagehand was given the scut job of cleaning old adhesive off the ramp with a heat gun and a spackle knife."
seat call--House propman or propwoman will bring in extra people to repair broken seats, usually before a new show loads in.
“the Scottish play”--so you don’t have bad luck by mentioning that play by name.
second-acting--the time-honored tradition of poor actors, students and others of going into a Broadway show without a ticket at intermission to see the second act. The actor John Leguizamo talked about second-acting with his deaf uncle in his youth as a theater rat from Queens. The Village Voice published a "how-to" piece on second-acting in the 1970's. The New York Times published a feature on the practice on September 25, 2016. Sadly, because of high theater prices and security concerns in the Age of Terror, ushers are better at checking tickets, so the practice has mostly died out. The people who do second-acting are called second-actors.
second banana--a comedian in a vaudeville or burlesque theater who plays a secondary role. An actor who plays a secondary role to the leading man. A sidekick. "Tony Roberts has had a brilliant career playing second bananas, to Woody Allen in 'Annie Hall' and Al Pacino in 'Serpico.'"
self-inflicted wound: when you hire a bad assistant on a show, it is a self-inflicted wound, that gets all pussy and gross. "The assistant I hired turned out to be a lazy, bipolar creep. He was a self-inflicted wound."
self-winder--someone who is easily wound up by gossip or a rumor, often done intentionally by others. See also: wind him/her up.
senior man--oldest person or longest cardholder on crew, when head is not around, may give orders.
SFB--shit for brains, really dumb stagehand.
shake hands with the piece--pick up the piece. also: get acquainted with the scenery
(the) shape up, shaping, shape the hall--look for work (longshoreman’s term, lit. showing up to show you are in shape). Before most last-minute replacement work was routed through the union hall, men would show up to the theater with their tools, shaping the load in or loadout to look for work.
shinbuster--item that is shin height, hurts when you bump into it...usually a rover.
"shit rolls downhill"--abuse travels down the line.
shit-stirring with a big spoon--professional gossip mongering on an epic level.
a shitstorm--chaotic, unpleasant situation. Usually dangerous, unexpected trouble. "When the soundman turned off the com system and left after his last cue, it was a shitstorm for the last 20 minutes of the show, with no headset communication between the SMs and automation."
Shoe-man Capote--a pun off the name of the dead novelist to indicate a stupid stagehand.
shopper--person hired to shop for TV show or during production of a Broadway show, usually a propperson.
shopping during the load out--when packing up a show after closing, props and tools start to disappear, with people in the theater thinking that everything is up for grabs, which is usually not the case.
shop mechanic--skilled carpenter from scenic shop, sometimes has no sense of stagecraft
short shelf life--dancers and ingenues don't often last very long on Broadway.
short-timer--stagehand who has gotten another job and has given notice. Or a stagehand who is vocal about his/her nearing retirement date. From the Vietnam-era Army rotations, where soldiers knew the exact number of months that they were "in country." Towards the end of their tours, they were called short-timers.
showmance (n.)--when two company members, be they cast, crew or musicians, become romantically and/or physically involved. Often happens on long-running shows. Sometimes it's the starts, like Liam Neeson and Natasha Richardson on "Anna Christie."
show doctor--comes in to save hopeless shows, Jerry Zaks. "Jerry Zaks was the show doctor on 'The Addams Family,' saving the show and giving it a healthy run on Broadway."
show deck--on top of house deck
shoe, shoemaker--moron. See also "Shoe-man Capote."
showmance (n.)--when two company members, be they cast, crew or musicians, become romantically and/or physically involved. Often happens on long-running shows.
showstopper: a rousing high-energy dance number or solo that literally stops the show with the volume of applause. Or a major mechanical screw up or crew member mistake that literally forces the show to stop until the error is corrected. In the most extreme versions, the house curtain is brought in and the SM makes an announcement along the lines of "There will be a short delay."
"shove with love": to push an undertrained or hesitant actor onstage. "The stage manager instructed the other actors to look out for the swing and to take care of her. 'If she's about to miss an entrance, give her a shove with love.'"
shunning--to pointedly ignore a difficult or traitorous crew member. Based on a Shaker practice.
shush Nazi, shush police--overaggressive stage managers, who shush people backstage or in the basement. Sometimes the voices they hear are just in their heads.
shut your yap--shut up
sightlines--backstage areas where you may be seen by the audience, “in the sightlines”
sightline problems--badly masked show
signature fuck up--mistake always repeated by particular person
sins of the father--depriving a young stagehand of work or blackballing him/her because you can't stand his/her father
sit down--tour stays in a city for a while, meeting
sit on my duff--sit on my behind
sit the hall--look for work at the replacement room at the union hall. Also, shape the
sit on a show--to stay on a show for a long period of time
site survey--measuring the stage and the theater and checking out the dressing rooms for incoming shows. Often a bad sign for ailing shows if you see the tech for the next show taking measurements. Screwing up the measurements during this site survey will make the load-in a very expensive nightmare (i.e. the set won't fit).
skater--work only when the boss is in sight.
