The often unsung heroes of theater

Discover how magic becomes reality due to the talent of Theater Tech

When the average person thinks about a play, a musical or any other type of theater production, they tend to immediately think of the actors first. Although the work of actors is often the most initially noticeable considering they are the people who are most prominent onstage, theater technicians constantly work behind the scenes in order to ensure that productions run smoothly and have everything they need to be successful. This is the case within Christopher Newport’s theater department, TheaterCNU, just as it is in professional theater companies.

Those who are involved in theater tech do not just have one job by any means. Although there are a number of different concentrations inside the umbrella term of “tech,” theater technicians often have to wear a number of different hats at once. In CNU’s theater department, the different focuses within tech and design include stage management, carpentry, scene design, scene painting, sound, lighting, makeup, and costume design. Theater majors at CNU are required to take classes within all these different categories (as well as acting and other performance-related subcategories) so that they can become adequately educated in all things theater and fully prepared for a career in the field after graduation.

Senior Emma Avelis is a Design and Technical Theater Major with a focus in Stage Management. When preparations for a production officially begin, she runs auditions and handles casting paperwork. As a stage manager, she has to put together paperwork with important information about the show she is working on and the cast and crew who are also involved with it, to ensure that everyone has what they need for the production to run smoothly. When a show starts, stage managers call lighting and sound cues so that every moment in the production happens punctually. Avelis is also a scene shop assistant, meaning that she spends a lot of time building sets for shows.

“I chose to be a theatre major because I wanted to interact with people, and the amazing thing about live theatre is that you are able to see the immediate impact all your hard work has on an audience,” said Avelis. “I am able to spend my days being creative and using the skills I learn in class every day.”

Kayl Williams is a junior at CNU and a Theater Design and Technology Major with a concentration in lighting design. “I personally take part in the hands on work for lighting,” he said. “I came into CNU wanting to do scenic design, but had the chance to work lights for the show Oklahoma that Theater CNU put on and really enjoyed lighting that, so I switched my focus. I love doing Master Electrician work and planning out all the lights for a show.”

Williams spoke to the practicality that his classes prepare him to apply his skills to each production that he works on. He said, “Instead of… most people who have to write an English paper, write a lab report or plan a speech, I get to paint a board, or design a lighting scene or even build something in the shop. My classes are all hands on and focus on learning new tools, programming things or ways of thinking. Then we actually apply what we learn in shop time.”

TheaterCNU’s most recent production, “Hearts Like Fists” written by Adam Szymkowicz, placed superhero characters in a romantic, comedic setting with noir elements. Both Williams and Avelis said that this particular show has been one of their favorites to work on. The production incorporated creative lighting texture and color choices as well as live foley sound effects, which was one of the challenges that theater tech students faced while working to bring the story to life. Williams explained that foley for this particular show was made up of “all the punches, kicks, wooshes, and other random sound effects for the stage combat that happened on stage.” Avelis said, “In [Hearts Like Fists], we are using sounds like those in action movies to create the sound of the characters punching or kicking each other. We have a student who is our foley artist that must watch the fights and play the sound effect at just the right moment.”

Whether or not a student who is interested in participating in theater on campus is a theater major or minor, TheaterCNU encourages them to audition to be a part of shows. “Our department is so welcoming and we always love having non-majors come audition,” Avelis said. Theater tech students are an integral part of every theater production who help bring stories to life in a myriad of different technical ways. TheaterCNU would not be the same without their contributions and neither would theater as a whole.

~Anna Dorl, Lifestyle Editor~

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