It’s a simple fact that musicals could not be same without the pit orchestra. Those people who spend hours upon hours in a hole in the ground to only be the background are incredibly important. And to disclose my bias, I am one of those people. For three years I have been stuck in the ground, playing flute, and not being able to watch the musicals. And through those years I have had several near death experiences, but for some reasons I am about to share, I keep going back.
Near Death Experiences
The first musical I ever participated was Guys and Dolls. In the second act of the musical, there is a big fight scene, where everyone scrambles for a gun. Let me tell you one thing: scrambling is never a good situation for the pit. I did not even realize it until after everything had happened, but during the scene, the gun went flying too far. It came to rest right at the edge of the pit. Being a run through of the scene, they couldn’t stop to grab it—so the actors scrambled exactly as if it was a few feet from the edge. Everyone gasped as one of the actors nearly did a somersault straight into the pit, stopping himself at the last possible second. Had he not stopped, he would have landed right on top of me (and he was much larger than little freshman me).
The second (not really) near death experience came my sophomore year when we put on Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat. Joseph searches through the brothers’ bags for his golden cup and then throws each of the bags into the pit. For some reason, it was decided that the bags should be paper McDonald’s bags, which floated perfectly harmless into the pit. One boy, however, decided to use a Happy Meal box. Let’s just say that one didn’t come down quiet as nicely. By the time we were done with the show, every single flute player had been hit in the head with it at least once. It wasn’t exactly deadly, but it was definitely not terribly pleasant.
Why I Love It
Any logical person would ask, “Annie, why on Earth would you keep doing pit? You just nearly die and don’t get to actually watch the musical.” The truth is, I love it too much to stop. Those experiences have just made so many unforgettable memories and have made me closer to the pit than the rest of my school’s band.
When you do pit, you’re stuck with less than thirty people for hours a week (hours a day during tech week). It’s sort of impossible to not grow close to those people. My freshman year, during pit, I became incredibly close to several people I had never spoken to before and continue to be friends with to this day. One of the greatest memories I have is when five upperclassmen invited me to go to lunch with them during the break between the Saturday matinee and evening performances. It turned into a mini adventure. We went to the Dollar Tree and bought kazoos (which ended up not even working), hats, a beach ball (which we blew up and tossed around before the show and is still somewhere in the band room), and several silly gifts for our director. Though two of the people graduated after that, the tradition has continues to this day.
Also, being in a small group allows you to get to know your director in a completely different way. The first director we had been known by most of the band as “mean” and “too serious,” but those in the pit soon realized it was not the case. He was really kind and fun with the pit and ended up being a lot of the pit members’ favorite teacher. Once, during tech week, the musical director was changing something. The flute section had brought down a bag of marshmallows (which had been force-fed to me early in the evening and was one of many foods we snuck into the pit over the years). We noticed our stand light was extremely hot, so we decided to stick a marshmallow on a pencil and try to roast it. When our director saw what we were doing, he pulled out his phone and downloaded a fireplace app, which he put on our stand.
All those little memories really add up to make me love pit, but there would be no way I could do it if it weren’t for the music. Even when I don’t like show, there is still fun to be found in the music. For example, I did not like Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (with Seven Minute Scene Changes—we had some pretty long ones that show), my junior year show, but I have rarely had as much fun playing than I did playing the piccolo for the curtain call music. The whole song was a basically a piccolo feature and was one of those difficult songs that once you get, your fingers can just fly through it.
Pit is definitely a difficult extracurricular—the music is much harder than normal band music—but I could not imagine my high school experience without it. Some of my greatest memories come from it and I truly don’t miss watching the musicals because I get to make them possible.