When the curtain rises Friday on the Staples Players production of “Guys and Dolls,” the audience will gasp at the intricate set. The high school stage will transform into New York City, with all its grit and glamour.
Soon, however, attention will be riveted on the actors. Theatergoers will thrill to the music, choreography and staging, marveling that a high school troupe can put its traditionally professional mark on such a classic show.
As they leave the auditorium, a few folks will comment on the set and the costumes. One or 2 may mention the lighting. No one will talk about the intricate ballet that went on in the workrooms for months — and backstage for 2 hours — to make the show a success.
That’s the way it always is with theater. The tech crew toils in obscurity. (At Staples, they’re traditionally invited onstage for a bow at the final performance.)
But, as always, without tech there would be no show.
“The tech people are incredibly hard-working,” says Caley Beretta, a senior who serves as Players president and assistant director for “Guys and Dolls.” “The entire cast was here from 2:30 to 7 last week — but tech was here from 2:30 to 10. And it wasn’t even Hell Week.”
Even the actors don’t realize the contributions of tech. “The cast is gone, so they don’t see everything gets done,” Caley notes.
To stress the importance of tech to a show, anyone wishing to audition for the next Staples show must contribute at least 25 hours behind the scenes. “We want to create well-rounded theater people,” Caley explains.
Those tech hours are critical to a show like “Guys and Dolls.” Three different drops come down, so “New York” completely surrounds every scene.
Though adult professionals serve as supervisors — David Seltzer is tech director, Reid Thompson is scenic designer, and Lynn Muniz (“Hair”) is set painter — students perform the bulk of the work. For this show, for example, they created 4 different flats — some 20 feet tall — on the sides of the stage. The flats feature complex perspectives, and Players began working on them in early September.
Josh Tucker — Players vice president of tech — handles intricate details. He’s got a run crew that moves sets constantly; 4 spot operators; a fly operator coordinating all drops, and side managers who communicate, via headsets, with Elana Machlis, the stage manager.
Then there’s props, costumes and sound. Besides sound effects, Players has 23 mikes, some of which switch between ensemble and cast members.
“Backstage is mayhem,” Caley says.
Despite the chaos — not only during the run, but in the long weeks leading up to it — working on tech is fulfilling. “It’s so creative,” Caley says. “Seeing the show come to life, from the first models to the actual performance, is incredible. You can point to something and say, ‘I built that,’ ‘I lit that,’ or ‘I made that happen.'”
(“Guys and Dolls” opens this Friday, Nov. 13, and runs Nov. 14, 20 and 21 at 7:30 p.m. in the Staples auditorium. There are additional performances Sunday, Nov. 15 at 2 p.m., and Thursday, Nov. 19 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 adults, $10 students and senior citizens, with a special “stimulus price” of $10 adults, $5 students and senior citizens on Nov. 19. Tickets can be purchased online, at www.staplesplayers.com, or in the Staples main lobby this week from 12:30 to 2 p.m., cash or check only. Any remaining tickets will be available at the door, 30 minutes before each performance. For further information, call 203-341-1310.)
When do the tech kids ever do homework if they are at the school from 2:30PM to 10PM?
Thanks, Dan, for bringing awareness to these hard working and dedicated kids. My daughter, Katy Blackburn, is on set crew, and I can vouch for the fact that she works five or six days a week for months, normally getting home after 7:30 or 8. This is hell week, and as I write it’s after 10 and I still haven’t gotten the call to go pick her up. But I must say that she adores every minute and loves her tech friends, so it’s worth it…and she does manage to get her work done and have great grades as well!
When these students agree to be part of a show, whether it’s on stage or behind the scenes, they all know exactly what goes into it and the large amount of time it consumes. It’s done out of love and a genuine passion for theater and they believe very strongly in what they are working towards. To watch something grow from inception to completion is more gratifying to them than anybody can understand unless you are a part of it. This is of course coupled with the pride that everyone involved feels once the show is underway, and this pride is their rewarded for the fruits of their hundreds of hours of labor. I tip my hat to each and every one of them! Break a leg, Staples Players!!
For me, as a member of the pit for Guys & Dolls, my passion for music is the most fulfulled when I’m playing for two hours straight since it is the most gratifying result of everything I have been working for: with Players for this particular show and with my music education otherwise.
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schedule of Guys & Dolls