By Rick Palsgrove
Members of Groveport Madison High School’s Cruiser Theatre Company are eager to perform in the school’s new auditorium.
“The new auditorium revolutionizes what we can do with our productions. It provides cool opportunities for us,” said Cruiser Theatre Company Director Erin Graffis. “Especially with the technical aspects of the productions. There’s an automated rigging system that we didn’t have before. The old auditorium riggings had ropes, pulleys, and weights that often didn’t work well. One time I jumped with all my weight and pulled on a rope and it wouldn’t even move.”
Graffis said the 600 seat auditorium has digital lighting that allows for the use of more color and 64 channels of digital audio.
Makenzie Meier, a senior who works the sound board for performances, said the new sound system features computer touch screens as opposed to the old system of knobs and such.
“It’s a major upgrade,” said Meier. “Last year we had malfunctions and we had to rig things up to get the sound to work. If there’s no sound, there’s no show. This year things will be much smoother.”
Graffis said she and the student actors and stage crew will have a learning curve in adapting to the new auditorium.
“It will expand what we can do and show us how far we can push the program,” said Graffis. “We thank the community for our new building. We want to use it to its fullest extent for them.”
This is Graffis’ first year as director. She also teaches theatre classes. Last year she served as the technical director. Previously she was an English teacher at Bellefontaine and led the drama club there while directing four plays.
Graffis said the selection of this year’s Cruiser Theatre Company shows came in a variety of ways. She wanted the students to have a voice in the process and gave a ballot to the students to vote on the fall and winter plays. They picked, “A Voice in the Dark – A Salem Story” and “Almost Maine.”
“It’s about them, not me,” said Graffis of the students. “I was happily surprised to see them pick the shows that were my preferences, too. It’s a good sign that we’re tuned in together.”
Graffis said the annual play-in-day, which this year is, “The Nine Worst Break-ups of All Time,” was selected because it is a show that can reasonably be put together in 24 hours, plus it will be performed near Valentine’s Day.
The spring play, “Shrek: The Musical,” was suggested by the school’s choir director and also the former Cruiser Theatre Company director because it fits the current student actors’ skills.
“All of these shows will be fun to do,” said junior Derek Smith, who has appeared in nine school productions and is also a playwright who had his play “Job Interview” performed at Mad Lab in Columbus this year. “‘A Salem Story is something different for us and we’re excited about it.”
“‘A Voice in the Dark – A Salem Story,’” features more female leads than usual,” said Graffis. “‘Shrek’ requires a huge cast and I’d like to see 50 kids on the stage for some of the musical numbers.”
The backstage technical side
“The shows don’t happen without our stage and technical crew,” said Graffis.
Meier, who has served as stage manager twice, started out as an actor as a freshman, but switched to the technical side as a sophomore when experiencing the creation of a play-in-a-day.
“To see it all come together so quickly was so cool and amazing,” said Meier. “There’s a lot to the tech and backstage side, such as helping actors do quick changes with costumes, running the light and sound boards, and moving and making scenery and sets. It’s a good way to be in the theatre if you’re someone who doesn’t want to appear on stage.”
Graffis said she likes to have actors and tech crews switch roles sometimes so both groups gain a broader theatre experience.
“The more skills they learn, the easier it is to learn even more skills,” said Graffis.
The value of theatre
“The kids learn so many things they will use in the future,” said Graffis. “Like public speaking, learning how to collaborate, construction skills, and computer and technical skills. Theatre is an art where students learn to express themselves and push out of their comfort zone.”
Graffis said at the end of the school year the departing seniors often mention the positive impact being in theatre had on them.
“That’s powerful,” said Graffis.
Added Meier of the members of the Cruiser Theatre Company, “It’s a great group of people.”
“I hope everyone will come out to see the shows and see what we can do,” said Graffis. “It’s going to be a great year.”
Cruiser Theatre Company
2018-19 performance schedule
• “A Voice in the Dark – A Salem Story,” Nov. 8, 9, 10 at 7 p.m. Tickets $5 for students and senior citizens and $7 general admission.
• “Almost Maine,” Jan. 11 & 12 at 7 p.m.
• Play-in-a-day: “The Nine Worst Break-ups of All Time,” Feb. 9 at 7 p.m.
• “Shrek: The Musical,” April 11, 12, 13 at 7 p.m. and April 14 at 2 p.m.
All performances at Groveport Madison High School, 4475 S. Hamilton Road, Groveport.
Tickets: $5 for students and senior citizens and $7 general admission except for “Shrek: The Musical,” which are $7 for students and senior citizens and $10 general admission.
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