"skinny the forks"--close the forks on a forklift
skosh--move a skosh, move the piece a bit.
"slapped on the pee pee"-- to be reprimanded by stage management for something you did wrong, often in a condescending way. "The men on the fly floor were slapped on the pee pee for talking too loud during a quiet scene."
“slip a slice of pizza under the door”--catered meal instead of a meal penalty (quote by a union official from the 2007 strike)
"Smile when you stick the knife in"--sometimes getting revenge can be BOTH business and pleasure.
SNAFU--situation now all fucked up (military)
snowbag--a piece of duvateen with slits attached to two pipes and filled with snow
spike marks--marks for drops, large props and scenery, usually made with glow tape by stage management.
"Smile when you stick the knife in"--sometimes getting revenge can be BOTH business and pleasure.
"Snatch the pebble from my hand, Grasshopper"--when the disciple can snatch the pebble from the master's hand, he is ready. Can be used as a sarcastic reference while training a young stagehand. Old line in the1970's TV show "Kung Fu," where in politically incorrect fashion, David Carradine played a Chinese kung-fu master in exile in the Old West.
social finger--the middle finger. "Guiding a forklift into a truck, a stagehand got his social finger crushed and had to go to the hospital."
soft hands--stagehand pretending to work hard, can be accompanied by WWF-type expressions when pretending to help lift things
SOL--old jazz term, shit outta luck. "You are SOL...we just used the last sidearm."
"somebody's got a tax shelter"--when the producers are spending money hand over fist on a show that is destined to bomb, some wag might say, "Somebody's got a tax shelter."
(to go) souveniring--when small props, pieces of perishable props or even small scenic details are stolen by the audience after the show. Sometimes small props that are on the apron of the stage or that fall into the orchestra seats at the end of the show are taken by audience members. "I worked 'A Behanding in Spokane.' When our expensive, hand-crafted rubber hands would bounce in the audience, audience members would try to take them home. I saw it as theft. They saw it as going souveniring."
squawk box--intercom, usually on rail. Also: bitch box.
special won-ton soup to go--whiskey in a take-out soup container. China Peace was a Chinese restaurant that ran for decades in Hell's Kitchen. It was at three different locations over time. Legendary stagehands and legendary drinkers would go there on matinee days. The owner was agreeable to fixing special "to-go" cups for his regular customers.
spitballing it--to improvise. "Let's spitball it now, until we come up with a permanent solution."
spill the truck--to empty the contents of a truck to find one item or two let the trucker leave.
spot a motor--put a motor in place to lift a heavy object. Also: to hang a motor
spotting call--the first call of the load-in, where the carpenters come in to lay out the points for hanging scenery.
spreading the wealth around--when a head deliberately gives calls to multiple stagehands to make sure people have work. Or some heads don't: "I wish he'd spread the wealth around, he only hires the same five stagehands."
"stabs you in the chest"--somebody who will say nasty things to your face. "In Hollywood, a true friend stabs you in the chest."
staged reading--when talent, often named talent, gives a reading with scripts for potential producers.
Stage Door Johnny--civilian loverboy
stagehand bush telegraph--how gossip gets around
stagehand rumor: (noun) a story or piece of gossip making the rounds in the Broadway Theater District that has been distorted by an extended game of telephone through many stagehand whispers and dosed with a certain amount of debt settling and character assassination. Often, the truth has been flayed alive and made into a wallet. "It is a stagehand rumor, so it might be 30 percent true."
stagehandry--made-up noun to mock one's mistakes. "Missing that preset was an example of bad stagehandry."
stagehand torture device--badly designed prop or piece of scenery that is handled by a stagehand that may cause an ongoing or permanent injury to the stagehands handling it. "The bed unit in the recent production of 'Betrayal' was so heavy that the nightly shift turned it into a stagehand torture device."
stagehand years--the age that a stagehand's body may feel like could be different from his or her actual age, from years of pushing cable boxes onto trucks, carrying tech tables and building steel deck. "I just turned 50, but in stagehand years, I don't feel a day under 60."
stage manager’s console--call desk, usually right offstage
stand down--stop what you are doing (World War I term from the trenches, attack has been called off)
stand on your wallet--sarcastic comment to man believed to make a lot of money.
stand-up guy--honorable man (mob term)
star dresser--dresses leads, may handle some personal business, may get substantial tips.
stay in character--to maintain the accent or the demeanor of the role you are playing onstage and sometimes even offstage. "Two actor friends of mine stayed in character, using their English accents from the show, while picking up their cars after the show."
