So here we are.
It’s a dangerous time. Yes, it’s just like the opening title sequence of a Star Wars movie:
These are dangerous times in the D’Abruzzo galaxy. 14 months after their last encounter, after a lengthy production hiatus, our heroine is faced once again with her mortal enemy: the craft service table on “Sesame Street.”
I know what you’re thinking. What’s the big deal? Why does she have such an aversion to pipe cleaners?
And indeed, craft service does conjure up the image of little old ladies knitting or quilting, or little kids gluing glitter to construction paper. Oh, if only that were the case. I wouldn’t be writing this blog right now; instead, I’d be making a turkey out of the traced outline of my hand (because doing it in November is soooo cliché).
No, craft service is a well-known term in film and television. In a word, it means snacks. A big table full of snacks. Laden, heavy, creaking, bursting with calories of all stripes. A wonderland of crunch and snap and slurp. And free. Free. FREE!
Things I would never buy for myself, or make for myself, all for the taking! Chowder? Taquitos? Sure! A selection of candy the likes of which have not been seen since the Great Halloween Haul of 1981? Sign me up! Carrot cake? Tiramisu? Yes, please!
Of course, it hasn’t always been this way. (Nothing ever is.) If the shows that I have worked on are like snowflakes, then the craft services on these respective projects have been equally unique, running the gamut from nothing at all, to a small pile of dry vegan cookies, to every food ever created. And in the theatre, where there is no such thing as craft service, you get free water from the cooler and maybe, if your stage managers are delightful, birthday cake on the appropriate days. So it really doesn’t take much to impress me in terms of this fringe benefit. Hell, the concept of free soda in the cooler alone is enough to make me literally and audibly say yippee.
But everything comes at a cost. Maybe there is such a thing as a lunch that one does not pay for out of pocket, but you will indeed pay for free food with your derrière.
Because in film and television, there often lurks the devil called downtime. There are many causes for downtime, though its causes are irrelevant. Downtime comes in two forms. There is the welcome, much-needed downtime where an overworked and exhausted soul can recover, nap, or even just use the loo. The sort of downtime filled with chat and laughter and relaxation and maybe a quick call to check in at home. This downtime may include a single cookie or a handful of grapes. It’s civil. It’s nice.
Then there is the downtime that tries men’s souls. The helpless sort of downtime where all those sayings about idle hands are verified. This downtime could be used for endeavors that make the world a better place, broaden one’s mind, or even just create a lot of freshly knitted scarves. One could turn to the crossword, the Sudoku, the smartphone, or start writing the great American novel.
The trouble comes after one is already done with those things.
And that is when the craft service table beckons. Her clarion call, her siren song to us weary sailors, is a constant summoning to be sure, but she is loudest and most persuasive at 4 PM. That is the magic hour, the time when even the strongest willpower can buckle under her pull.
Oh, Stephanie, you say. You silly goose. What sort of tales are you telling us?
Oh, I tell the tales of perfectly sane people driven mad by candy and regret. Where one begins an innocent journey with a single apple, or maybe even a 100-calorie pack of Lorna Doones and carrot sticks that turns into a never ending loop back to the table for more... for guacamole... for chips... for cheese... and then to the hard core chocolate products and baked goods. You can hear the echoes of all who have gone before: Nooo... why do I do this.... I swore it would be different this season... what am I going to wear to the wrap party now (now now now now)...
And it’s not just grown people, justifiably ripe with their daily frustrations about work and country, who get taken in by the promises of the craft service table. It’s amazing to see the kids who come by the set, either as performers or family members or visitors, whose eyes grow wide when they see the spread and meet this love child of Rachael Ray and Willy Wonka. Sure, they think it’s fun to see Elmo and Big Bird, but Mom, can we go back to the cookies now? Just one more time?
Still, I am always torn regarding this demon. The craft service table may be evil, and she may tempt numerous victims down a path of subcutaneous destruction, but like any dysfunctional relationship, we all need her. We need these carbs and calories to hug us and get us through yet another take and another hard day. We need the commiserating chatter around the table, uniting us in that cake we really shouldn’t be eating and tell each other we really shouldn’t be eating but eat anyway. It is a truly democratic table, bringing together those of all shapes and sizes who accept each other, a beacon of light, drawing near our huddled masses yearning for some nuts.
Take her away, and there’ll be hell to pay. Seriously. Take away our snacks, and the barricades will be stormed. Because hell hath no fury like hungry freelancers experiencing sugar withdrawal.
Dangerous, yes. But so is fire. And we need fire to live. (We also need it to keep the quesadillas warm.)
So we proceed, season after season, and try to coexist in peace, the craft service table and us. Trying to understand each other and cooperate, learning how to accept each other and live a happy, balanced, sane life... hmm, it sure sounds like a kid’s show to me.
Except sometimes, when the script calls for it, our food talks. In puppet form, that is. But that’s another story.
Yes indeed. Welcome to me.