They can be hard to notice: clad in all-black and flitting back and forth across the stage between scenes, flickering like cue marks in an old film. In the months leading up to the production, they inhabit the little-used woodshop after school in the hallway most people think of only as the path to the senior parking lot, working and buzzing like bees out of the sights of most students. These are the dedicated students who make up the Stage Crew.
Their role may seem less significant than those played by the actors, but they are equally important in producing an entertaining show. Without Stage Crew, school productions would scarcely be worth watching—sets, props, those beautiful backdrops, even the all-important wooden foliage, are the responsibility of the diligent stage crew. They were a crucial part of this year’s fall drama, The Sting, and will play an incredibly important role in the production of Shrek the Musical this spring. “Without the stage crew, there is no show!” said English teacher Deborah Goodkin, who directs the fall drama each year. “The play isn’t complete with actors only.”
The most selective, and most stressful, role in Stage Crew is the running crew, a group of about 15 students who rehearse just like the cast to move props and set pieces built by the whole club back and forth seamlessly across the stage the night of the performance. “They [the running crew] do get yelled at a lot by me or Corriveau. Not necessarily for making big mistakes, but small ones because we want the play to be as good as it can be,” said Stage Crew President Ben Arias, a senior, referring to director Robert Corriveau. “There are about 15 kids that are always on running crew and these are the kids that really become close like a second family.”
Stage Crew is technically a club operated and organized by students, one of the most popular at North in fact, with approximately 50 members. This is due in no small part to the inclusive, intimate, serious-but-fun nature of Stage Crew that attracts students to saw and build and paint in their afterschool hours. “You get to meet new people, be it upperclassmen or underclassmen or people in your class, that you would otherwise not have,” junior Jonathan Chen said. “Everyone can join at anytime and everyone is welcome no matter how late or early on the year it is. You get as much out of it as you put into it.”
If that’s true, Stage Crew members must get a heck of a lot out of their experience. They spend just as many hours building and practicing movements as the actors do rehearsing their lines. They stay at school past midnight during what is known in the musical world as “hell week,” the lead-up to the performance during which red-eyed cast and crew alike share bagels and caffeine in the wee hours of the morning to make sure the show is the best it can be. “I remember Mel Wherry drilling the running crew over and over and over and over after hours to get the timing right for bringing in chairs for the wedding scene in Our Town,” Goodkin recalled. “As a result of their efforts, the last chair hit the floor exactly as the wedding music started, each night, no fail.”
These long hours pay off mostly in the form of pride. “My favorite part of Stage Crew is seeing the end result and realizing that at that moment all the hundreds of hours that you put into the play has paid off,” Arias said.
For Stage Crew, it’s not about the attention or the standing ovation; it’s about being a part of making something, something they themselves can be proud of. However humble they may be, Stage Crew clearly deserves its time in the spotlight.