“stealing food from my kid’s mouth”--to take work away from me
to step in shit--to get a job you did not ask for, good fortune coming out of nowhere. "The young stagehand stepped in shit when the assistant was fired and he got the job."
stick the knife in--premeditated revenge. "When the designer finally screwed up, I got the chance to stick the knife in."
stiff, stiffing a job--holding a job for the regular man, or a terrible worker
stop clause--a clause in a theater-rental contract that says if a show dips below a set financial amount in ticket sales for two weeks in a row, the theater owners have the option of forcing the production to close and vacate the theater. "Despite rave reviews, the recent revival of 'Side Show' dipped below $550,000 a week in ticket sales, so the theater owners exercised their stop clause in the theater-rental contract." Usually, the theater owners have a more promising show waiting to come in.
(see the New York Times article from December 13, 2014)
storage trailer--scenery/props loaded into a trailer for storage in an open yard.
story on the street: major screw up or questionable decision at a show that gets picked up in the stagehand rumor mill on Broadway, becoming part of stagehand legend. "Let us talk to the business agent so this automation decision doesn't become a story on the street."
straight-eight studio--no overtime.
Straight White Way--after the success of "Spamalot" on Broadway, the New York Times wrote on April 10, 2005 about the phenomenon of straight men flocking to a Broadway show without their wives. It is a rarely repeated demographic on Broadway. The term is a satire of "Great White Way."
strike guy--union man on strike
strike captain, picket captain--runs picket,
strikebreaker--crosses picket lines, Also: scab--replacement worker
string-puller--in some theaters or TV studio, the department head may not be the power. The string-puller may be an extra man who does the hiring or makes the policy decisions.
strom--generic item, “Give me the strom.”
STW--"straight to wardrobe." When an actor or an actress slays at an audition and gets the role, the casting agent or director might write on his/her resume, "STW," meaning the job is theirs, measure them for a costume.
swag--concert t-shirts or free goods, sometimes taken without permission
swing--actor understudy who knows more than one role, on standby
swapping payrolls--moving back and forth between contract and house payrolls to get card time (illegal, but pervasive)
to sweat someone--to pursue someone relentlessly, in looking for work or in love. "The young stagehand kept sweating the older head, trying to get on his crew."
swing period--Midnight to 8am, eight hours between calls, penalties if the eight hours is not observed.
swordsman, horndog--stagehand/actor Romeo
"SU/SU"--"Show up and Shut up," stop complaining about job conditions or a bad boss.
summer stock/regional theater on Broadway--Studio 54, the Sondheim (part of the Roundabout empire)and the Samuel Friedman (which is part of the Manhattan Theatre Club)
sunburn--red face from drinking. "Don't come back from coffee with a sunburn," said the head to his men. (The man who taught me this term at coffee proceeded to come bak from lunch with a sunburn himself.)
sunroof-elevator cover that drops down and retracts under the deck
survival job--job that an actor has to pay the rent while auditioning for acting roles on Broadway and elsewhere. Survival jobs are often ones that have flexibility to allow an actor go to auditions and callbacks, like restaurant work, personal training and temping
stand behind--when someone comes into the Local, their rabbis and friends stand behind them
take a gander--take a look at something
take a punch--able to handle difficult bosses. "I can take a punch, I can handle difficult bosses."
"Take a break, we've got it covered"--sarcastic line when a stagehand takes a phonecall on his/her cell phone while others are working hard.
take a picture-- you’re fired, you are not going to see this place again
“taking food out of my kid’s mouth”--depriving a person of work, thus affecting his/her family's income.
take the piss out of someone--to break chops, can be affectionate or nasty
talent--actors, or new meat...”Check out the talent,” as in new pretty, chorus girls. Also "Make way for the talent," when an actor moves through a group of stagehands.
tap the mat--give up, surrender (wrestling term) ‘The producers want us to tap the mat. We say no.”--Jimmy Claffey
tea cup and doily boy--prop man
tech period--period after scenery is loaded in, dry run of automation and lighting. Also: tech, "The show is in tech."
tech tables--wooden tables on horses out in the house during tech period, for tech, directors and designers.
