Local Production Crews, Left Gigless By The Pandemic, Are Rebuilding Hurricane-Ravaged Lake Charles
Starsky Thibodeaux slots another pallet onto the forklift, signaling a thumbs-up for the driver to lift. Standing overhead on the green metal scaffolding, two men in black shirts and hats await to load and strap in six more moving can lights, sending them back to the warehouse floor. It’s pretty standard stuff for the Lafayette-based professional stage crew; only today, these lights aren’t destined for any big stage or audience to spotlight. Rather, Thibodeaux and his crew are on hand to help a fellow live event company, Deep South Productions of Lake Charles, safely relocate gear after its warehouse roof was shredded by Hurricane Laura a month ago.
“I’m having a ball today just being able to come back to work,” says Clyde Scott, who’s helping haul road cases back under cover. “I’ve been trying to make a dollar any way I can.”
Stage hands or “roadies” as the touring crews are often known — the behind-the-scenes workers who install and manage sound, lighting and logistics for a variety of events from concerts to professional sports to corporate conferences and trade shows — have been among the obscured economic casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nationwide, the live events industry employs more than 12 million people. It’s estimated as much as 96 percent are unemployed, furloughed or lost up to 90 percent of their income since the spring shutdowns. Forced to pivot into other jobs, several local crews are now finding a home, at least temporarily, in helping with the logistics of rebuilding disaster-stricken Lake Charles.
The Current is an independent, nonprofit news outlet based in Lafayette.