Behind the curtains

A look into the tech crews in the school’s theatre department

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Behind the curtains

Senior Sarah Shaw works on the lights along the catwalk during a rehearsal. Shaw is the head of the lights department.

Senior Sarah Shaw works on the lights along the catwalk during a rehearsal. Shaw is the head of the lights department.

Senior Sarah Shaw works on the lights along the catwalk during a rehearsal. Shaw is the head of the lights department.

Senior Sarah Shaw works on the lights along the catwalk during a rehearsal. Shaw is the head of the lights department.

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In the dark, students work tirelessly in complete silence as actors and actresses perform on the other side of the curtain, careful not to disturb the performance. These students are managing responsibilities such as props and set, running strict time management and dealing with any last minute problems. Just behind and even above the curtain, in the booth and on the catwalks,  there is a whole different world of theatre production that plays a huge part in keeping the show running.

The theatre tech crew, also known as run crew, stagehands, or backstage crew, work sweat and tears during performances to have the show run smoothly and safely. They are in charge of moving scenery, managing time, costumes, makeup, keeping track of props and even operating lighting and sound systems. These are all elements key to the production of a great play. While someone may not even notice the crew if they did their job well, one can certainly tell when they are not there. 

“It’s extremely varied as to what you want to get involved in,” senior Brady Dunne said. “It’s not all technology and building things. There’s costumes, makeup, sound, lighting, set design, set construction and stage management.”

Dunne is the head of the set department for one of the fall plays, “Noises Off”, and handles responsibilities such as designing and building sets, running set meetings, and running the crew during tech week. Dunne also has a lot of administrative work with emails and communications. Despite the heavy workload, he loves what he does and knows it is all worth it.

“[The best part is] the feeling when you see a production you’ve worked on for so long come together and succeed,” Dunne said. “Your job isn’t over, but you know you’ve done your job right so far.”

Similar to Dunne, senior Sarah Shaw is head of the lights department for “Noises Off” and handles a lot. She is in charge of making sure the stage is well lit and sometimes even making dramatic and challenging effects with the lights. This includes walking along the catwalks above the auditorium and stage to work with the lights.

“I started off working in the sound department, and then I also worked on lights and set,” Shaw said. “Lights kind of became my favorite because I thought that we had a lot of shows that allowed for cool ideas in the lighting scheme. I worked hard and learned a lot, and so last year the seniors in charge decided that I was a good person to be head of the department.” 

Due to the many productions performed over the year, people have chances to do both acting and crew work. They may act in one production and work on tech in another. 

“It was my junior year and I had things going on that the acting did not allow for,” senior Nicole Tucker said. “I wanted to still be a part of the theatre community, so I joined tech.”

While Tucker is acting for the play “Noises Off” this fall, in the past she has been part of the run crew, so she dealt with painting the sets and working on construction. Tucker also had to make sure the actors were safe on set. Tucker started acting as a child, and has been in numerous productions both acting and working in tech. 

“There are so many people behind the scenes and they do just as much work as the actors do,” Tucker said. “Tech people are underrated and definitely deserve more respect and recognition.”

Theatre crew gives many opportunities to those who may be too shy to perform on stage, or have stronger talents in the jobs offered in crew, to still take part in theatre. The various jobs available give everyone a chance to be a part of a major production in the school. Despite being a separate department in the theatre program, tech crew are well integrated with actors to create a cohesive community.  

“I’ve made lots of friends and met lots of interesting people through tech theatre,” Dunne said. “I really feel like I have found something here that I’m good at and that I’m happy doing. It’s really incredible.”