The Craft Behind the Curtain

By John Ling

With the winter musical less than a week from opening night, StageCraft class is putting the finishing touches on the set pieces. I’m happy to report that all of the operable platforms are made and the flats are completed – without paint and in some cases design, which is the last step.

greybrickwallWork began back in the early days of fall with classes alternating between sketching potential set designs to learning about safety procedures around the shop. Students needed neither knowledge of equipment and tools used to construct sets nor the talent to draw designs. They just needed to show up curious and ready to learn something new, every week. This time also included watching the 1955 film Guys and Dolls during which I asked students to think about which sets might work best for our production.

After these first weeks, the hands-on work began. Students who initially took 10 minutes to drill one screw into a hole were drilling a half dozen in a couple minutes the next week. They learned how to move in concert with each other to carry and lift into place a set piece, and they learned to measure twice and cut once.

The desired process, in this class, is the design of the set, then the building of the set, and finally, the painting/repairing of the set. In a perfect world this would happen without a hitch, but, unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world, so there are usually some setbacks but we pull together and the show goes on. To some of the students, this would be the first time that they have ever done the tasks that they were being asked to do, not to mention the first time that they have been involved with a theatre production, period.

sewerSome came into the class with experience using tools while others had never seen a toolbox before; thus, the process can be challenging for many, but in the end they have learned skills and have experienced the making/creation of a world that they can take with them. I have one student, in her second year now, who was completely new to the stage craft world last year and who now plans to study the field in college. Perhaps others will volunteer at community theatres someday and if they are never involved again, at least they will know how to use a drill and construct a wall!

I love that this class teaches valuable skills and provides an opportunity for students to be involved with the theatre world – a major school production – without actually being on stage in front of an audience, which isn’t for everyone. I hope you get to experience the show and appreciate the fantastic set work.