Head Porter Has Wicked Job

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Crawford makes sure that the show goes on

By Kara Bloomgarden-Smoke

Kirth Crawford was getting off the subway 13 years ago when a gust of wind blew his newspaper out of his hand and open to the classified section.

“I saw that Disney was hiring, so I called them and went in for an interview,” said Crawford, 40.

Crawford began by selling T-shirts for the Disney production of Aida at the Palace Theatre and eventually started filling in for housekeeping porters. Crawford moved to the Gershwin Theatre when Wicked opened seven years ago. Two years after he started working at the Gershwin, Crawford was promoted to head porter.

Kirth Crawford makes sure that the curtain goes up at The Gershwin Theater as head porter. Photo by Andrew Schwartz

Wicked, the popular musical based on a prequel to The Wizard of Oz, has been on Broadway for seven years and, according to Crawford, all eight shows a week play to full houses.

Before working on Broadway, Crawford did odd jobs. He worked at a supermarket, as a security guard at department stores and as a newspaper deliveryman. He likes his current job the best.

“It’s not hard, just time consuming, but if you keep up with everything it runs smooth,” said Crawford.

A typical day for Crawford starts at 6 a.m., when he drives to the Gershwin Theatre from his apartment in Washington Heights. At 2 p.m., he goes home and picks his son up from school. At 5 p.m., he returns to the Gershwin. He goes home around 10 p.m.

“I sleep about 12 hours a week,” said Crawford. “It isn’t a big deal though— nobody in my family sleeps a lot.”

Crawford is in charge of his department, which consists of 20 porters. They have to make sure that the garbage is taken out, the floors mopped and vacuumed, the bathrooms restocked and the backstage area cleaned.

Crawford is also responsible for payroll for his department. He has to make sure that all the hours are correct, and he has to find a sub when one of the porters calls in sick. Finding subs, and showing them the ropes, is the most difficult part of the job.

“They got lost in the building because it’s so big, and then I have to find them.” The Gershwin seats around 2,000 and has five stories.

“It’s hard when you have a building this big because as fast as you clean up, it gets messed up,” said Crawford. “Small theaters got it good because everything is right there.”

Over 300 people work for the show. “We put up pictures so we can tell who is supposed to be here, but sometimes it is hard to recognize the actors in their makeup,” said Crawford.

There are some surprising parts of backstage life. “The men actually keep their dressing room cleaner than the women, which is not what I expected,” said Crawford. The stagehands have a room with a stove and a food dehydrator, where they bring in deer to make jerky. “I guess they go hunting,” said Crawford. “They are nice guys and they feed us.”

There is also a laundry room, a costume room, a wood shop and ensemble and individual dressing rooms. The ensemble painted a mural in one of the stairways and departing cast and crew write notes when they leave.

On school holidays, Crawford brings his son and stepson to work. “I put them to work,” he says with a smile. “I have a great boss. It’s very kid-friendly here.”

Crawford’s 13 year-old-son, Kendell, enjoys one of the best perks of his father’s job. “He gets to see all the shows,” said Crawford. “But his favorite thus far is Wicked.”

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