"techs are not your friend"--most techs will cut jobs when they can.
TDF--Theater Development Fund, promotes NY theater.
“telephone, telegram, tell a stagehand”--propensity of stagehands to gossip, how word gets around.
10 out of 12s--Equity rules during tech period that actors can work 10 out of 12 hours.
think happy thoughts--when you are desperately hoping that a repair will work or a damaged electrical unit will come back to life or a remote unit with a defective battery will charge, someone might say, "Think happy thoughts."
tie it off--tie a tag line to a cleat, tie a piece of scenery to the wall
tit job--easy work
tits on a bull—useless
the fix was in--Things were determined a long time ago. Even though the heads' jobs for the new Hudson Theatre were listed in the union newsletter, the fix was in months ago.
the "G", the Garden--Madison Square Garden
the hang--the weight of the objects in the air for a particular show, including scenery and lights. "The hang for Zarkana was 110,000 pounds."
the restore--usually one or several days where a Broadway theater is restored to its original rental condition. Carpenters will rehang the house curtain if it was removed, propmen will replace seats that have been removed.
the Roundabout list--in the mid-1990s, the then-president of IATSE Tommy Short decided to force Local #1 to take in new members, flexing his muscles. IATSE hired a former business agent from Local #1 to organize several small venues throughout the city that had little value to Local #1. This included the Roundabout, the non-profit theater company. At one point, about 50 people were on "the Roundabout list," to be forced on Local #1. At the end of the day, only about 30 people came in from the Roundabout.
they're not done flogging us-- no end to the work calls during the production period. While doing production on a Broadway show, there is a seemingly endless period of 8am work calls. During the production period of the unsuccessful 2016 musical "Shuffle Along," the crew worked for 33 days straight, with many 8am calls.
this guy’s a real mo--the guy’s a moron
throw me in--to publicly fink on someone, reveal culprit behind a mistake
throwing the cue lights--SM turns on cue lights for fly or deck cues. "The SM threw the cue lights early.”
throw a spanner in the works-- to deliberately create mayhem. "The carpenter threw a spanner in the works by not stacking his platforms off the deck, screwing the electrician 'til after lunch."
thrown in--to have a man do cues without training.
"Time to make the donuts"--start of the call, especially an early morning one. From the old Dunkin' Donuts commercial with the exhausted baker getting up for work.
to throw under the bus--to throw somebody in in an aggressive fashion
too handy--when a dancer put his or her hands in an indelicate place on another dancer. "The female ensemble member remarked that one of the chorus boys was a bit too handy when they danced together."
throw the piece up--pushing a scenic flat up to another stagehand
training contract--half pay on pink contract for four to eight shows
travel agent--referring to a particular Broadway head..."He's the travel agent...if you piss him off, he’ll put you on vacation."
turnaround--in TV, take sets down, put sets up
"take a walk around the block"--work is slow, hide for a while
T.V. commando--one who works in television, generally thought to run around a lot, not accomplishing much.
"TV: same politics, half the rate"--In New York City, there is less pay in TV, but same backbiting as Broadway.
to be piped, to get piped--hit with a pipe coming in
to get banged--to get hit
track-- specific show cues for stagehands or wardrobe. When a swing stagehand comes in, they do a specific track. "I am swinging in the prop department at 'Jersey Boys.' I know all the tracks."
to trick out--to customize for ease of use, especially a prop case, when storing awkwardly sized props. Also, to build a manual effect..."In 'Victor/Victoria,' the bar shelves were tricked out so they collapsed during the fight scene, and the bottles appeared to fall to the ground."
trim--the stopping point for a scenic piece coming from the flies. Trim is marked by a ribbon or tape.
triple threat--can’t sing, can’t dance, can’t act (sarcastic use of original meaning, which was a performer who could sing, dance and act).
trouping--archaic term for going on the road...”We trouped through the Southwest.”
22-man rule--was once the load-in minimums on musicals. now 17, as of 2007 contract.
twitching off the pipe--using a twitchstick to twist the lineset.
twitchstick--thick wooden dowel with a sharpened point, used to twist the lineset when a pipe is overhauled.
two-fers--two tickets for the price of one (by TDF, bad sign for show)...pioneering coupon by TDF for 2-for-1 Broadway tickets.
unauthorized choreography--a chorus boy I knew got hurt in the wings while goofing around, not doing the show choreography. We said, "He got hurt doing unauthorized choreography."
underminer--crew member who may work to undermine his or her boss. "By accident, I hired an underminer on my crew."
