The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

Behind the curtain: an inside look at the backstage

In “A Samhain Night’s Dream,” Charlie Brown and Linus have a conversation as Wang’s lighting shines on them during a rehearsal.

From the way the light catches on an actor as they deliver their lines to the set and props that make the story come alive, every detail is important to a play. But what exactly goes on backstage as the crew works to create all of the effects that make up the production?

Working backstage is an extracurricular activity offered by the performing arts department. Being backstage provides students a variety of opportunities, from learning to design and build sets, to working with things like sound and lighting. While many of these skills relate to the performing arts world, working backstage creates close connections between peers while teaching students to be responsible and independent.

Junior Louisa Hansel works with lighting backstage. Hansel said that the backstage environment is welcoming and friendly, but serious enough that she can learn to take charge of things and overcome challenges.

“The subsection of people who mainly do tech I like a lot because of the responsibility that we are given. It’s a bit more serious, and you can trust each other. I have found some of my closest friends doing tech,” Hansel said.

Junior Bella Wang works as a stage manager backstage. Stage managers bridge communication between the creative and technical parts of the production, as well as oversee the technical work happening backstage, all while working closely with the director. Wang said she feels closely connected with her peers because she spends so much time with them backstage.

“When you enter a place where you guys meet for the first time, you’re all very welcoming towards each other and you’re all willing to get to know each other. Then towards the end of the show, you become like family,” Wang said.

Mark Vanderzee is a drama teacher, performing arts teacher leader and was the performing arts technical director up until last year. A technical director oversees the technical aspects of the play, from set-building to sound design. Vanderzee said he gives students the responsibility and space to make their own decisions, while still remaining present to ensure that students are working safely.

“My job as a tech director was always to make sure that safety protocols were being followed and that students felt comfortable to be able to do what was asked of them,” Vanderzee said.

Students working backstage are trusted with tools and other objects that aren’t generally handled by high school students. Hansel said she is surrounded by expensive equipment when working lights.

“There’s a lot of responsibility because, just in the booth that you are in, the lightboard is around $7,000 and you’re trusted there with no adult oversight,” Hansel said.

Vanderzee said that working backstage allows students to contribute their ideas and watch them come to life onstage, which makes them take ownership of their experience as part of the production.

“It’s adult and faculty led, but there’s a ton of student input and student ownership in the work, which is one of the things that I think is so cool and rewarding about the experience,” Vanderzee said. “Students can sit back and watch a show and be like, ‘I did that, we did that,”

As the years have progressed, the backstage community has grown. Hansel said there has been more interest in being a part of the backstage crew since she has been at the high school.

“When I first joined, the amount of people who did tech was small, and now we’ve gotten more people, we’ve gotten more from the sophomores, and in the grade below there seems to be more interest,” Hansel said.

Vanderzee said he hopes to see students outside of the performing arts department come to see the plays to enjoy and notice the hard work and skill students put into making these productions come alive.

“We hope that students are going to engage in the work that we do because other students spent a lot of time doing it,” Vanderzee said. “We hope that their peers go, engage and then appreciate that work. That always feels good.”

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