In an Emergency Pinch


This question is based on a hypathetical situation, which may actually happen.

The story is a high school production I know is currently rehearsing in hell week or one or two weeks prior(not quite sure don't quite know the whole scenario). I have been recently told that the guy who is mixing the show(an old friend) made a bad decision and will likely not be able to perform his job during the nites of the show b/c of discipline through the school. His fault at hand in my oppinion was not having a backup or someone that knows enough to fall back on in case of this scenario or something like it.
Here is where the situation gets dicey, I have been approached to possibly step in last minute and learn the show in a week. Which, one I don't really have a problem with since I went to this high school and have high knowledge of the equipment.

The hypathetical part is I have been commented to that I could be possibly paid for doing this last minute favor. The Q is how much would most high schools be willing to pay for a last minute gig in which a professional would stand in?


Active Member
they would pay you as little as they could get away with, but if you spec a price chances are they will go with whatever you ask for, as long as its not outrageous


Well-Known Member
Negotiate with them. Many high schools have a fixed budget, most of which is used up by tech week. Give them a decent fee, and see if they can swing it. They may not be able to, but give it a go.


Active Member
Let me start by stating that I may be reading more into the original post than there really is. But one doesn’t need three paragraphs to ask the going rate of tech work, and the phrase “,,,paid for doing this last minute favor,,,” sticks out. [My premise: If I’m doing someone a favor, I don’t expect any compensation.]

That being said, the other questions that need to be considered first are: Was the original guy being paid? Are you giving up gainful other employment or otherwise need this as a paying job to do the work in question? If either is yes, there should be no problems about asking for payment. (And is the potential payment really there: The original post sounds like there is some understanding that the work would be done free of charge, but if the school can’t get their first choice, then they may have to go elsewhere and pay for that service.)

But, closing in on that word “favor”, this may be a question of personal integrity [that might be too strong, but you get my drift]: Is this a situation such that one would do the job unpaid anyway, but they are actually planning to pay someone to do it? Or is it a case of one would do the job unpaid anyway, but one is going to hold out to see how much money one can get out of it?

If the former, then there is no issue – one is certainly doing the work under one’s own terms, and they are freely compensating one for it. Any payment is “gravy” for the worker, and the organization was planning to spend it anyway.

But in the second case, it would appear that one is using a working relationship [that “favor”] (and maybe one’s good word) to leverage payment from an organization that may have limited resources. And when all is said and done will either party walk away from the situation with bitter feelings?

I’m not trying to begrudge anyone fair compensation – it just appears more to this post than a regular job.



Well-Known Member
If the person is a student which from your post I am assuming, then the school in all likelihood was not paying this student. IMO a favor is a favor, you do it and the benefit is good will, not trying to squeeze some money out of a student production in a difficult situation.
If on the other had the person you are replacing was getting paid, it would be reasonable to get the same compensation.

Probably the only situation where being compensated was if this was your livelyhood, your regular job even then many professionals if they had an association with the school would step in as a favor and help out gratis.



Active Member
I direct high school productions and have no money set aside in the budget for something like you just described. Because our community here is really big on the "Friday Night Big Lights" phenomenon, theater is viewed as somewhat taboo (I've actually confronted community members who I have heard say... why do drama... only gays do that) and we're lucky to get 150 people to come see a drama per production. That roughly breaks down into $1500 in ticket sales. The show's royalties cost anywhere from $300 to $1200 (royalty fees, script rental, etc...). As you can see... that doesn't leave very much for the other aspects of the show (costumes, properties, tech, my 10% maintenance fee, etc...), so we sell ads in our programs, sell jewelry, produce small one time talent shows... etc.

Long story... well long (sorry)... I wouldn't have the money to pay somebody and wouldn't even make that offer. If I couldn't find a person willing to volunteer their time, I would have to mix the show myself... which is going to happen this show because the inelligibility lists just came out and ... well... you can figure out where this is going.


