By Min Qiao and Jade Schwarting
Like many that step onto the stage to revel in the spotlight as a performer, senior Sam Spoerle invests countless hours in preparation for production. However, despite being a part of about 14 productions, students may never have seen him. Spoerle is a part of the technical theater crew, also known as tech crew, here. His production experience includes “Cinderella,” “Anne Frank,” “Secret Garden” and several other performances. Spoerle said that he first got interested in technical theater in his freshman year.
“I actually saw a production at Beef and Boards my freshman year. I watched all the tech people doing their jobs and it got me interested,” Spoerle said. “My mom emailed the current teacher at the time, Bernie Killian, and he invited me to join them for the build out on ‘Cinderella.’”
The technical theater crew is the backbone of all theatrical production, according to technical theater teacher Jason Sipe. Sipe said that they are in charge of all productions produced in the Dale E. Graham Auditorium. Aside from internal clients like the choir, band, orchestra or drama directors, the crew also works for external clients in the community.
“The tech crew consists of mostly kids from my technical theater classes; kids from my advanced classes are required to participate,” Sipe said. “Then there are some who just volunteer and do it as an extracurricular activity.”
Senior Natalie Cappucci has been heavily involved in tech theater throughout her four years here and she said that she hopes to pursue a career in the field. Cappucci said that the tech crew invests an enormous amount of time in preparation for performance.
“The week before a show, we call it ‘tech week’ and we are usually here ‘til 9 o’clock at night,” Cappucci said. “We’re always working on a deadline. The show must always go on and we’re held with a lot of responsibility as students.”
Sipe said that production responsibilities are divided into several sections such as sound, light, scenery and design.
“We produce full-scale sets for productions like ‘Holiday (Spectacular)’ which costs several thousands of dollars and are several months in the making,” Sipe said. “Then there is Studio Theater which is more minimalized, more experimental, more avant-garde.”
The preparations of a set goes something like this: Spoerle said, “It starts with the set designer getting together with the director to plan out their idea. The set designer then makes a model for the director to finalize and edit. After that, they show it to the construction crew and they make it happen. When it’s all built and put up, scenic art goes at it and makes it look like it should. The two crews work together to really make the set look awesome.”
Aside from building the set, Spoerle said that they also have a props crew that is in charge of making 40 to 50 props in the show. Then there is the sound crew that plans out what sound effects are needed, how they are going to amplify the actors and also music during intermission and pre-show. Lights crew is also incredibly important and they are responsible for circulating any and all lights so that they go through the correct dimmer that connects to the light board.
Each crew serves it’s specific purpose. “Without props, nobody would know what they’re using, without sound, nobody could hear the actors or experience the different sound effects, and without lights, there’d be no actors to see on stage,” Spoerle said.
But their work is not over yet. During the show, Cappucci said that she is usually in the sound booth, but there is also crew back stage getting the actors organized and on the stage in time.
“(During the show), the stage manager is the one calling all the shots. He tells each crew chief or board operator when to go; he informs everyone on what goes on during a show,” Spoerle said.
After the show, there is much work put into the tearing down of a set. Cappucci said that they devote one day right after the show to a program called “Strike,” which is the crew that takes down the set. The next day, they start immediately on their next production. Sipe said that the crew saves the pieces from sets that are re-usable. In fact, the tech crew has made such a habit of keeping old sets that Sipe said that they are running out of storage area for these pieces.
“The good thing about keeping sets is that it gives us a bargaining chip when it comes to trading (sets) with other schools, even colleges like Ball State University,” Sipe said.
“Sometimes, if we are lucky, we are able to just completely destroy a set.” Spoerle said. “It’s a different feeling. Knowing you can create something for everyone to see and enjoy, but after that, you destroy it in less time than what you put into creating it. It can sometimes be more fun.”