“Almost Maine” Would Be Pretty Lame Without Techies

The school’s production of “Almost Maine” kicked off this week, so take a look at the technical aspects of the play that are not seen by the audience

Lights, camera, action! The technology theater students, or “techies”, curate every detail of the night. Despite the main attraction of show business being the leading personalities, a poorly lit and undecorated stage would draw a small audience. 

Seamless transitions between scenes, changing sets, and smooth lighting cues are what techies aspire to have on opening day. However, the hectic nature of the job and clashing roles often lead to miscommunications handled in the moment.

“We know what we’re doing, and we all step on each other’s toes,” sophomore Aidan Hobbs said. “Set does setting, lights does lighting, sound does sound, costumes does costumes, props does props. We run into these intersections with set dressing, is that set or props? Handbags, are those props or costumes?”

Hobbs is the co-head of costumes, meaning they must be intimately familiar with the script to assign period and character-appropriate clothes to each actor. Between purchasing new pieces and rummaging through the costume closet, Hobbs averages 11-hour school days to help out during and after classes.

“It’s a lot sometimes,” Hobbs said. “One thing I try to do is just pretend like I know what I’m doing, because if there’s at least one of us that is calm and collected, then we can get stuff done, right? If not, then nothing’s gonna happen.” 

Freshman Juliette Kane recently joined the production’s cast and crew. She not only plays Marci, a middle-aged woman struggling with a dwindling romance, but serves as an assistant stage manager (ASM). After running lines with her partner, the actress replaces her microphone pack with a headset and begins managerial duties.

“We’re in tech week right now, so this is the first week where we’re actually on the stage putting teams together, seeing scenes and it is absolutely chaotic,” Kane said. “For the last show, we had not done a full run through until opening night. It’s kind of a hit or miss, we never know if the show’s gonna go well until we finish opening night… once we get the costumes, the lighting and the sound, it gets really exciting and the momentum just starts building up.”

Kane started her acting career in kindergarten, performing in 11 Encore Stage & Studio shows independent of school – overall, this is her 25th play and counting. She described her time at the school as vastly different from the production company, which gave her greater insight and exposure to the world of theater.

“You’re working with people who are really passionate about theater [at the school], everyone wants to be here and is really intimate,” Kane said. “It’s more mature, you do better shows and things that are more fun.”

Senior Henry Frickert is a veteran techie. The lighting department head has been a part of the theater program since his freshman year. While he works in the booth to program lights across the auditorium, his job is dynamic in other ways. 

“Most of the communication happens during the show,” Frickert said. “We have this headset where I can communicate with the stage managers down [below the booth], and they’ll tell me what to do. They’ll tell me [when] the stage is ready, so I’ll just hit a button and the lights will come up. Hopefully, they were telling the truth, and there’s not some actor where they shouldn’t be or set pieces where they shouldn’t be.”

Directing a team of students often younger and less experienced than himself is a difficult, but necessary task. Frickert must train an apprentice to manually repair and adjust the lighting in the catwalk, the black box, behind the curtains, and on either side of the wings to  ensure the physical fixtures are functioning properly. Not to mention, he also programs the lighting board and computer for each cue, with many shows requiring upwards of 100.

“If something goes wrong in your department, that department head is the one who’s going to take the fall for it,” Frickert said. “[Techies] don’t really do anything without your permission, which they shouldn’t, and generally, they’re pretty respectful of that.”

With the help of approximately 30 techies and 20 actors, the theater department puts on three shows a year for the greater Arlington community. Within those productions, there are four performances stretched across three days for each show.

“There aren’t really normal days in [the] theater,” Hobbs said. “We show up and we do what needs to be done.” 

Whether the theater department gives techies a month or a few days to prepare, the techies work tirelessly behind the scenes to deliver the best production possible. As one cohesive group, the theater kids’ “Almost Maine” opened on Feb. 2, 2023.

“The theater has so many moving parts,” Frickert said. “It’s kind of this crazy, organized mess.”