I’ve been doing the lighting for now my 4th year. I’ve had help each year. Quality help too. But, no offense to my previous help, this year was the best I’ve had.
Nia. She helped me last year. When I first took this year’s job, she was the only assistant I would have. I told her from the beginning that her role would grow since she had experience. This was the first time I had someone with more than one year experience so I didn’t have to do a lot of teaching with her. When I first told her that she would be operating the spotlight, she had a scared look on her face. I told her she could do it. I told her I had absolute confidence in her that she could handle it. Just a week before the show, when the lighting had a major setback, she was instrumental in keeping me in check emotionally.
Kehinde. She was new to the team. For one thing, as we went through rehearsals, it became apparent that I would need another helping hand. She was one of three people that I knew I could look to. At this time, we actually rarely had any interaction with each other. So, then, how did I figure to be good for the job? Maybe it was God but, I have a very good read on people with limited interaction with them. Kehinde reminded me of one of my sisters by the way she carried herself. But, I’ve seen her in action months earlier. She was instrumental in doing a little skit for her class at children’s church. Remember, I work back there. She also showed off her writing and singing chops. She was talented and gifted and I wanted that on my team.
I had my three finalists. At that point, I would ask the first person I saw. As fate would have it, Kehinde was the “winner”. And I’m glad it was her. She may have been with no experience, but handled everything like a pro. I also picked my finalists based on how they would potentially mesh with Nia. They would both be working close together so I needed people who could work together while offering something different to each other in a complimentary way. I value team chemistry.
As I reflect on my choices just a week ago, I realized that I ended up picking younger versions of my own two younger sisters. I won’t get into the similarities but it was impressive. I felt a little family form, if only for a few months.
My assistants came to rehearsals. They took notes. They helped me brainstorm. And trust me, this wasn’t easy. For one, as I’ve said plenty of times before, we didn’t have the equipment. We spent out long rehearsals watching the cast try to figure it out. Meanwhile, the lighting people had to try to picture how things would look. Would the spotlight be big enough to capture this? Where should they stand? Only two spotlights means the we can’t have too many moving parts. Also, it seemed like each rehearsal, the cast did something different and I and my team had to keep up with it all.
But, I also made plenty of notes and gave them all of the information I had. My reasoning was that, if something were to happen to me, they could step in. It could be a rehearsal. It could be the actual show. In any case, I had them equipped to be able to handle it on at least a temporary basis. They’ll tell you, I gave them a lot of paperwork. One thing I gave them as an “Assignment Sheet” which went through scene by scene letting them know who would handle the spotlights and choir lights for that particular scene. I studied the script inside and out and made a “Lighting Scheme Sheet” which went into detail of how exactly we would light each scene. Where is the spotlight moving? When? What about the choir lights? I also made a “Lighting Transition Sheet” that helped us with timing in terms of how fast we needed to move from scene to scene. This was a very late addition because the rehearsals never actually ran through the show so we had no idea about the flow of the show. I was able to find a could of versions on YouTube and studied those as well as listening to the official CD of the show.
Anyway, my team and I endured it all. Things really picked up once the equipment came. Once this happened, I started suffering setbacks. I mentioned this before how the way I set things up was an apparent fire hazard. Fourth year and I’m just now being notified. Whatever. So, I was beginning to check out, mentally. And then Nia stepped in. She had many words of encouragement for me. Less than a week before the show and I was struggling and she propped me up. And 11 year old propping up a man twice her age. Good grief.
Good thing she did.
On Saturday, the 14th, and I didn’t mention this before, but, just minutes before the dress rehearsal was to start, I realized I had to leave the building for 20 minutes. I had just finished teaching my team how to use the equipment. I told them that they had to hold it down until I came back. The rehearsal didn’t start on time though so it didn’t have to go down like that. Still, I wasn’t worried about them. I knew they could handle it. They had all of the notes. We all knew our jobs but we also knew what each others roles were too. Just the way I designed it to be.
Okay, now for the big show. The first night, one of the spotlights went dead ten minutes before the show was to start. I was pissed. I was frustrated. I barely eaten and slept all week from stress for this show. I was ready to mail it in. And I looked at my team. They were looking at me for an answer. I had none; but I knew I couldn’t lose it. We came too far. I scrambled to find a solution. I eventually came back to them a few minutes later. It was one of the hardest and yet easiest decisions I ever made during this process. I told Nia to hop onto the other spotlight and told Kehinde to man the choir lights. Me? I still had to figure out why the spotlight died. I had to turn the show over to them. And they took it. I didn’t have to give some sort of pre game inspirational speech like you see in the movies because I had been telling them all along that they could do it.
Only question was how would we do a show that was planned out with two spotlights, and we only had one. Luckily for us, there was some pre-show stuff going on. There was a congregational hymn as well as a free will offering. With us being such a big church, it would take some time to collect the money. I had an extra…eh…10 minutes before the actual first scene.
Still no solution. So, I had to quickly tell Nia how we would handle scenes with just one spotlight. She quickly adjusted and got it done.
I’ll pause here to tell you something else about Nia. I told Nia weeks before that I wanted her to have more of a leadership role in dealing with Kehinde. Nia had more experience and they would going to be spending a lot of time together. They were on one side of the sanctuary and I was on the other. We had communication via headset but I relied on Nia to help guide Kehinde. Good thing I did that because that’s exactly what had to happen when I stepped down.
So yeah, Nia and Kehinde did their thing perfectly. I failed to find a solution and decided to come back. By then, the show was almost half way through. We still had two scenes that, without the second spotlight, the scene would be awkwardly dark. We figured it out. I already talked about it in my latest Director’s Notes.
Okay, so we got through the show and decent success. I was proud of my team for stepping in and up in the time of need. I was worried about a lot of things that night but they were not one of them. The next night, with the spotlight back up and running, we took the show by storm. They were doing stuff and I didn’t even have to talk.
If you saw the show on either of the nights, just know that those two pre-teens are the heroes. You saw, and yes saw because we are the light, what you saw because of them. Sure, I was a leader and prepared them for it, but in these events, I think if I were in their position, I probably would’ve cracked. They did not. You should be proud of them. I know I am.
I gave them a small token of my appreciation on the end of the second night. Months before, I asked them what their favorite candy was. Do you remember a post I did last month listing my favorite candies? Welp, I used that as my excuse to keep the gift a surprised. I gave them their favorite candy, in accordance to what they said, as well as a letter I wrote for each of them. I told them I was proud of them and gave them words of encouragement.
Nia and Kehinde, if you’re reading this, and I know I talked about this in the letter and in person, but, thank you. I’ve had some rough years but you two made this one much more enjoyable. You two are great and I really want to get the band back together for next year (If I stick around). Even if I don’t, the next director would be lucky to grab you. Nia, you’re on your way to being the leader I know you can be. You did it on Saturday night on a grand scale. Kehinde, now that you have a year under the belt, if we work together again, I’m definitely putting you in a larger role. Best believe that.
I simply can’t take a lot of credit. I almost feel like I don’t deserve it. I’ve always been a team guy. And I feel like that’s why I’m a better role player than leader. I constantly deflect praise whether I deserve it or not. Don’t tell me how great I may have been. At least for this post, can we give my team the standing ovation?