Stars unseen


photo by Bailey Fisher

Jeannie Williams, Managing Editor

Once the entire cast and crew for Hello Dolly filled the cafeteria for their post-production party last April, theater teacher Trevor Southworth stood up to make a highly anticipated announcement: the productions for next school year.  Teasing with lines like, “This next season is going to be Wickedly incredible,” Southworth unveiled the two plays for the year and, finally, Into the Woods as the musical. The group took a collective gasp when the final show was announced.

Auditions were held during week of first semester exams, and rehearsals began soon after. But before the curtain goes up, certain things must be in place.  That is why the set, costumes, publicity, prop and lights and sound crews work diligently to ensure that no matter what, the show will go on.

One at a time, crew coordinators were assigned, this year skipping the applications to streamline the process. After auditions were completed, crew signups became available and students who were not part of the cast put their names down to help out with the production behind-the-scenes. An informative meeting was held where the duties of each crew were assigned and crewmembers were finalized. Then the real work began.

Spreading the news

Publicity crew takes care of making sure everyone knows about the show. Most of their work revolves around creating the posters that advertise the show, the program and the cast and crew t-shirts.

Every student participating in the show, as part of either cast or crew, is required to sell an ad or turn in money to compensate for not selling one. These sponsorships are what allow for the majority of the funds that go toward sets, props and costumes for the show.  It is the responsibility of publicity crew to manage all ads and place them in the program for the show.

“Crew is definitely a side of theater that is often forgotten. If we didn’t make posters, no one would even know about the show,” publicity crew coordinator Sierra Hittel said.

Setting the scene

Unlike other crews, set crew for Into the Woods began work back in October since Our Town’s minimalist set did not require much work. Into the Woods features some of the most elaborate and time-consuming set pieces any school production has ever had, such as giant storybooks and the focal point for the show, a magical tree.

The majority of the set crew from Our Town remained on set crew in the second semester to continue the work started for Into the Woods. For this production, the central piece is a tree, which makes for a big shift. The central piece for most shows is a platform the actors stand on and a handful of set pieces are shifted around the stage to change scenes.

Set crew gets their funds for materials from Thespian Honor Society fundraisers and ad sales, but the majority of the sets are repurposed from old ones. During daily rehearsals, the 17-member set crew can be found in the shop across the hall from the auditorium painting sets, hammering pieces together and slinging sarcastic comments across the room to one another.

“Friendships form and then we take those friendships out of rehearsal,” set crew coordinator Devin Kareem. “Theater is one giant family, but when you go down to separate crews, I feel like they have their own families.”

Outfitting the cast

For the costumes crew, the first task of this production was to clean out and organize the costumes closet. They were then able to get to work recording everyone’s sizes for the costumes, but doing so took slightly longer than expected.

“[The first week of rehearsals] everybody’s doing something, so you just have to get people in when you can,” costumes crew co-coordinator Emily Elwood said.

Once all sizes were recorded, including understudy sizes, the order could be placed to the costume rental company, Costume World Theatrical. The costumes for this production are extremely detailed. No pictures are provided of the costumes, so the crew is mostly in the dark, but by going onto the company’s website, they can read detailed descriptions of the incoming costumes. It is the first year this specific company has been used, but Elwood is not worried.

During dress rehearsals as well as the actual show, costumes crew is responsible for making sure every actor’s costume is exactly right before they go on stage, which can be difficult for a production that has such intricate costumes. In addition to what the cast is wearing, costume crew takes care of their makeup, particularly the age makeup for characters like Jack’s Mom and Granny. The crew also checks actors’ wigs and pins back clothes that do not fit.

Into the Woods is the biggest production I think Hagerty has ever put on.  The set is so huge and so amazing and all the costumes are going to be phenomenal,” Elwood said.

Prepping the props

The majority of work props crew does also takes place during rehearsals. On the first day of rehearsals, prop crew co-coordinators Hannah Suehle and Kim Ariza sat down with the script to make a list of all the props needed for the show.

Props crew can purchase some props, but the majority had to be made, like a harp, a hen and three golden eggs. The most difficult prop to make was the arm of a giant. The props crew coordinated with the costume crew to make the arms of a giant.

“Since this show is basically a bunch of fairytales combined, all the props need to be larger than life and storybook-like,” Ariza said.

The arm took over three weeks to build and consists of a wooden base covered in chicken wire, stuffed with newspapers and covered with muslin. The costume crew used extra pieces of fabric to sew together the sleeve for it.

“I never want to build a giant hand again,” Suehle said, “but it turned out good.”

Curtain up

Despite all the grunt work that goes into being on a crew, crew members enjoy the work they do, happy to contribute to the production, but it is easy for their efforts to be overlooked.

“The backstage people are just as important as the cast, and I feel like sometimes they get lost,” Kareem said. “It’s no one’s fault, it’s just that we’re backstage and we’re not seen a lot.”

When it is all said and done, the curtain rises and the hard work the crews put into the show is on display for all to see.

“They make the entire world that we get to act in, so without them there wouldn’t be a show,” cast member Melissa Corbin said.

Meet the Into the Woods Crew Coordinators

Set Crew- Devin Kareem

Senior Devin Kareem has participated in set crew for five different shows and began working on the sets for Into the Woods in October.  This is his first production where he was officially a crew coordinator. He hopes to one day get a degree in mechanical engineering and views building sets as a stepping stone to the engineering field.

“Theater is one giant family, but when you go down to separate crews, I feel like they have their own families,” Kareem said.

Lights and Sound- Sabrina Hutcheson

Junior Sabrina Hutcheson has been on lights and sound crew for four shows, but this is also her first time as the crew coordinator. After trying it out her freshman year, she decided to stick with it.

“We’ve got some really talented performers, a great director, and many dedicated techies. I’d say it’s worth seeing,” Hutcheson said.

Props- Kim Ariza & Hannah Suehle

Into the Woods is senior Hannah Suehle’s fourth production as a prop crew coordinator and junior Kim Ariza’s third. Ariza has also been cast in three other shows, but decided prop crew was the place for her after joining it for the production of Romeo and Juliet last year.

“Into the Woods was the show for my eighth grade year so it was cool that it was my senior show, too,” Suehle said. “It’s kind of like déjà vu.”

Publicity- Sierra Hittel

This is junior Sierra Hittel’s second time on publicity crew and her second time as a crew coordinator. She got hooked on publicity when she competed in an event for it in the thespians district competition her freshman year.

“Crew is definitely a side of theater that is often forgotten about.  If we didn’t make posters, no one would even know about the show,” Hittel said.

Costumes- Emily Elwood & Jillian Anderson

This is senior Emily Elwood’s third time on costume crew and her second time as a crew coordinator. She was also the stage manager for The Fantasticks earlier this year. Junior Jillian Anderson has been on costumes crew three times, but this is her first time as a crew coordinator.  She had participated in props for Picnic at Hanging Rock, but has decided since that she is happier in costumes.

“I know this show is going to be the best Hagerty has put on the stage,” Elwood said. “The cast is super talented and the set, props, light and sound and publicity crews are all working really hard.”