Fall production crew members essential to show’s success
October 6, 2017
The space is black, save for the blue light coming from lamps hanging on the wall. It’s small and cramped. It’s packed with people running in and out and those who stay in place stand distinctly outside of a yellow-and-black-striped line. The heat makes everyone’s foreheads drip with sweat. Water bottles line countertops and phones are tucked away where the manager can’t see. This is no regular job. The people running in and out are dressed in full costume and makeup. Behind the line, there’s a fog machine and delicate equipment. These are the wings of a high school stage. This is the domain of the tech crew.
The tech crew encompasses everyone who works behind the scenes at a drama production. From people who man the spotlights to people who fix the hair, they’re all “techies”. It’s an art form of sorts. Technical theater requires the ability to set a mood, to create an ambiance and to make the show come to life.
Junior Ana Reiff has been working with the Central drama department since her freshman year and this year is a scenery crew head and designer on Grease, the fall musical. She is in charge of building, painting and designing the set for the show. She explained why technical theater is so important in any drama production. “Without crew,” Reiff said, “you can’t see anything, you can’t hear anyone and lastly you wouldn’t have anyone to greet you. …without crew you wouldn’t have a scene…without props you wouldn’t exactly know what was going on.”
Sophomore Ceruh Hullbusch works on lighting crew and has since Central’s production of Cinderella. She makes sure that the actors are seen and can see. She had performance experiences before coming to Central, choir and dance. When she came here as a freshman, acting was an option for her, but she had reasons for trying tech. “…I never liked the people I worked with.” Hullbusch revealed, “I liked the people that did the stuff for me and I wanted to be one of them. Not necessarily lighting but that’s what I got put on and that’s what I liked.”
Reiff also shared her reasons for not becoming an actor. “There are a lot of actors,” she said, “But not so many people focus on the backstage idea of everything because there’s so much that can be learned behind the scenes that people don’t pay attention to but it’s so much work and so many good people that I knew were in technical theater so that kind of encouraged me…”
Of course, while the tech crew has decided to forgo the acting portion of drama, there are actors that interact with them. Senior Lauryn Niemants plays Sandy in the Central production of the musical Grease. She has been acting at Central since her freshman year, but began performing at 4 years old. All that performing means she’s had countless interactions with tech crew. “[Interactions with tech are] always super pleasant,” Niemants claims, “They’re all super nice and just really helpful and they really just help the set come to life.”
She described it to be a very mutualistic relationship. “We can’t perform without them, they can’t do their thing without us. We need each other,” she said. If an actor sees a techie running, they move and vice versa. The two halves flow into creating an outstanding performance.
Like all extracurricular groups, the tech crew has its fair share of traditions passed down throughout the years. Before every show, the entire tech crew gathers in a circle on the stage. They reflect on the hard work that brought them to show time, the work they take pride in. After each performance and every night leading up the matinee, there’s a crew circle where they go over what went wrong and how to fix it. After the last performance, they all head to Village Inn to drown in breakfast foods and pie while they talk about anything and everything. All of the tech storage areas are covered in graffiti, names and graduating years of seniors who poured their souls into the theatre. When the walls are covered in Sharpie from the 80s, one feels like they’re being watched over by their predecessors of the stage.
It’s easy to think of the tech crew as just a bunch of moles who run around backstage in the dark. And, while that is true, it’s a very accepting and diverse group who strive for the same goal of a beautiful production. “We understand that some skills cannot be shown on the stage by acting,” Reiff said, “Some skills you have to build, or you have to paint or you have to engineer it to sound good. You have to make a beautiful lighting design. …Creative outlet is everywhere when it comes to technical theater.”
The tech crew is a key part of any drama production. While they’re not actors and don’t get quite as much recognition, the people love their jobs and often do really well. They’re often seen as what they create – the background. “I just want to thank [the tech crew],” Niemants, “I would not be here doing what I do if I didn’t have the support from everybody. …It’s kind of tradition for there to be drama in drama… but when you go to tech it’s just a safe space…they’re there to do their job and it’s just really refreshing to see that. I just love that they do that and that they’re so dedicated to what they do.”