Jen Stevenson joins me today to tell us her favorite kind of romance characters – and why they are so special to her. Keep reading and she might just make you crave your own stagehand!
Why I write romances about stagehands
by Jennifer Stevenson
I first fell in love with stagehands in college, sitting across the cafeteria table from the guy who would become my husband. He had a way of sucking an entire square of lime jello into his mouth that captivated me. His Levi 501s hung low on his hips, all creased and ripped from hard work. He swung his steel-toed boots like a dancing Lippizan horse. He laughed a lot.
I found out later that not all stagehands could steal my heart the way he did, but they all have a lot in common. They live and breathe the performing arts, but they can also screw in a lighbulb without making a production out of it. Many’s the time I’ve heard a stagehand drop a knowledgable remark about an opera singer’s career, shrewdly critique a new musical, or make terrible Shakespearean jokes. Stagehands can also build scenery, hang and focus spotlights, rig tons of equipment in dangerous locations, lug massive crates full of props, costumes, machines, speakers, and electrical equipment in and out of trucks, put them in place, and then move it all with the precision of a surgeon, night after Broadway night.
I write about stagehands because of this contrast between the glamour onstage and the grease under the hood. And for other things. They show an old fashioned chivalry toward women. They tend to marry waitresses—these being the women they see the most—and support them in style. They work insane hours, because during those months when the work is available, the pay is amazing, but when the theaters are dark, they make nothing. A stagehand doesn’t consider that he’s done a day’s work until he clocks past his straight eight.
Stagehands also have old fashioned issues that a romance writer can sink her teeth into: A stagehand may work so much that the wife gets restless out in her fancy suburban McMansion and wonders if he’s spending the night with a waitress who lives closer to the Opera House…since that’s how she met him, after all. A stagehand may work thirty hours in a row, taking stimulants to stay awake, and then knock himself out with booze so he can sleep in his car for the three hours until his next job. Any weekend evening, his girlfriend may be alone—because, while the rest of the world plays, he works.
Unlike actors, rock stars, and other performers in show business, stagehands are real men. They sweat. They wear toolbelts, not makeup. They’re thick-muscled, not scrawny. They don’t wonder if you still like them if you haven’t said so in the past five minutes. A stagehand knows who he is, down to his socks. He knows what he’s good for, and he has a workingman’s pride in doing it, and he gets paid handsomely for it. He’s comfortable in his skin.
A stagehand is often overeducated for his job. He builds canoes in his spare time, reads Kafka on the flyrail between rigging cues, plays in a band, buys and manages apartment buildings, flies to Viet Nam to count whooping cranes. He’s also coarse, funny, sexy, strong, competent, and often dangerously bored, so he gets into the kind of trouble that makes a romance writer’s mouth water.
Moreover, stagehands tend to be, to use their term, “related.” Families of stagehands joined their union in the early twentieth century and intermarried, swapping waitresses to keep the bloodlines strong. A stagehand knows everybody he works with. His dad knows everybody he works with, and his uncles and cousins and his grandpop too. A big city Local is a lot like the English Regency Upper Ten Thousand, only smaller. Instead of judging one another by lineage, rank, and income, stagehands measure themselves by lineage, skills, and the number of hours they work. It’s a hot-house atmosphere of struggle and pride, privilege and hard labor, a small town full of blue collar hunks nestled inside the barely-larger community of glittering lights and art, balancing on top of a huge city: a universe that a romance writer can’t resist. Not this romance writer anyway.
Jennifer Stevenson has immortalized stagehands in her Backstage Boys series. Re-released this spring are King of Hearts and Fools Paradise, available at Amazon and at Book View Café. Find her at http://jenniferstevenson.com or on Facebook.
Thanks to Jen for coming on the blog! Who are those sexy stagehands in your life?