Union lights out--derogatory expression, that non-stagehands (creatives, etc) can’t work on stage when the union stagehands are on break.
union thug--you might as well embrace the label that rabid right wingers like that sleazy Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker slaps onto good working men and women. A particularly tough Broadway head I know showed up to a mammoth load in wearing a "union thug" t-shirt in light purple. A fierce woman head I know who fought her way into a position of power over 30 years prefers her own t-shirt adorned with flowers. Also: strike-tested union thug
upright--scenery or carpentry dolly, or an upright piano
(the) usual suspects--stagehands you'd expect to see at a load in, working for a particular head. "At the load in, who did you see working in Electrics? Oh, the usual suspects." Taken from the 1995 Kevin Spacey movie.
virtual shaping: asking for work via Facebook or by email, usually by younger stagehands.
vultures start circling--when a stagehand or musician is on the cusp of being fired, people will start coming by, looking to take their jobs. "The vultures started circling when the word was on the street that the concertmaster at 'Lion King' was going to be fired." "The show wasn't even out of previews when the producers for a show looking for a theater started asking about the theaters. The vultures started circling while the show was still alive."
walk around--to take a walk around, looking for items that need to go on the truck during a loadout.
walkaway--leave everything as it is and go home
walker--archaic term for a musician that is on the payroll, but doesn't have to show up, such as the four musicians once required for a straight play. One producer made four walkers play in the bathroom during intermission.
war stories--when an older stagehand tells stories of the old days, difficult load ins, abusive techs and drunk stars. The stories can be incredibly funny and can have a cautionary side. Or they can be self pitying or self aggrandizing. Often the teller is given the starring role as a hero or the victim to forces he or she can't control. "War stories in the mouth of a young stagehand just always seem boorish."
watch the paint--not much work, “Go watch the paint dry,” “We’re watching the paint dry.”
"wave the flag"--keep a presence on deck, particularly for propmen, using the pickup and broom on deck to keep a presence. (Philip Feller)
my zombie apocalypse stash--important, common-use items hidden by a propman or carpenter for future emergency use and only given up grudgingly. "Those are my last two rolls of double-face tape, from my zombie apocalypse stash...I don't really want to give them up."
wearing blacks--black clothes, required for mimes and road stagehands
weekly--techs, composers, high-powered production stagehands get weekly checks for setting up a show. Some production people collect 4 or 5 checks a week if they have multiple tours out.
"We don't play that way in this house"--a famous Broadway head's response when asked to hire a stagehand without a card.
"We'll get it on the loadout"--for anything that rolls under the show deck.
Weeping Willow--constant complainer, a name given to the old scenic at East Coast Theatrical Supply in the 1980s.
"weight in"--when leaning a heavy piece on the wall, make sure the heavier side of the piece is leaning against the wall.
"We're going to run it!--producer line at the producer pep talk, when a show's ticket sales have dropped, a bad sign that the closing notice is coming soon. This is akin to saying, "We are driving the train off the cliff."
Westies--stagehands, doorman or other Broadway figures who grew up in Hell’s Kitchen, which is loosely bordered by 42nd Street and 59th Street, 8th Avenue and the Hudson River. Also an Irish gang in Hell's Kitchen famous for brutality in the 1970s and 1980s.
West Coast a drop--drop it into the deck without folding or catch a drop in your arms and tie it like a long snake.
West Coast a cable--coil straight down from the grid, into a box
"What, did you just bring your tongue?"--said to a chatty stagehand who didn't bring many tools to the job site.
white gloves--A person that doesn’t seem to get dirty, or doesn’t seem to really do any work.
white on rice--to guard somebody closely, to not leave them alone. "When the young designer came on deck during the load in and tried to do work onstage, a stagehand was assigned to cover her, like white on rice.
wheelies--wheelchairs, as in how many wheelchairs are in the audience tonight, and how many seats have to be pulled to accommodate them?
"When the scenery was made out of wood and the men were made out of steel"--mocking line when an older stagehand starts telling a story about how tough stagehands used to be. "Wheels hadn't even been invented yet when I started in the business, sonny."
when you're happy and you know it--when the piece is in the right place and you can screw it down. From the old children's diddy.
"When you're mad"--the all clear, when stagehands are ready to push something big or to do something that requires brute strength.
"When's the strike?" When the comedian Jerry Lewis was in the revival of "Damned Yankees" in the mid-1990s, every time he would pass a knot of stagehands speaking in hushed voices, he would say in a stage whisper, "When's the strike, boys?"
whipping chain--when short bits of chain are wrapped around the wheels of heavy items like Knack boxes, road boxes, electric boxes and dollies full of lumber to prevent them from rolling off the sidewalk or down a loading ramp. Experienced stagehands can whip the chain in one quick motion, wrapping the chain around the wheels and stopping the boxes from rolling.
