Behind the scenes
For each musical production, several students work backstage to make the performance come to life. The Patriot turns the spotlight on members of stage crew and takes a closer look at “Shrek The Musical.”
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The lights dim, and the hum of chatter from the audience ceases. A loud voice echoes throughout the auditorium requesting that all phones be silenced or turned off. Then, the music swells and the nerves set in as senior stage manager Erica Deyesu listens intently to her headset and communicates with the students in the tech booth. Every set change and cue is under her command. There is no room for error.
The upcoming production of “Shrek The Musical” will hit the stage on March 17 under the leadership of Director Larry Hensley and Assistant Director and Chroreographer Kimberly Bruggemann. In order to be ready for the performance in front of hundreds of people, hectic rehearsals full of complicated set designs and precise planning have taken place for months, according to Deyesu. The actors have been working hard each and every day, and although they are the ones credited with bringing the show to life, there are many underappreciated and unrecognized students behind the scenes.
From behind the curtain, Deyesu balances several tasks while making sure the whole show runs smoothly. Deyesu is in charge of many aspects including attendance, reading lines which haven’t been memorized, and, most importantly, calling cues from backstage during the actual performance.
Keeping everything on track with such a large show is by no means easy. “I get a lot of emails between all the cast, crew, Mr. Hensley, and Mrs.[Brueggeman] asking questions. Sometimes it is hard to stay organized,” Deyesu said. And while the time, dedication, and commitment are a huge deal, Deyesu claims it is all worth it, and she even manages to have a lot of fun. “I love singing and dancing along backstage,” she said.
However, Deyesu is not alone behind the curtain. Sophomore Emma Olsen is another member of stage crew, and she helps paint the sets, move them for each scene during the production, and transition between scenes as smoothly as possible. Olsen agrees with Deyesu that the dedication can be tough. “The thing that can be particularly hard is some of the long commitment hours, but they are pretty much the same as the theater performers. It can also be hard when there are not a lot of people on crew and managing everything with only a few people,” Olsen said.
According to Olsen, her job can be especially fun due to moving and designing large sets like the castles and Shrek’s hut, which are painted with great detail. “Most people do not know that with this play, the sets are pretty big, and it is going to be hard moving a bunch of huge sets, but it will definitely turn out great in the end. The challenge is the best part,” she said.
Another member behind the production is senior sound designer Dickson Teel. Teel works in the tech booth to set up and take down sound equipment, as well as to maintain and run it. Teel’s part in the production differs from those backstage because he manages what the audience actually hears, including microphones and sound effects.
According to Teel, keeping up with the different parts of his responsibility can be challenging. “The most difficult part of my job comes from the live aspect involved. There are a number of variables that can be thrown into play involving sound design from a myriad of sources, from interference from radio, TV, or cell phone signals [to] missed cues, incomplete costume changes, faulty cables, and even dead batteries,” Teel said.
However, despite the challenges, Teel finds his role to be rewarding. “What I love about being a sound designer the most is making the actors sound as best I can and making the production as audibly pleasing as I can,” he said.
Helping to pull together a complicated production with a large cast and complex set is something that not many students have the ability to say they’ve done. The overall sense of accomplishment is what drives students like Deyesu. “At the end of a show, it is extremely satisfying knowing how great the performance was and the fact that you were a part of it,” she said.
Brueggemann is especially thankful for stage crew. “The show could not run properly without them. They’re always cooperative, polite, diligent…They are so devoted and we make them aware of their value. They are so fast, it is amazing,” Brueggemann said. Hensley also recognized the importance of the work done by each member of stage crew. “The show will not move without them. You can’t have just actors,” he said.
Alyssa Kraus is a Copy Editor for The Patriot and jcpatriot.com.