1. Crew Call
The rotund, smiling man stood up and addressed the group in an unexpected Irish accent.
"Okay everyone, if I could just have your attention. For anyone who hasn't worked with me before, I'm Steve Thomas, and I'll be your director this evening. Over here is Amanda, our staff producer. Doug here is technical director. Sam is our engineer. And Phil over there is in charge of audio for tonight, with Mark and Jake who you guys probably all know. And the young man with him is Peter Kerr, he's here for work experience from his high school, and I suggest that you be nice to him, because I've had a chat with him and he's pretty smart; he'll probably be standing here doing my job in a year or two."
Peter blushed as the entire crew turned to look at him. He felt very young, at eighteen, though a few of the production assistants were surely only a year or two older than him. Peter knew what he was doing, at least in theory, and was fitter and stronger than many of them, but the crew had an air of confidence and no-nonsense ability about them that was slightly intimidating.
"Cameras one through five are already set up at the stage. That's studio A. Guys, you know what you're doing. Six and seven will cover the anchors out here in studio B. Bill's on six and seven is locked off. That'll be set up, and the lights, when we're done here. The foundation is managing the volunteers on the phones; we don't have to worry about any of that. We'll have the phone number up throughout on the Inscriber."
Peter listened vaguely as the director went through various points about the play they were televising that night, a fundraiser for a national charity. There were so many different things to remember. Luckily he didn't have to worry about them all; he just had to do whatever cable-running and mic-adjusting Phil, the terrifyingly proficient audio chief, needed help with.
"So a word about the actors; we're not working with professionals here, but we do need to turn in a professional television event. These are skilled amateurs. Most of them haven't been on live television before. But they have professional wardrobe. They have professional makeup. They've hired a professional lighting crew, who we've been working with, and they're excellent. Some of these people want careers in the theatre. This is their chance to shine on national television. You can bet they're taking this very seriously indeed. We owe it to them to do not just a good job, but the best possible job. That means you. Every single member of this crew. Every job is important. Let's cut no corners. Let's do it right. Thanks. We have two hours. Let's make it happen."
There was a palpable sense of excitement and anticipation as the twenty or so crew members streamed off in separate directions. Peter followed Phil and the other audio assistants, Jake and Mark, to the production truck.
"So, guys," Phil grinned. "Costume drama. You know what that means."
"Concealed microphones?" asked Jake.
"You got it," Phil replied, as Jake and Mark high-fived each other, "but don't get too excited. The female principles have mics and transmitters sewn into their costumes. I got fresh batteries put in this morning while the costumes were in wardrobe. We just have to make sure they still work when they're put on. There are a couple guys who need miked up though - here's the list. Just tape them to their chests. I know how much you two enjoy playing with hairy chests, since you don't have any body hair of your own yet."
Mark smiled and flipped him the bird.
"So you guys get on with that. Peter, grab this headset. I want you to go out to the stage and we'll get some levels on the omnis out there. Let's get going, time is short here."
2. Talent Spotting
Peter felt rather proud of himself as he walked around the building and through the corridors to the main theatre auditorium. As he strode through groups of musicians, stagehands, volunteers, and various hangers-on, he noticed them taking in his "TV CREW" badge and headset, and respectfully making way for him. This was a feeling he could get used to.
Inside the auditorium was a scene of chaos as last-minute preparations were made by the theatrical crew. Backdrops were being raised and lowered; prop positions checked; last minute line changes being reviewed; and the chorus was rehearsing one of their songs. Some members of the invited audience had already arrived and were taking their seats.
Peter pressed his "talk" button. "Phil, this is Peter, I'm there".
The headset crackled, "Okay kid, just hang loose for a second, I'm working on a little problem here."
Peter relaxed and leaned against the wall, watching as a small group of actors took the stage in full costume, scripts in hand, apparently having decided to rehearse something just one last time. The flowing dresses of the female players certainly did nothing to hide the curves of their bodies, and Peter found himself admiring the shapely behind of one particular actress at some length.
His thoughts were interrupted by a buzz in his ear. "Peter, I need you to check the number six omni. Not getting anything from it."
Peter walked up to the stage and swung his body onto it. He made for the offending mic, and checked the connection. "Looks good Phil, it's plugged in OK", he radioed.
"Okay, can you go ahead and replace the mic and the cable to the snake, we don't have time to muck around."
