Theater Tech Crew Lights Up the “Roof”

Exploring the Backstage Duties of the New Production


Photo by Kaylee Adkins

Sewing prayer shawls, Evelyn Nelson (9) and Lilyanne Marckwardt (10) work together to add to the growing amount of costumes. “Fiddler on the Roof” has numerous cast members, so the tech crew had to create an abundance of costumes. “Costuming has been crazy,” Nelson said. “We’ve sown a lot of dresses, aprons and head scarfs. It got so crazy that we were putting everything on the choir storage room and the shelf fell.”

The big black curtain dividing the cafetorium has made its appearance once again as the all-day rehearsals of “Fiddler on the Roof” begin. Sounds of singing and shouting can be heard outside the Black Box Theater as students prepare for the musical’s Jan. 27 debut.

Behind the soon-to-be bowing actors, however, are an army of dedicated seamstresses, makeup artists and numerous other tech occupations. These behind the scenes workers include stage manager Lainey Wolf (12) who helps keep track of every technical aspect of the musical.

“Since we are a smaller program,” Wolf said, “stage managers will help bring sets on and off. We make sure the actors are where they need to be, have the costume pieces they need, have the props they need. We make sure they know everything that is going on in that scene, make sure everybody knows what is going on including light, sound, orchestra.”

Beyond helpful directions, physical props are also a must for any musical. Evelyn Nelson (9) has been sowing diligently these past few months and has helped create over 50 costumes.

“We get costumes from other schools or rentals,” Nelson said, “but most of the time they don’t fit people so we have parents that go out to thrift stores and find whatever they can and we just sew it to fit the person and try to get it to match the time period.”

Attention to detail and problem solving are two major themes of working in the tech crew. The sound coordinator, Collin Schumacher (12), had to be very thorough with his responsibilities as well.

“Since there’s a lot of characters, making the mic list is really difficult,” Schumacher said. “You have to go through each scene and find out which characters are in which scene, who has lines and is going to have a mic and who has to switch because mic changes aren’t easy.”

Even when things seem hard, however, the tech crew finds ways to fix any issue. Nelson reflects on a problem they faced with the props during a dance number.

“There’s a bottle dance [scene] where they have to have a wine bottle on their head,” Nelson said. “We can’t train our Belles to do that right now, so we have this magnetic rigging we did on the hats where the bottles can come on and off.”

WIthout this creative thinking and hard work, Wolf believes the actors and the musical itself would never be able to make its debut.

“We take notes during rehearsals for where the actors are supposed to stand and a lot of the actors rely on those blocking notes to learn their lines,” Wolf said. “If we didn’t have everything that was going on backstage, it would be a lot more difficult to be on stage and know what’s going on.”

The helping hand of the stage crew does not just stop at the actors. Props and set pieces are an important component to not just the performers, but also to the audience.

“I do know we have a lot of props,” Nelson said, “but it just completes the scene. It gives a lot of insight and you can see how people of the time would actually act.”

Additionally, Luke Schmerse (12) controls the lights of the production which directly affects the audience’s experience of the play.
“[Light] shows where the audience is supposed to focus on,” Schmerse said. “If a place is supposed to be dim and another place is supposed to be a whole lot lighter, the audience is supposed to focus on the light.”

Ultimately, the tech crew has been rehearsing right alongside the actors and are more than proud of what they’ve created.

“I’m hoping that people will just see the work that we’ve put in and really enjoy seeing ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’” Nelson said. “I think it’s a well rounded play and we’re just putting out blood, sweat and tears into this.”