Behind the curtain

Crew members Zoebelle Bean, Bianca Kroll, Anna McCoy, and Lorri Deur pose for a picture

Carlos Marroquin-Lozada

Crew members Zoebelle Bean, Bianca Kroll, Anna McCoy, and Lorri Deur pose for a picture

Jack Reynolds

After eight weeks of diligent rehearsals, the time finally came. Everybody took a deep breath. Lights, camera, and action! But what’s shown to the crowd is just 25% of the work. The other 75% of the blood, sweat, and tears came from crew members. 

   At the end of a performance, the director does not take a bow. But he deserves a lot of credit. For over twenty years, the man behind the dazzling and recognizable performances has been Director Joe Huber. Huber remembered when his mother took him to see the local high school performance of Hello, Dolly!. He was “mesmerized by the sets, the costumes, the lights, the dancing… but most of all I was mesmerized by the young lady playing Dolly Levi. Her name was Mary Lynn Morrison and she sang every song just for me… at least that’s the way it felt.” From this moment on, Huber knew that he wanted to be involved with the theater community. Having been the director for more than twenty years, Huber said that the hardest part is casting. “Having to pick the right actors for each show is never an easy job. You want to use everyone that tries out, but you just can’t and I hate to disappoint kids. I really don’t like that part of my job. I am sure that coaches, who have to tell kids they didn’t make the team, feel the same way.” 

   When it comes to musicals, the music is an essential part of the performance. It’s a way to tell a story that the audience can understand. For as long as instructor Erin Stier has been teaching high school choir, she has also spent that time helping with the musicals that are put on every fall. She has even directed a couple of the musicals, such as the middle school performance of The Lion King Junior. She said that it was an expectation of the choir teacher—both in middle and high school—to be part of the musicals. Stier reminisced on her first time doing a performance when she played an orphan in the musical Annie for community theater when she was young. Being a choir teacher and the musical director, Stier said that the biggest stress “is fitting this full-time job in with my other full-time job. I mean, it’s a lot of hours we put in, so trying to do that hand-in-hand with also running the choir program—it’s a lot.” Stier went on to say that it’s stressful to “have it meet the expectations of your community and your school.” This is yet another example of the stress that crew members have to endure in order to maintain an excellent performance.

From left to right: Lily Montes and Kayleigh Dannels (Carlos Marroquin-Lozada)

   One of the biggest parts of any performance is the costumes. The fitting and the design of each fabric not only represent the excellence of the show, but also the collaboration of the people who put it together. West Ottawa alumni Carlos Marroquin-Lozada was part of West Ottawa’s theater program ever since the middle school performance of Suessical the Musical Junior back in 2018. 

   Marroquin-Lozada said that the hardest part of being a costume crew was back in 2018’s Grease: School Version when the “lady who was supposed to supervise us never showed up to any of the rehearsals and later found out that she quit. For that entire time, me and three others had to manage and arrange who did what up until the showings. I remember right before opening, someone ripped their vest and we all went into panic mode. It was a mess trying to do everything without a supervisor, but we pulled through.” Being a costume crew takes a lot and they have to endure the stress of hoping that everything goes according to plan. 

   Makeup  exemplifies the spirit and the creativity of the show and it makes the play unique. Jr. Lily Montes said that she saw West Ottawa’s performance of Cinderella back in 2015 and she just “loved it so so so much that I wanted to be in it.” As Montes put it, the 2018’s Grease: School Version “really pushed me over the edge”—metaphorically. Montes has been either in the performance or she has helped out backstage. One time when Montes worked backstage as a makeup crew, she said that the “most stressful moment would probably be at intermission. I do makeup crew so when all of the actors come flooding in we have like 15 mins to get to like 30 plus kids to make sure their makeup is good and on point.” Makeup is also an essential part of any performances and they have to deal with the level of stress of the makeup being put on correctly.

   The first thing that the audience will see once the curtain opens is the structures and the painting. If done well, the audience will be immersed in a whole new world. As a painter for the sets, among other backstage crew work, Sr. Tyler Veenstra was always interested in the theater community. However, he could never join it because of the “consistent moving around.” After being settled in Holland, Michigan, Veenstra took a chance and joined the backstage crew theater community. In 2021, Veenstra painted for West Ottawa’s performance of Godspell. Although Veenstra said that there wasn’t anything stressful about the position, he did note that it was annoying “whenever we screw up with the paint that we already painted on.” This is also another great example of crew members having to confront the stress but also the difficult part of it as well. 

   Despite being behind the scenes, every member of the backstage crew deserves a round of applause. Whether it’s for a director, makeup crew, or a painter, each one of them is integral to the show. Nevertheless, we should also appreciate the stress that they encounter. They pursued it through the thick and thin and made the audience breathless and amazed by each performance.

*West Ottawa High School’s next performance is the beloved Elf the Musical based on the classic movie Elf starring Will Ferrell. Performance dates are November 4, 5, 11, and 12 at 7:30pm and November 6 at 2:30pm. Tickets are $12 for the Orchestra section and $10 for the Mezzanine section.*