Stage technicians hope March Madness will bring jobs back to Indianapolis

Posted at 10:25 AM, Jan 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-19 10:26:02-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Behind the scenes, they work on the lights, the audio, the staging. Without them, it would be hard to see, hear or enjoy concerts, sporting events, or shows at venues across central Indiana.

With so many cancellations due to the pandemic, professional stage technician Sandy Bright has faced quite a struggle.

"I'm a survivor, so I know I'd get through this somehow. It's been tough and scary, and every day I think I need to get another job to figure out what to do," Bright said.

If you look up, Bright is usually the one running the house lights at Lucas Oil stadium. Luckily, this season's home Colts games meant a paycheck.

"It was crazy to go from a crazy work (load) to be cut at the knees to nothing to do," Bright said.

More than 200 people make-up the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 30. The IATSE is counting on March Madness to be the event that sparks a return of their jobs.

To some people, March Madness is just a game. But to stage technicians, it's so much more.

"It's my career, livelihood. It's what I love to do," Bright said. "I love my job."

"It's a light at the end of the tunnel is what it is ... Hope," Aaron Winegard, a third-generation stagehand at the Murat Theatre, said.

Winegard says most of his fellow craftsmen and craftswomen lost 80$ of their salaries, which on average is more than $50,000.

"They've gone from working every day and begging for a day off to begging to get back to work," Winegard said.

Another professional stage technician, Willie Walker, has worked at a number of places, including Butler University and Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

He believes the NCAA tournament will help him and his friends bounce back from a tough 2020.

"It's going to be great. I'm a huge basketball fan anyway, but I just enjoy putting these shows together. It makes me feel like I'm part of something bigger," Walker said.

Three people, who like many, are fans of basketball and bigger fans of working full-time, all the time.

It's not known how many workers will be called to duty. The local union has agreements with several sites, including Lucas Oil Stadium and Bankers Life Fieldhouse.