Well, I have been on your end of the situation. One production, the old guy was relieved of duty, and I had 1 week until opening night to come up with plots and learn the show. In this case the old guy was not paid, so I was not paid, although it helped me get more recommendations on my resume, which helped me get my summer job. I have also taken over for someone who was hung over and was fired. He was getting paid $8 per hour, and so that is what I got paid. It was an easier show and I only had to mix. Although I did not get paid up front in the first case, it paid off more in the end because of how much more I got paid than anyone else at the theatre because of how highly recommended I was and how reliable my recommendations said I was. I would volunteer for anyone in a bind, because while I AM a poor college student, every experience I get mixing a show is a learning experience.


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Urr, separate the profession from the need and necessity. Money should not be at issue if at all in deciding what you work verses what you commit to. Do you take one pro-gig over another once committed to a show given more pay? Or, can you scrape by on what you have in losing pay in doing one show over another? Just a important but as long as honest in doing your own finances before that of attempting to get more from a source that cannot or should not need to afford to support you over other bidders for your efforts once involved with the production. Sounds as if you are already on paper with one production - pay or not, pay or not you are involved and had at best make rights if you wish to get out of it.

Be honest. You were given a option for a job that will better pay the bills and need to work. IF it’s possible to stay with a company you are only helping than fine, but otherwise you in not getting paid are now responsible to help train your replacement once involved in the project - pay or not. This means every available hour of the day once committed to one production, you are training as well as you your replacement. This also without pay and only on your word that you would help.

If you did not help by way of committing or after that helping to the extent possible now that someone has been trained to replace you, you are free to put bread on your own table. Bread on the table or pro in the industry trumps out of necessity helping what is past for you. Intent to help is always good and owed for your own training, but pay is also a necessity. Your now living in the real world trumps any intent to help those of the past. I love the past places I have worked and was once offered double my old pay to help but one night. That’s the easy from them, but before, now and after you, they will grow and get along. Show must go on, only without you. Others once you are gone will grow and step into your shoes. Given it’s already the case but that person cannot, another will need to now. The show will go on. Yep, you might seem as if a cad for not helping but it’s a real world and your pay check means food on the table as opposed to opening night going oh’ so easy.

Help as much as you can in your off time train someone else is my advice. Than go to work for pay as what you in the past place were being trained for. Nothing could serve the purpose of where you come from more than you working professionally and making it at it. Coming back to your past given better options might help solve their temporary difficulty but only delays your own status, their self sufficiency in others to fill your shoes and for both you and them not fit inside the concept of what that production is necessary by way of mission statement to be. Bad show perhaps but those within it did the show and you don’t have to loose money in making magic where it was not to be. Your job now is in making magic for a living and perhaps helping where possible where no money or perhaps a bit is within your off time from real world work.

Figure out if your career is in doing shows at the old school to supplement your income or in helping them if it’s less about the money if at all and more about the association with old times and help of that benelevolent organization on your part when you have time. This only if you have time however now that you have a life of your own to live.


Well-Known Member
I am not sure where you are coming from
As I read the post we are talking about a high school production, where the student involved is in the penalty involved and they are asking a student who probably graduated a year or two before to come back and help. I don't think we are talking about some one giving up one job to take another job for no pay?

This is a high school production, typically with rehearsals after school with a week to go so we are not looking at any massive commitment.



Our high school tends to hire an adult to do the light and sound for us every year, for the spring musical. I know he got paid a very decent amount (I have no clue as to how much), but he did a lot of extra work that wasn't anywhere near in his job description. I'd suggest charging a modest price.

Because it's a favor, I wouldn't take a lot of money, but because of the hours of work involved, some sort of compensation is necessary I think. But mostly it depends on how the school's budget is set up. I'd talk it over with the head of the theatre dept or something, in private.


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First I want to echo the thoughts about how little most High School productions have to spend. Unless it's a school with a huge theater program and budget (yes there are some). I encourage you to do it for nothing even if they do offer to pay you. On the flip side, when our High School theater was rented out by an outside organization, my tech students got paid $10 an hour to run the equipment.
In our school system if there is a failure like this we take one of our student employs who usualy works on concerts and school events. and pay them there normal wage. That can be anywhere from 7.00/hr to 11.50/hr. there pay is based on what equipment they can use and how well they use it. Because of our student employs there has never been a problem

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