As Peter worked he glanced up at the group of actors still rehearsing in front of him. The girl he'd been checking out from behind was just as shapely from the front. She was engrossed in her script, paying no attention to the other activity going on around her. Peter let his eye linger on her exposed cleavage, then up to her face - where he realized with a start that he knew this girl.
Connie Clark. Could it really be? The girl from his chemistry class last year. The one he had lusted after from their first meeting. The one who was so intelligent and funny, and so effortlessly sexy. The one, when they were preparing experiments, who he was mentally undressing and imagining naked; wondering what it would be like to feel her body; to suck on her nipples. The one who gave him such strange looks, as if she knew the dirty secrets in his head. But the one who had never given him any encouragement.
Nearly as tall as him, curvy without being fat, with dark hair, fair skin, and green eyes, Connie had featured in the starring role in many of his wet dreams. Even confined in a school uniform, her body was provocative and distracting, with pert breasts whose shape could not be hidden by a uniform blouse.
He had never known that she was an amateur actress; but yet here she was, standing here in front of him in a dress which made her even more sexually desirable than he remembered; she appeared as a radiant example of pure, virginal Victorian womanhood, brimming with suppressed sexuality. Peter felt a stirring in his groin as he watched the exposed tops of her breasts rising and falling with her breath.
"Peter, is that mic back?"
Peter was shocked back into reality. "Yeah Phil, try it now," he replied. At the sound of his voice, all of the actors turned to glance at him - and Connie recognized him with a smile. He nodded at her, as Phil's voice in his headset gave him another task.
3. The Show Must Go On
"Thirty minutes to air, everyone" came the producers voice over the speaker. Peter was with Phil in the audio booth of the truck, watching as the older man carried out his final microphone checks.
"Okay, get Edward to give me a test, Jake," he ordered.
"This is James Dobson and I'm playing Edward, testing one two three, one two..."
" ... that's great, next one please Jake, Emily," Phil interrupted.
" ... onn ... car ... mly ... n ... oo ... ree..."
"Something's wrong there Jake, get her to check the connection to the transmitter."
"Uh, Phil, this is Jake, it's connected fine."
"Okay Jake, get her to go to the red room, I'll send Mark to change her out. Mark?"
There was no response but silence.
"Okay kid, looks like he's out of radio range, and that means I've got a job for you. Go find this person who's playing Emily", Phil squinted at his cast list, "Connie Clark is her name." You need to fit this lav mic. You know how to do that, right?"
"Sure, I know how to put it on and check it's working," Peter responded, "but where does it go?"
Phil looked at him, puzzled. "It has to be hidden, and it has to be in the right place to pick up her voice. This is the job Mark and Jake were hoping for earlier. You need to clip this on her bra, kid. It's just part of the job; most of these actresses have done it a thousand times. Just be confident and professional. But here's the thing, you need to be confident, professional, and really quick, because we're on air in like twenty minutes." Phil turned back to his console. "Okay Jake, next is Darcy. Let's give him a test..."
Peter gaped. Was he really going to see Connie stripped to her bra? He reddened.
Phil turned to him, suprised that he was still there. His expression softened. "Hey Peter, it's not a big deal. Trust me, this is probably some dried-up sixty year old. She'll understand why you're there and she won't bite. You have your tool kit? Good to go? Okay?"
"Okay, I guess," replied Peter, who knew that it was definitely not a 'dried-up sixty year old' that he was going to be working on. But he wasn't going to complain.
4. The Rubber and the Road
"Hi Connie!" Phil said, as he walked into the so-called "red room", deserted except for the costumed actress.
"Hi Phil, how are you doing?" Connie responded with a smile, "I saw you earlier."
"Yeah, just helping out with the sound, I'm here on work experience."
"Do you know when the lady is going to come and put a microphone on me? We're getting really close to curtain."
Peter avoided eye contact. "Well, the thing is, we don't have any women in the audio crew. And the other guys are really busy, so, uhm ... they sent me."
"Oh, you're going to mic me up? Okay. It's just I thought it had to go under the costume."
"Yeah, uhm, this is a bit embarrassing, but yes, I'll need you to slip it off for a second and I'll clip this mic on."
Connie looked panicked. "Is that the only way? I'm sorry, I've never done this kind of thing before."
Peter was about to answer when the voice came in his headset - "ten minutes to air, positions everyone" - and then a second later, "ten minutes to curtain, everyone" shouted in the corridor outside.
Connie was red faced. She bit her lip. "Okay. Let's do it."
