Managing a High School Stage Crew
Rae reflects on a difficult but gratifying experience working with high schoolers on a production of Godspell.
I never really expected to work with kids in theater. I always imagined doing big things: Broadway, professional theater, Shakespeare, Mamet, Sondheim, etc. I probably should have expected differently when I asked to assist a former professor/director on a musical…at a high school. I remembered how much I enjoyed doing theater when I was in high school, but the circumstances had dramatically shifted. I was an actor then, not stage crew, and I was not in charge of anything (except memorizing my own lines). Plainly put, this was one of the most terrifying jobs of my life, but it has turned into one of the most gratifying.
When I first signed on to Godspell at St. Hubert High School, I was surprisingly comfortable with what was expected of me. I understood my roles and started to piece together what to say to a group of teenage girls. However, as with most things in life, it didn't go as planned. The seven or eight crew members I requested turned into sixteen very bored girls. As I jabbered on about what my role would be in this production and what they, as crew, would be doing, I felt like I was at an audition—and failing with flying colors. I received dead-fish-stares and lazy nods from sixteen silent heads.
What did I get myself into?
After more unimpressive inquiries and attempts to get to know the students, finding out why they joined stage crew, if they had they done it before, what year they were,etc. After that line of questioning failed, I realized I had nothing else left to talk about with them and promptly dismissed the girls to watch rehearsal, while I hid myself in my script writing light cues.
The next couple of rehearsals didn't go much better. During each day, different girls would come ready to work while other ones failed to show up. A majority of my tech was spent writing as many light cues as I could, then running off to answer questions or take care of whatever problem occurred that day, from flying props across stage, to missing set pieces and cast members standing in dark spots on the stage. It wasn't until two days before opening night that we had all new lights and a cyc (a white curtain lit with colored lights from the bottom) set up, and only a day before opening that all my light cues were set. Working on a deadline? You bet!
It was during our final run-through, however, that things slowly pieced together. After a rather big mishap, my crew got it together and got on their game. My light board girls developed their own system of running lights and were always ready for cues. Everyone put their problem-solving skills to the test and succeeded. Though there were a few problems with lateness, attendance, and miscommunication, everyone came together for a tip-top closing night show. I could not have been more proud.
The most memorable part was the closing night pre-show speeches. This is where I learned my words hadn't fallen on deaf ears after all. My Crew Captain presented me with a small gift and the crew gave me a group hug.
Though this process was a terrifying experience, it taught me a great deal about working with younger people, and already has me looking forward to next year's musical.