Theatre: Behind the Scenes

What goes on when the curtains are drawn?

Ren Park, Reporter

Theatre is a vastly important part of global culture, and has been for centuries. Shows at South often sell out due to their excellence. 

However, viewers of these performances rarely think about the efforts being put in backstage. The talented crew members who make the magic happen can end up forgotten. Most of them say it doesn’t bother them.

“I could choose to act,” Aaron Thomas, sophomore and sound crew member, said. “I choose not to, mostly, because I like being on the sidelines. Having my name in a book is really fine with me.”

“Being on the sidelines” is a phrase that backstage workers hear a lot. However, crew members don’t feel as if they have been benched. 

“When I first started doing technical stuff, yeah, it did [bother me not to get much 1recognition as actors onstage],” Taylor Helm, stage manager, said. “Because in the grand scheme of things, a show would not be able to go on without what me and the technical people do. But at the end of the day, I don’t think I really need that recognition. I know what I did, and I know how important what I do is, and I think that’s enough for me to continue doing it.”

Helm started theatre in her freshman year when she had to quit sports due to a knee injury. She worked on the technical crew for one show that year. In her sophomore year, she became more involved.

“I assistant stage managed for the first time in the beginning of my sophomore year for Cinderella, and I’ve just stayed consistent since then.” She said. 

According to Helm, she spends about 20 hours every week on theatre, including two to three hours after school each day. During rehearsals, her job is to ensure that everything is going as planned. She assists directors with anything that needs to be done. Shows wouldn’t be able to go on without Helm’s work.

Many theatre students spend hours outside of school working on shows. Technical crews have a ton to do. Technical director Skip Gordon thinks it’s worth it.

“I think in the end, seeing my students and everybody that I’ve helped onstage whenever they take that curtain call or that final moment, to see that final moment in their eyes,” Skip said in regard to the cause of his passion for theatre. “I’m not necessarily up there performing, but I’m able to see how the audience kind of zooms back, and the sparks that flame within.”

Skip has wanted to work in theatre since he was in high school. He didn’t go straight into theatre work, and advises young people not to feel discouraged if they don’t either.

“Take your failures, and learn from them,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to do a community theatre show while you’re working through college or something like that, that you can expand. Not necessarily are the schools going to help you, but the life–what you do in life–might help you outside of school. So don’t be afraid to do that. And don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t be afraid to go to a lower college to get yourself together.”

Recently, the theatre department added a new crew–video. They record shows, as copyright permissions allow, for people who aren’t able to make it to a show in person. Vincent Antista is a head for the crew, along with an actor in shows.

“I do enjoy acting. I was in the Diviners earlier this year, but I think that [tech crew and acting are] equally rewarding for sure,” he said. 

Antista said that he hasn’t always been a leader. He offers advice to his younger peers who want to be.

“If you told me four or five years ago that he would be acting and taking on leadership positions in theatre of all places, I probably would doubt you,” he said. “Step outside your comfort zone. Acting is really fun once you get the hang of it. Same with improv. I mean, that’s my advice for anything.”

Antista will attend New York University to major in cinema studies. He said that theatre was a great opportunity for him to learn about and grow his passion for creating films. 

With all of these factors, students and directors put much effort into their productions. So the next time you see a show, whether at South or otherwise, be sure to appreciate the countless people backstage who are vital to any theatrical production.