Crew builds set on wheels
Moving pieces create smooth scene transitions
April 23, 2017
As the theater group prepares for the upcoming spring play, sophomore Ayanna Nathan said she is excited because this show marks her fifth time contributing to the production as a crew member.
“My first show was the winter one act plays of 2015,” Nathan said. “I did crew in the Middle School theater which wasn’t very much, and I heard that the crew (at Park) actually builds the set and makes props so I was interested in that, and I had a lot of friends doing it as well.”
According to Nathan, the crew’s responsibilities include building, creating costumes and cleaning the auditorium.
“Everything you see on stage that isn’t people一that’s what the crew does. We make sure the stage and Auditorium (are) clean and costumes crew makes all the costumes and fit them,” Nathan said. “We build all the furniture that you see mainly besides the couches and beds.”
According to tech director Don Romain, the crew approaches building set pieces in two different ways.
“Sometimes it’s building things from scratch like we did with the window frame (and) sometimes it’s modifying existing things that we have like the rolling table,” Romain said. “We had a rolling table, but it didn’t look fancy enough so we had to adapt it and put new machine carved legs on it.”
Artistic director Jodi Hatzenbeller said she drew inspiration for this show from other productions of “Sense and Sensibility”一a play based on the Jane Austen novel一to create a beginning design for the production.
According to Hatzenbeller, she used the idea of putting all of the set pieces on wheels to incr
ease the show’s flow from one scene to the next一there are 48 separate scenes.
“I actually borrowed the idea of putting everything on wheels from the original performance of this adaptation who did a similar thing with theirs. I thought ‘that’s a really clever way of keeping the show constantly active and making transitions really quick’,” Hatzenbeller said. “If we had to take time for every single transition it would really slow down the pacing.”
Nathan said an important part of the crew’s construction process is the division of labor. She said in her experience as a part of crew, big props and set pieces must be finished first.
“For example, all painters are being used on the canvas and some of the wood people are building things or just putting wheels on everything,” Nathan said. “A balanced division of work is a necessity for a production.”
Romain said he appreciates that some of the cast help out with the crew and give feedback about what the cast needs and what changes the crew should make.
“It’s also really helpful that we have a couple of people who are cast members who also come to crew because then they’ll come in and say things like ‘well you know today we rehearsed moving this and and the piece was a little bit smaller than we thought, can we make it bigger?’” Romain said.
According to Hatzenbeller, the crew and actors have about six to eight weeks to prepare for the show and five or six of them are dedicated to construction. Hatzenbeller said limited auditorium space for various groups using the facility infringes on the crew’s time to work on the set.
“Usually in the first couple of weeks we’ll start construction, sometimes we prioritize getting a certain set piece done so that we can use it in practice,” Hatzenbeller said. “The week before we add sound and lights, which add another layer to the show, and we start using the costumes and the actors actually wear them for rehearsal.”
Hatzenbeller said she works mainly with the costumes crew, advising with designs and ideas, but the crew themselves sew all the costumes.
“Once we cast actors then the costumes crew looks at the characters and the actors playing them and then they discuss things like color for symbolism but also something like maybe that actor looks really bad in that color,” Hatzenbeller said.
Junior costumes crew member Zoe Weinmann said she originally joined the costumes crew to get more experience with sewing. Weinmann said with this particular production, the costumes crew has more work cut out for them because they will be sewing costumes themselves.
“The process for deciding costumes all depends on (Hatzenbeller) and what she’s looking for. She’ll tell us what she’s looking for if we’re making something from scratch, and sometimes she’ll give us fabric to work with too and then we kind of choose which pattern will look best for each character,” Weinmann said.
Nathan said she sometimes feels frustrated with the lack of student appreciation for the crew’s work.
“(The crew does) so much work. We spend a lot of late nights and several times I’ve been here till almost midnight working so the next day I could come back and do more work,” Nathan said. “Everything that you see on stage someone had to create. The show could not go on without us.”
The theater will present “Sense and Sensibility” at 7 p.m. April 28 and 29 and at 2 p.m April 30 in the High School Theater.