Speak! My Path to Becoming a Theater Techie

Magic is occurring in the auditorium. The curtains open, and the lights fade to blue. An ogre runs upstage. The music starts, and the others on stage begin to sing. I can relax for 3 minutes.

Simone Cravatta-Blog

Shrek The Musical was my first ever musical. My first show ever.

I was the Prop Master and in 7th grade. I organized all the props from the show's beginning to the end. It was boring when I wasn't doing anything and had few responsibilities just sitting there, but I made it the most important job ever. As Prop Master, I talked to actors backstage, fixed a few broken props, handed out props, told parents they "couldn't go through the actor door," and watched an actor's pants rip right before the show. Next show though, I would have front-row seats to magic as the Light Board Operator. I would control every light in that auditorium, making magic. I was so excited to create magic and be useful.

Just kidding, there was no show. COVID-19!

In 8th grade, we had a small show following COVID-19 guidelines. I met this intern who taught us how to operate the lighting and sound boards. The first day, he looked at me and asked the director, "Can she fully participate in this?" seeing that I was in a wheelchair and very small, not tall enough to see over the booth. Either way, he taught me to run the soundboard in two weeks, and then I performed three shows. It was fun to do soundchecks on my little raised ramp and yell, "NEXT" at every actor like a cranky CVS cashier at 9PM.

This is what I was made for.

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Fast-forward, now I do the soundboard with 29 actors. I turn on the board, get on my raised ramp, and the droid has entered the building! I feel powerful when I can mess with the board.

I've created a mic help sheet for the actors to make my life easier because they go up and stare at me like I can do my job without them speaking. I yell, "Speak!" and they go one by one, having problems with dead batteries, the mic being too close to their nose, or their pack's completely off. You don't touch it! Only me! Unfortunately, I can't fix problems myself because there is no ramp to the stage, so my techies do it. They take forever to fix everything because instead of me doing it, they have to follow my instructions.

Last year, I was an SFX Operator and ran into a few "I'm not useful" moments like this. I would create a library of sound effects, having the time of my life, but sometimes, I thought, the stuff I was doing wasn't helping. In the earlier setups, I sat waiting for help with sound "rigging", while people worked on lights and taping cords. I could be helping! I cried once because I sat at practice doing nothing. I couldn't fix my sound effects during practice because it was distracting, but they could mess with the lights all they wanted! My mom spoke up, on my behalf, to the director, who responded, "We love you, Simone. You help so much." This was nice to hear, but I wanted more. Soon after, I went to the director and told her I didn't feel I was doing enough. This time, my PT got involved. I talked with her and the director to find ways to help and feel more useful. We concluded that I could tape cords, mic people sitting, and more.

After advocating for myself, I feel better. I know I can do more; the director knows I would like to feel useful. The intern will teach me to do more programming with both boards and because I was part of a meeting about auditorium updates last year, I can ensure they change how wheelchair accessible our auditorium is!

Simone Cravatta is a very active, honor roll, high school junior in New York. She does more than just theatre; she plays wheelchair basketball, writes stories, is involved in mixed chorus at her high school, and enjoys listening to music and playing Sims4. She would like to go to college for music of some sort, seeing how music and the performing arts have changed who she is.

About the Author - EmpowHer Stories

This blog is a part of the Disability EmpowHer Network and the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation collaborative blogging program, which uplifts the voices of women and girls with spinal cord disabilities.

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The opinions expressed in these blogs are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $10,000,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.