Theatre Crew: Beyond the Curtain

Theatre Crew: Beyond the Curtain

A live theater production is an enchanting and compelling experience. The actors on stage captivate the audience with the talent, conviction, and passion they pour into their performance to immerse the viewer into the world of the play. 


However, behind the curtain and beyond the stage, there’s an army of technicians, artists, customers, visionaries, marketers, engineers, designers, and sponsors all coming together to produce a feat of artistic collaboration. Each is an essential piece to the puzzle which, if missing, would be immediately and unavoidably noticed by the audience. 


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Stage managers act as the crew lead, charged with overseeing the work of all the different tech teams and keeping them up to date and on schedule. “We’re basically the secretaries of the department,” said junior stage manager Emma Lingler. During rehearsals, stage managers and assistant stage managers record where props should be, where actors enter and exit, and when to cue lights or sound, which are all cataloged in a rehearsal report for future reference. During shows, stage managers block out each tech element cue by cue, working with each group to make sure everything runs smoothly. “In stage management, you get to know everybody and work with everyone,” said Lingler.


Costume and makeup crews perfect their craft to breathe life into an actor’s performance and bridge the gap between the audience and the world of the play. “We create the characters as you see them on stage,” said senior Gabby Stutzer, makeup lead. “If a character is sick we will make them [the actor] look sick, or if a character is hurt or bruised we will put a bruise on them, so we will do the imagination for people when it comes to how [the characters] look,” said Stutzer. 


Members from costumes and makeup teams convene often to streamline a style that matches the tone of the setting and the show. “We can’t have contrasting ideas in the same person,” said junior Xia Klosk, costume designer. They also work with the lighting teams to make sure that the colors of cloth and shades of makeup don’t clash with the many lighting elements. “Costume is all imagery, you put [the actors] in clothing, but the clothing has to look correct, and the lighting can influence the colors and dynamics of all that,” said Klosk. 


Dressing characters in costumes and applying makeup are key elements which set a production apart by visualizing the world for the audience. “It’s an aspect of storytelling. We determine whether someone looks old or whether someone looks young, or whether they’re higher up in status or lower class, so we really help to outline everything with the production for the vision of the audience,” said Stutzer.


Publicity teams focus their energy on finding ways to market the show to a potential audience. This can be done physically through flyers, crafting and distributing road signs, or through digital promotions on social media. However, publicity teams are responsible for so much more. “The first part of our job is designing and creating all the advertisements, and the second part is organizing how the audience comes in… We manage the entire house, we decorate the lobby, we design the playbill…everything that publicizes the show,” said Lilah Cohen.


While the publicity team works with the paint crews to design the road signs across the Fairfax area, publicity is unique in that they’re more independent from the rest of the tech groups, specializing outside of the theater rather than within it. The publicity team bolsters a strong crew capable of managing their many responsibilities. “A lot of it is by ourselves… we divide the work and manage the work really well,” said Cohen. 


No matter how good a show, without a publicity team, it will never get off the ground. “If we didn’t design posters [people] wouldn’t know to come here, and if we didn’t have all this advertisement for the show, we wouldn’t have a show,” said Cohen. 

Robinson’s tech departments have won a number of awards at the annual Cappies award ceremony, most recently in the 2022 Spring production of Head Over Heels, winning best costumes and best lighting. These are but a few of the people and teams which complete the theater experience, pushing the department above and beyond with the care and compassion for the art of theater tech.