A high school student and theater lover explains why he has chosen to work behind the curtain in the stage crew rather than act on stage, and offers advice for other kids and teens who want to get involved with student or community theater.
When you watch a movie or attend a Broadway performance, the first things you notice are the acting, the singing, and the dancing; there is usually little to no discussion of the lighting or the changing of scenes on the car ride home. And that’s exactly as it should be. Actors get curtain calls and names in the program; meanwhile crewmembers stand behind the scenes making certain the show is ending well, receiving the same applause, and feeling the same satisfaction as those standing on the stage. One of the people who will be standing in the shadows is the stage manager—that’s who I am as a sophomore at Regis High School in Manhattan. I have worked in this role on my school’s musical and drama.
My interest in theater started when I was younger and enjoyed going to the movies with friends and attending Broadway productions. Whether it was Scooby Doo or Wicked, I enjoyed smiling, laughing, and even crying along with the characters; the amount of emotion evoked astounded me. I tried some children’s theater but found myself lost in a crowd, always getting the minor rolls (the ones that were not named but usually just numbered to differentiate one from the other). I stuttered and was off key, lacking much hope of being the next Tom Cruise. So I took a break from any active role in theater during middle school, though I never lost my love of the art.
When first arriving at high school I was more nervous about getting accustomed to my surroundings than what I would do after the school day ended. I had attended my older brother’s shows that he acted in at the school and was taken in by the community that theater created. Discovering stage crew led me to an involvement that granted me entrée to this welcoming community without the pressure or insecurity that came from standing in front of a crowd. I found myself working and learning as much as the actors as I helped create magnificent sets.
If you want to advance in an activity, have a strong work ethic and dedication, then stage crew may be a good choice. There are a number of senior positions available, including lighting director, audio director, house manager, or stage manager. Success with these roles is defined by showing up, learning what has to be done, and proving you are willing to take on more responsibilities.
The crew working behind the scenes on shows gets hands-on experience with building sets. With a team of artists, craftsmen, and audio and lighting specialists you help create an entire world out of wood, paint, pipes, and a few dozen nails. You won’t up your popularity quotient or draw attention from peers toiling behind the scenes, but you will feel cool using power tools. And on a more serious note, you’ll gain tremendous satisfaction: Being a member of the crew is about appreciating your own hard work and working to the best of your ability for the feeling of accomplishment you get when the audience applauds and the curtain comes down.
Timothy Haddad is a 16-year-old entering his junior year at Regis High School in Manhattan. He is the third oldest in a family of six children and has enjoyed going to the theater with his family. He especially enjoyed the musical Mama Mia! and the drama Arsenic and Old Lace.
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