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Behind the Curtain

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It’s 7 p.m. on a warm Saturday night. A dimly lit auditorium is packed full of attendees reading technicians and actors biographies. Backstage, cast and crew are running on and off stage in a calm yet chaotic panic before the performance begins.

Red velvet curtains sway side to side. The auditorium turns pitch black, show lights blind the actors and vibrant yellow LED lights warm their faces. Actors walk on stage as the narrator sets the scene. A full house has fallen silent, and actors begin.

Booming voices drown out whispers and hurried footsteps of theatre technicians moving in the shadows. While audience members focus attention on actors, no one notices them scurrying to their positions.

• • •

Every year theatre performs their annual winter musical. Auditions and technical positions are open to the entire school. Soon after the cast and crew list are announced, the stress weighs in.

Drills, saws and screws are littered over the workshop floor. Pushing sets on stage and back into the shop for final touches, technicians run themselves ragged up until the last week before the performance.

Looking from the brightly lit stage, a boy in a red and black flannel can be seen working in the booth at the back of the auditorium.

Rough sliders on his soundboard cue lightning, than a snap, crackle and crash sounds throughout the auditorium. Sophomore Harrison Miner has a huge smile on his face as the thunder’s echo leaves the room.

Miner exits the booth and walks down the auditorium aisles. Walking onto stage then quickly leaving, he returns from the shop with a wooden door.

Eight o’clock in the morning on a Monday and Miner is on stage carrying a wooden door he built. Three dark brown painted pieces of louver wood and 2×4 for support, painted black.

Miner holds the door into the 45 degree angled door frame and drilling commences. A second later, the door crashes down on his foot.

“I’m just running around on the stage yelling and I’m having a good time because it’s funny but also really painful.” Miner said.

Being behind the scenes creates potential hazards for technicians but that does not discourage students from doing their jobs.

• • •

Long dark brown hair follows down to the shoulders and blends in with an all black long sleeve shirt. Black shoes hurry down the dimly lit hallway to reach the catwalk ladder. Hands and feet move in a synchronized manner as junior Emily Vasquez hides in the shadows of the catwalk to reposition a light onto an actor.

Vasquez hurries down the ladder carefully stepping down, not missing a step and slithers down the stairs to the stage to call the next cue for the show.

“I’m a hands on person,” Vasquez said. “I like changing light bulbs and pushing the go button when it’s time to change a light cue.”

Adrenaline pumps through out her entire body. A resting heart rate of 60 beats per minute accelerates to 110 as she pushes a pure black button to change lighting on stage while the play is being performed. The light changes without a hitch and Vasquez sinks into her stool, relieved.

Being an actor as well, Vazquez knows a show could not happen without the technicians. Working with former actors she had a realization that technicians don’t get credit because most actors have not seen life from a backstage perspective.

The red velvet curtain closed, Act I was over.

Audience members murmured to one another about the first act. Theatre teacher Alex Rodriguez approached Vasquez during intermission. He directed her to run up to the catwalk to change a burnt out light bulb.

Looking from the stage Vasquez was able to pinpoint the blown out light. Panic set in as Vasquez hurried up the ladder not missing a step. Her mind started to race, for taking out the light bulbs in the past never went well.

Putting her hand on the cold stage clap to hold the light in place she started to unscrew the backplate of the light. Unscrewing with ease, she put her hand on the burnt out bulb, hoping the oils on her hand mixing with heat of the bulb wouldn’t cause an explosion.

Screwing a new bulb into the back of the light, Vasquez proudly put the light back together. She walked down to the stage and waited for Act II to start.

The audience claps and cheers as the actors run on stage for curtain call. The main actors run and bow in sections, the side characters come up alongside them and the two main characters links hands with one another on stage before the curtain rolls back.

Actors exit the stage to change out of their costumes, the technicians stay behind to turn off the lights, roll sets off the stage and sweep the stage for tomorrow nights show.

“We build the set, we light up the stage, we make sound cues,” Vasquez said. “Without us, you wouldn’t have a show.”

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Marcus High School's Online Publication
Behind the Curtain