She reached behind herself, unclipped some hooks, and started to pull the dress up. Peter had the mic in his fingers, ready to clip it on to her bra quickly so she could get herself decent again without too much embarrassment. He couldn't help watching the shape of her breasts as the fabric of the dress flowed over them.
"How are you going to clip that on me?" Connie asked, slightly muffled, as she worked the dress up over her body.
"I'll just clip it on your bra," Peter replied, matter-of-factly, as Connie finally pulled the dress over her head. He stared in shock.
"But I'm not wearing a bra," Connie said, quite unnecessarily.
Her unexpected, shocking nakedness made Peter gasp. He couldn't help but stare wide-eyed, as she stood there in her underwear, at her exposed grapefruit-sized breasts, each capped by a somehow soft and vulnerable looking pink nipple. For a moment he forgot to breathe.
"Well?" Connie demanded, a trace of annoyance in her voice, but also, perhaps, amusement.
"No bra," Peter stammered.
"No shit, sherlock," Connie giggled. "Can you mic me up?"
"I'll have to tape the mic to your chest, in between your ... uhm ... breasts," Peter offered.
"Do you know how? Have you done that before?"
"Uhm, no. Not really. Not on a woman." Actually, not on a man either, but he didn't feel like admitting that.
"Well, I guess it'll be a learning experience for both of us. Best do it quickly."
Peter knew the theory; he knew how to lay tape on the chest; and tape the mic to that tape; and then build a protective layer of tape on top of the mic to stop the costume rubbing on it, while still allowing free flow of air to pick up the actor's voice. He pulled the roll of surgical tape from his toolbox, and tore a strip off. He gently brought his hands up to Connie's chest and placed the tape between her breasts. Pushing it down he was surprised to feel her trembling a little underneath his touch.
Peter's own hand shook as he positioned the mic with one hand and brought tape up to secure it with the other, a maneuver that placed his wrists within a half-inch of her nipples. He felt her gasp as he accidentally brushed one of them with his hand while sticking down the tape; by the time he was done he had "accidentally" brushed against her nipples a dozen times and he felt them growing harder each time. Her face was flushed and there was a sheen of sweat over the skin of her breasts.
Peter held the microphone lead and reached around behind her to tape it there, his body close to hers, their eyes level. She stared into his eyes and deliberately shifted her body, pressing her breasts into his chest and her groin into his. Her eyes registered surprise at his hardness there. Then the lead was taped; Peter pulled back from her, and the moment was over.
"Five minutes to air, everyone."
Peter cleared his throat. His voice was hoarse. "Could you just, test it."
"This is Connie Clark playing Emily, and I'm here with Peter and he's just miked me up. He did a really good job, he's a real pro. Can you hear me okay?"
"Hey Peter, Phil, that's fine, good job there. Can you get back to the truck now?"
"It's working. I have to go," Phil told Connie, "Uhm, Listen..."
"Sssh," Connie stopped him, her finger up to her lip. She smiled. "Nothing to say. Now go."
5. Fade to black
"Back to network master in four ... three ... two ... one ... and we're out. Thank you everyone, that was beautiful."
There is a real thrill in working on live television. Peter felt it now. The sense of accomplishment and of shared achievement was very real.
"Great job guys," Phil told his audio crew. "Everything came together, even if it was a bit last-minute. Where were you just before we went on air Mark? Couldn't get hold of you."
"Uh, call of nature."
"Okay, well make sure you let me know next time. Because I couldn't get you, Peter here had to do a concealed mic for one of the actresses." Phil shot Peter a knowing grin. "So was she an old hag, Peter, or a young hottie?"
Peter blushed. "She was ... pretty nice. Actually I know her from school ... she was in one of my classes."
"Way to go Peter!" exclaimed Jake. "One night in live television and you're getting all the perks of the job already! Did you feel her up?"
"Leave him alone Jake," grinned Mark. "You're too old to be fantasizing about schoolgirls in their bras."
"Aw, now you're never too old for that," laughed Phil, "but it's important to be professional about these things. I'm sorry if it was awkward for you Peter, especially with it being a classmate of yours. Mark can go remove it from her if you like."
"No, that's okay!" interrupted Peter, "I'll do it!"
"Caught you!" Phil exclaimed, and the others laughed, "The wardrobe people will take it off and send them back to us. But I appreciate your enthusiasm! Let's get started on packing everything up."
6. Tear down