Settle in everyone, because I am about to tell you my most forbidden reading story. It may shock and disturb you if you are a strict rule follower. I was never the kid who got in trouble for reading under the covers, or reading at my desk during math. I was homeschooled. All I did was read. I went to choir practice and theatre rehearsal with a novel in my bag. During the absolute quiet of rehearsals, when talking with castmates was strictly forbidden, we had two options: read or sit silently. I must have read hundreds of books during rehearsals throughout my formative years.
Once I began college, I found that my reading time was dramatically cut. I had to get creative. Waiting on the horrifically slow internet, I would read a page or two of my current book. In between homework subjects, I would read for ten minutes. There was always a book in my backpack to read at work, just in case I had time. Still, it wasn’t enough. I yearned for more reading time.
During my second year of college, I was the Assistant Stage manager for a one act play. The theatre for this play was a small classroom transformed with black curtains and a stage. My duties were minimal — I called the time for the cast of three and moved a prop from one side of the stage to the other. Halfway through tech week, I realized there was just enough light backstage for me to read. Did I start bringing a small paperback backstage? Heck yeah.
That spring, I ran the lights for a large show with a cast of 20. Theoretically, a show that large should have had a lot of light cues. I should have been extremely busy, watching the show, making sure I didn’t miss my cues. I was not busy. The show, a farce, had one set, a large open house set with lots of doors. Characters swanned in and out of the doors, without any spot lights or specials. After one run-through of the show, I realized that there was over an hour between light cues. I had an hour before I even had to listen for my Stage Manager calling my cue over the headset that I wore.
To test my theory, I took a nap during a dress rehearsal and absolutely no one noticed. Not even the person sitting next to me running the soundboard. I simply woke myself up when I heard the Stage Manager call the standby for lights and hovered my finger over the board. I pressed my little button and everything went smoothly. The tech director said we did great. I was asleep for a whole hour!
The next rehearsal, I got a little braver and brought a book. I don’t remember which book I brought — it’s irrelevant. I worked in the library, so I always had a different book with me. Using the dim book light that was supposed to light my script, I read 10 pages at a time. This was not reading at its most comfortable. This was ~forbidden~ reading. Akin to reading under the covers after lights out at summer camp, reading a book that your parents said you weren’t allowed to read, or reading a romance novel during math class.
It was a weirdly calming reading experience. Below me, an audience chortled to the ridiculous scene before them. Beside me, my fellow crewmate sat obediently waiting for their next cue. The Stage Manager sat at his desk a few steps away, following along in his script, paying no attention to me reading novel after novel at my post. I went through three books in the two week run of the show. Reading Courtney was back in action, just on the sly.
Let this be a warning to any students or theatre technicians, this is exactly what you are not supposed to do. I was not supposed to be reading during the show, regardless of whether I had the time. Sleeping during the show was also bad. I was supposed to be watching, just in case. My script was supposed to open to the correct page at all times. In fact, there was one day, where I was abruptly awoken by the Stage Manager because of a cast emergency and I had to bring the lights up. I should have been ready.
If I had been caught reading up there in the crow’s nest (the sound booth), I could have been removed from my post. I needed the show credit for the semester. Do not do what I did, even if you have an hour between cues. Do, however, bring a book or some other reading material with you in case you have reading time that won’t interfere with other responsibilities.