Who killed his puppy?--said of a carpenter who always has either a mopey or a pissed-off look on his face.
Who's who in the zoo--availability, who is working at a certain venue. "The head said, "I need to know 'who's who in the zoo.'"
Who's your hook?--who is your mentor, who got you into this theater for work? "Charlie Rosen was my first hook in the business."
Who's your rabbi?--mentor, who gives you the work? See also: Who's your hook?
(to) Wildhorn someone--The main Broadway reviewers for the New York Times hate the composer Frank Wildhorn, so his musicals always get savaged. Repeated vicious reviews about the same composer or playwright by the same reviewer means that the artist has been Wildhorned.
willing lambs to the slaughter--producers with dubious Broadway vehicles. "When I read in today's Times that a musical about Cher was in the works, I thought of the producers, where Broadway has a 90 percent failure rate, as willing lambs to the slaughter.
winging it--to repair something without the right materials, to improvise a solution. The original roots may be that "winging it" meant someone was feeding lines to an onstage actor from the wings.
wood--pay, paychecks. “the wood’s in.” "The house manager dropped the wood on the carpenter's desk Wednesday morning.
word of mouth: gossip about a show. Positive word of mouth can pump energy and ticket sales into an iffy show. Negative word of mouth can chip away at a healthy show and eventually kill it.
workcall--usually a weekly 4-hour call where stagehands fix and maintain props, electric and automation. Cutbacks on workcalls are often a sign that a show is heading into financial trouble.
worked his way through the kick line--story from “The Producers”--TV star came into the show and slept with every woman on the kick line. The kick line is an old-style vaudeville/Rockettes number.
working my last good nerve--annoying someone. "You are working my last good nerve." (a line often used by the late and very talented Sal Sclafani, longtime roadman and House Propman at the Hirschfeld Theatre)
work me like a rented mule--sarcastic comment when it's a hard day of work. Also: "treated me like a red-headed stepchild"
work to rule--adhering very closely to work rules, slowing down work to infuriate management.
worklight rehearsal--only worklight used, no crew needed.
workshop--for musicals and plays, lead producers will commission a workshop with crude props, blocking and a sound system. Stage managers, a production propman and a soundman will be hired for the job. Workshops can be quite costly and ornate. Actors are paid for these events. Producers and theater owners are invited to the run-throughs. If you do the workshop, you might wind up getting to do the actual show when it goes to Broadway. Bad workshops can die with a whimper, saving millions.
“Watch your cruller”--pipe coming in, something heavy overhead...for those who live under rocks, a cruller is a doughnut.
whack up the last cue-- several stagehands will divide up final cues so each can go home early on separate nights.
"Where are you stacking them?"--you are working too slowly, breaking chops.
white contract--Local #1 contract, abused horribly so roadmen could get Local #1 cards. Last one is on "Mama Mia."
Whore Hole--staircase hooker comes up through in “Jersey Boys”
“Who do I have to fuck to...”--statement of exasperation..."Who do I have to fuck to get my payroll signed?"
work with your hands, not with your mouth--something to say to a overtalkative stagehand
"the Wrap"--an eight-hour call at SNL to wrap all the rental goods for return
wrecked--to get drunk. “After a suicide at the Met during an opera, the show was delayed. Three stagehands went to their lockers and got wrecked.”
“write when you get work.”--sarcastic line if you take to long going on an errand (Joe Ippolito).
up my ass--sarcastic statement of where you found something. "Oh, yeah, the sidearm was up my ass."
Upsky, downsky?--fake Russian, for use with stagehands from the Eifman Ballet (City Center)
undated resignation letter--how Shubert’s keep certain heads in line.
underminer--stagehand who will undermine other members of the crew for personal advancement or because he/she can't help him or herself.
union busting--intentional acts by management to destroy a union.
union label--hammer mark on scenery
uses the same water all week--several gross propmen, how they mop
yard dogs--stagehands who are hired during loadouts who stay outside theaters and are designated to load trucks ( possibly out-of-town term)
yellow card--minimums during load in, break yellow card
"You can't break iron"--When asked how he was recovering from an injury incurred when somebody pushed a roadbox on him, the stagehand, who survived the horrors of Vietnam combat, said with deadpan intensity, "You can't break iron."
"You got your watch on today?"--sarcastic comment by a boss to stagehand plagued by chronic lateness.
"You're killing me"--exasperated line when somebody gets in your way constantly or is blocking your worksite on stage with scenery or props. The proper response: "If only it were true."
