By Rick Palsgrove
During the performance of a play, the audience focuses on the action on stage, but there’s a flurry of activity that supports the actors taking place out of sight backstage before, during and after a play.
This was evident at Groveport Madison High School’s Cruiser Theatre Troupe 3323’s preparations for its Play-in-a-Day, “Almost Maine,” by John Cariani, held on Feb. 14 at the high school auditorium. A play-in-a-day is one in which the cast receives the script, rehearses, creates sets and scenery, and performs an entire play in 24 hours.
The student performers and backstage tech crew gathered on the night of Feb. 13 to prepare. Student director Brooklyn Crawford, a member of the Eastland Career Center’s Performing Arts School, met immediately with the 20 actors and dozen tech crew members to set forth her plans for the look and approach to the play.
“It’s a challenge to get everyone to understand what my vision is in a short amount of time,” said Crawford. “But everyone is excited and motivated and we get into a zone to accomplish it.”
Crawford understands actors and tech crews and what it takes to manage a play because she has been both an actor and director before.
“I like the versatility of both,” said Crawford. “I like the feedback you get from the audience as an actor and from being different characters, but I also like being a director where you are involved in all aspects of the production and you can bring your ideas to the performance.”
After receiving Crawford’s instructions, the actors headed off to learn and rehearse the script and the tech crew began tackling the demanding and physical tasks necessary to get the stage ready for the performance. This included painting and constructing sets, moving old sets out of the way, preparing the lighting and sound, and fitting actors into costumes.
“You can’t set the stage and mood without a good backstage tech crew,” said Groveport Madison Board of Education member Libby Gray. “The tech crew is on equal footing with the actors.”
In the area behind the curtains and in the wings of the stage, there is a jumble of props, sets, tools and theater equipment that need to be managed and prepared.
Student Amber Nunez, who has been on the tech crew for three years, knows what needs to be done to prepare the stage and she performs her work with confidence, intelligence and strength. She and fellow student tech crew members Cameron Brown and Sean McDonald deftly maneuvered a large, heavy staircase into a tight storage spot backstage. The tech crew also painted and moved a front porch set, plotted out how to hang cloth back drops from high metal rods, and much more.
“I fell in love with doing this when I was a freshman,” said Nunez of being on the tech crew. “I like problem solving. We make the show go. It’s great seeing my friends performing on stage and knowing what I am doing is helping them. I like being there for them.”
The bonds among the actors and tech crew is visible in the backstage area where student performers and tech crew members from past years have painted their names in colorful letters on the high, gray concrete walls as their own informal theatrical wall of fame.
The Cruiser Theatre Troupe 3323 will perform “The Wizard of OZ” on April 16 and 17 at 7:30 p.m. and April 18 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. in the Groveport Madison High School auditorium, 4475 S. Hamilton Road, Groveport. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for senior citizens and students and will be available at the door.