by Abbey Knupp
The hard work and dedication that goes into putting a play together is nearly unfathomable. The participants live in the theater for weeks as they learn lines and run scenes until the words haunt them in their sleep and they can’t go 3 minutes without being reminded of the show. When opening night finally arrives, the audience sees the finished product put forth by the actors, though they get no glimpse of the action behind the stage. While the actors and actresses are performing their hearts out onstage, a whole different crew is working backstage, making sure that all props are in their proper place, the set changes run smoothly, the actors are dressed and ready, the mics are working, and the theater remains upright.
Sean Webb, a Bellbrook High School senior, and Kenleigh Caine, a junior, are two of the most instrumental people in helping make the theater run smoothly. When asked what got them started in stage crew, Caine answered that she “wanted to be involved, but was too afraid to act.” Stage crew is a great way for students to get involved with the theater department without having to put themselves out on the stage. The essence of the art can still be captured from behind the scenes, where special effects and props turn the mundane into magic.
Caine stated that “painting and running the shows” is her favorite part of stage crew and Webb was in agreement, though they both said that shows are also the most stressful part of being on the crew. The reason for this, they say, is because of the actors. “They are always in the way,” Caine complains while Webb quietly agrees, adding that “[The actors] have a superiority complex.” They amended to say that they love the actors, though it is difficult to get work done with so many bodies backstage, especially since set changes are the worst part of running a show.
Both Caine and Webb recoiled in horror as they remembered the immense set change that occurred in the school’s fall show, Absolutely Murder, where an abandoned gunpowder mill was transformed into a pleasant residence in just a few minutes. They recalled having to set a particularly pesky newspaper while trying to pick up all of the extra trash on the stage, put up the drapes, bring in the new light fixtures and furniture, and hang up the paintings on the walls. Set changes require accuracy, precision, and silence. Everything needs to get done quickly and seamlessly or else, as Webb puts it, “You’re done.” Stage crew brings the magic to the shows and, while it can be an extremely fun task that could make a show, it is immensely stressful.
“It’s like a full-time job,” Webb states, expressing that he puts around 32 hours into stage crew per week. He spends, on average, 5 hours a night in the theater, with an extra 12 hours put in on the weekends. When asked why they kept coming back, Kenleigh stated that it’s because they get free food on Saturdays, while Sean replied: “They have my family.”
Stage crew is a great way for students to express their creativity and get the theater experience without having to face an audience. Crew members are an integral part of the theater that help make the shows run smoothly and bring the magic to life.