Around 25 years ago, there was a popular video game called “Search for the King.” It featured an unlikely hero, the head of an internal corporate AV department, who quit his job and went off on a pilgrimage in search of Elvis. The game had an interesting animated opening, in which the CEO derisively summoned the head of AV because the boardroom’s display was not working (it turns out not to have been plugged in). During this animation, we discover that the name of the nerdy audiovisual technician in question is “Les Manley.” This episode with the CEO frustrates Les (as it does many of us, each and every day). Our hero then puts on horn-rimmed glasses and goes off to find Elvis.
Throughout my entire scholastic career, I was equally frustrated, as the image most people had of those of us in the school’s AV Club was similar to this image of Les Manley. I suppose that I could have overcome this image by becoming a professional wrestler or a Navy Seal. But I went one step further, took off my horn-rimmed glasses, put a Leatherman on my belt and became a stager.
Those of us in the AV Club always knew that stagers were the elite troops of the audiovisual world. We packed our combat vehicles full of big, impressive audiovisual weaponry, put on our black clothing for the attack and invaded hostile foreign hotels and convention centers. When we arrived, we hit the ballroom and prepared our positions for the onslaught of the audience, who came ashore in waves from the doors as we called out commands to our troops via radio. And, as with all elite troops, we kept our movements secret from the enemy by speaking in code.
One of the most common forms of that code is that we speak in stage directions, which were obviously designed to confuse anyone listening. For instance, we do not hoist an object up into the rigging; we “take it out.” And lowering the item to the stage is “bringing it in.” To further confuse anyone who might capture one of our headsets, we reverse all directions on the stage. Right is left, left is right, backing away from the audience is going “upstage,” and moving towards the audience is going “downstage.” And, if you go too far “up,” direction changes when you find yourself “backstage” (you’d know you were there when you were wandering among old props, as Spinal Tap did). And, if you go too far “downstage,” you reach the edge facing the audience, where we have laid a trap in the form of an orchestra pit. Thus, if you wander too far “downstage,” the direction of “down” changes for you. The distance you suddenly move downward determines whether paramedics have to “take you out.”
And, as if controlling the orientation of the invaders was not enough, we have another weapon in our control of the lighting, with the ability to plunge the entire facility into darkness. There are times when we do this deliberately, and times when we do it by over-enthusiastically plugging our weaponry into power and overloading a circuit. But the critical fact is that, once we have taken up our positions, we are in total control of the battlespace.
So, needless to say, those of us from the AV Club who went on to become stagers have overcome the AV image. Our badges of rank include Maglites and multi-tools, and our decorations are the backstage passes we collect like battle ribbons. Our horn-rimmed glasses are hidden in a desk drawer someplace, and we do not need to prove ourselves by looking for the King.
Besides, those of us who are stagers already know where Elvis is in Search for the King. But, since he is one of us, I can’t reveal that to you.