Tech crew makes theatre work behind the scenes

The backstage crew shares their experiences working on the production of the fall drama “Sense and Sensibility.”

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Ms. Kate Plows

The backstage crew shares their experiences working on the production of the fall drama “Sense and Sensibility.”

Imogen Sharif '23, Contributor

On Nov. 10, the first performance of Jane Austin’s “Sense and Sensibility” was held at Strath Haven. This thrilling retelling of Austin’s novel featured freshmen and seniors alike on stage, bringing their characters to life. 

The set was composed of large rotating cubes, decorated to create a variety of rooms depending on the arrangement, lights displaying different weather or moods, and music to accompany transitions or moments of interest. 

Every night students manned the stage and technology that made the fall drama run smoothly. 

The tech crew began their long preparations starting mid-October. Students throughout all grades learned how to work the different aspects of the stage and the equipment needed to run the show. 

“I was really proud of them. From a supportive technical director perspective, it’s like, ‘guys, I’ve given you all the resources, it’s your time to make it worth it,’” Mr. Jonathan Hardy said.

Hardy, a 2012 graduate of Haven, works as a technology support specialist at the high school. He describes his role in the school as being able to learn technology quickly in order to help the staff and students. During productions of plays and musicals, he takes on the role of technical director.

“I need to support the director in their vision, while also knowing all of the equipment and capabilities of the auditorium that I’m working in,” he said.

For the most part, Hardy guided his students through the process of learning how to use lighting and sound systems. His practices are mainly carried out by upperclassmen with experience, according to junior Nick Bisordi, who worked on stage crew this year.

“John Hardy and [theatre director] Mr. John Shankweiler got us our materials and helped us set up the production. Jack Henry, Ezrin House, and Olivia Gianopulos did their jobs on lights and sound,” Bisordi said. 

All students contributed heavily to the production. Senior Anna Johnson, the student stage manager of the drama, worked hard to produce a well-oiled machine out of tech crew. 

Hardy recognized her hard work and was impressed. “Anna Johnson really turned it up and provided the communication of the builds, understanding the moves and the positions of the cubes,” he said.

Johnson has been doing tech crew every year since she was in seventh grade. This is her first year as a stage manager and she took on the role of directing all students to get the drama in full swing.

“I worked beside the director, Rodger [Ainslie], and went to every rehearsal. I choreographed stage moves, wrote down lighting and sound cues, props, and worked backstage during all the shows to make everything run smoothly,” Johnson said. “It was definitely a challenge, but it was an awesome experience and I’m excited for the musical.”

The whole process of teaching new members, building the sets, and programming the lights for Sense and Sensibility took about a month and a half. The pace increased rapidly during the week before opening night, aptly named tech week. 

“The day or two before tech week, it was still a bit hectic. But as soon as tech week clicked in, it looked like it was an actual production,” Hardy said.

Hardy watched students enjoying their time working together with impressive efficiency. He describes it as his favorite part of putting together a production.

“I think the best experience to have was tech week, the week before the show, and you could start to see the click in everyone’s eyes and in their motions, like it’s go time, it’s serious time,” he said. “And all the mistakes they might have made before, within 24 hours, it changed. It looked like a live Broadway off-Broadway production.”

From a student perspective, tech crew is a fun and rewarding group. All students contribute in significant ways to the production and get to see the pay-off during the shows. It’s an experience that gets students together to work towards a common goal, while having a blast.

“It’s fun, basically getting to hang out with friends for hours on end. It’s good for leadership roles or graduation requirements. It’s always useful to have more hands than not enough,” Bisordi said.

Having as many people as possible to contribute to tech crew, which Hardy refers to as a “dysfunctional family,” significantly helps the efficiency of productions.

“Tech crew became my second family very quickly,” Johnson said. “I’m extremely grateful I got the experience to work and grow with these people.”

Tech crew will begin preparing for the spring musical “Grease” after break.