"You're welcome as a guest, but I don't need a roommate"--a crusty old house carpenter said this to a roadman who was trying to move into his office for the run-of-show. The roadman then built a primitive office for himself in the basement.
you reap what you sow--when your decisions or actions have long term and usually bad results. "The young stagehand's fistfight with an assistant designer got him banned from most industrials. You reap what you sow."
"You the boss, I'm the hoss"-- You are in charge, I'm just the worker, ready to do hard work. Overheard from a head who was working as a day laborer for the day.
"You took the gig--shut up and play"--a musician friend told me that sometimes you have to be blunt with whiny fellow musicians...stop complaining about the quality of the conductor or your other bandmates and just play your book.
a yutz--a stupid, useless person (from Yiddish)....see also mook.
zipper rigged--a costume that has been rigged with a hidden zipper so the actor can get out of it quickly in a quick change. "The frock coat was zipper rigged in the back."
"Okay, 8 a.m on Tuesday. Do I have to be there?"
fragile cookie--not wrapped too tight--busted valise
“What’s the worst thing about having a wife and a mistress? Seeing
“Mama Mia” twice. (originally used to be for “Cats”)
“Reggie Carter is harder to find than Osama bin Laden”--Artie Siccardi, during the load-in of "Mama Mia"
"The Tech is not your friend"
“Do just enough work not to get fired.”
“When I learn my cues, the show closes.”--Al Steiner
“What, and quit show business?” (based on elephant/circus joke)
“For you, the grid’s the limit”--Pete Wright
"Give me a hand. I lost my third arm in an accident." --Pete Wright
“Sex on the road is a professional courtesy”--Elaine Stritch
“The road don’t count.”--stagehand explanation for out-of-town infidelity.
"Cooperation is used when you fail to get your way."--Tim Brannigan
"Gene O'Donovan hand raises the biggest assholes on Broadway"...a reference to the infamous tech, whose inexperienced assistants are more famous for attitude than theater knowledge.
Local #1 has no safety issues because we observe no safety rules.
“You get nothing and you’re going to like it.”--Pat O’Connor
“If the cable goes under the boat, don’t worry about it. Put your coat on and go home.” Tommy Glover, teaching his cues to a young stagehand at “Showboat.”
"If you aren't doing a cue, you are blowing one."--said of the numerous carpenter cues at
“I’ve been on Broadway since it was in black and white.” --Marty Fontana
“I’m going to rewrite the laws of Broadway.” --Garth Drabinsky, Canadian impresario, fighting extradition in Canada after his pump-and-dump stock scam through LivEnt. He was sentenced to seven years in prison in Canada (in 2009). In the end, Drabinsky's sentence was reduced to five years, of which he served 17 months in the Canadian penal prison system.
“I’m going to rewrite the laws of Broadway.” --Mitchell Maxwell, AKA King of the Flops, producer of numerous bombs, known for roping in numerous dentists to back his shows, being released in 2013.
A stagehand marrying a Rockette is akin to adopting a greyhound about to be putdown.
“People don’t leave the show whistling the scenery.”
“My father used to say 'That is my last and final offer, and if you don't like that one, I have another one for you.’”-- Union attorney Steve Spivack on his legendary attorney father.
“The next stop for this show is a landfill in Staten Island.”
Why do soundmen only count to two?
On three you pick.
“You get nothing, nothing and nothing.”--Matty Lynch
“Don’t tick off the head or he’ll watch you drown.”
"There is no 'I' in 'team' but there are three 'U's' in SHUT THE FUCK UP!"
“But how was the show, Mrs. Lincoln?”--what Richie Anderson says afterbig automation screw ups at Jersey Boys
“An actress wouldn’t piss on you if you were on fire.”
“This is not a job. This is a hostage crisis"...a reference to the long hours worked at the old WWF theater in the Paramount on West 43rd Street.
“I got the prop job at Show World. I have to mop 20 times a night.” --Dylan Foley
“Why do I need a flyman? We are only prehanging electric?”--a general
manager during Legit contract negotiations.
A show is going down when:
--workcalls are canceled
--actors are hired because they fit costumes.
--producers stop paying rentals/royalties
--producer pep talk occurs
--soundmen are not allowed to order batteries.
“At 9:55 am, the shout of 'Coffee' is better than 'I love you.'”
Downward progression of stagehand desirability:
--Young, no card guys: chorus girls and chorus boys will check you out. Dates and sex may occur.
--Journeyman--After marriage to high school sweetheart disintegrates due to long hours, a man is ripe for marriage to female dressers and Rockettes on the verge of retirement.
--Older stagehands--Chorus boys with daddy complex will check you out. Male dressers will remember your birthday, may bring you a cake.
Two general managers are sitting in the house during a load-in and see
a stagehand walk across the deck.
"Boy, I'd like to fuck that guy," says one.
"Out of what?" asks the other.
(alternative punchline: “Haven’t you already?”)
I am marketing a stagehand doll....it comes with coffee-grip hands, one
red and one blue shirt, and one pair of jeans, because that is all you
need. There is also an interchangeable paper coffee cup or a can of
Bud. The dolls are inexpensive, but you have to buy all three at once--the
propman, the electrician and the carpenter.
“I want to be a producer. Drink champagne until I puke.” --line from “The Producers.”
If you want any information about when a show is loading in at a Shubert house, ask the doorman.
"We are in the fog of war."--producer during recent negotiations.
APPLICATION TO BECOME A BROADWAY DOORMAN:
--How many cats do you have? 10 or more?
--How many years have you lived with your mother?
--How many days after your mother died did you report her death to the police? (sample answer: 12 days, after the food ran out of the fridge)
FAMOUS STAGEHAND DRINKING AND EATING PLACES, PAST AND PRESENT:
--McHale’s, torn down in 2006
--Kevin St. James, torn down in 2008
--Shandon Star on 9th Avenue--now a Burger King
--McLaughlin’s--now a restaurant called Matt’s
--Luigi’s, the most reasonable Mexican-Italian food in the Theater District
Why is the musicians local named 802?
That’s the time they show up.
“Is this pit getting smaller or is it just me?”--proposed counseling
class at Local 802
What do you call a drummer whose girlfriend breaks up with him?
What’s the definition of a gentleman? Can play accordion but doesn’t.
Definition of an optimist: Mandolin player with a beeper.
OTHER STAGEHAND INSIGHTS:
"What do you think we have, two hats and a cane?"--Dan Foley retort to
“Are all the single guys at your wedding going to have police records?”--asked by a dancer at Wicked to a stagehand getting married.
“McHale’s was my off-Broadway credit”--Dede, ex-dancer, ex-McHale’s
bartender, now assistant wardrobe supervisor.
“He’s been on the road so long, if he didn’t fuck it, he fought it”---said of a boorish roadman.
“He heard his wife had died, but he hasn’t been home to check yet”--said of
elderly CBS head who worked nonstop.
“Where’s Vito? He went behind the scenery with a piece of wood.”--what to tell management if they are looking for a particular stagehand.
“Many hands make light work.”--Bill Barry, ABC TV-17
“We don’t need no heroes.”--Bill Barry on stagehands doing dangerous things
“You need a day off? Take the week.”—the late Charlie Rasmussen, famous Broadway carpenter
“I applied to be a Broadway doorman. They told me I wasn’t weird enough yet.”
We have the best Teamsters on Broadway. They are tough, good men. They make sure the work is done well and no one gets hurt, be it stagehands or Teamsters. These jokes are funny, though. They must apply to another local.
How do teamster faerie tales start? Once upon a time-and-a-half
What did Jesus Christ say to the teamsters? Don’t do anything ‘til I
How do you know when a teamster is dead? The jelly doughnut falls out.
of his hand.
What did the irate teamster say to his kids? Go outside and watch the
other kids play.
Alternative: How can you tell the Teamster children in the playground? They are the ones sitting in lawnchairs and eating doughnuts.
Teamster snail joke
Light Bulb Jokes:
How many designers does it take to change a light bulb? What do you think?
How many directors does it take to change a light bulb? Does it have to be a light bulb?
How many stage managers does it take to change a light bulb? (Holds hand right in your face) Can’t talk now!
Legendary Broadway men/nicknames:
Bandsaw Dan--Picked up and tried to shove another man through a bandsaw at the CBS shop. Didn't lose his job.
Hey, Pull Over—stagehand with Bell’s Palsy, (looks like motorcycle cop whizzing down the highway)
Big Swede--short Italian guy
Bam Bam--looks like grown up Bam Bam
John the Goat--lots of Civil War facial hair and an icky, icky police record.
Bobby Bobby Bobby (or Five Guys Named Bob)
Double A--ran book out of a Chinese restaurant, also a famous drunk.
Angry Bob--old roadman at “Cats”
Ratfink--has "Ratfink" tattoo and knows how to use it.
“The show’s been running so long, the stagehands have started talking to each other again--said of “Phantom,” said of “Cats”
Ephraim Dunsky Memorial Microphone--Card 700