Crazy For Crew

Aubrey Klavon

crazy-for-crew-pic“Go, go, go,” Jr. Katie Repesh whisper shouts to her crew members on stage right. They begin to pull back two fourteen-foot sets, as stage left opens the curtain and begins work on their own set piece. As soon as they’re clear, Sr. Bella Violante closes the first black curtain. But the work isn’t close to done yet. The crew continues to push back the sets as far as they can go. They rush forward to prepare for the moon backdrop, which Sr. Justin Bowker begins to lower after making sure everyone is clear of the pipe.

  Cast members rush around, preparing for their entrance as the crew works on unwrapping the backdrop and sending it back up. Repesh instructs her crew to bring out the spiral staircase to center stage as Violante is prepared on the first black curtain again. Instructor Joe Huber tells the backstage managers to open the first as soon as possible, and everyone is tense as they wait for the backdrop to be completely up.

  Violante is then cued to open the first curtain, quickly but smoothly. The crew is filled with relief that the scene change went well, but then move on to prepare for the next change.

  Although this intense environment is normal for a backstage crew, the show “Crazy For You” had bigger sets, more backdrops, and fewer experienced crew members. Crew does not generally get recognition for all their hard work, and some people don’t realize how crucial their role is in producing a quality show. However, with all the challenges faced for this show, the crew definitely deserves to be acknowledged.

  One major difficulty with this show was the enormous sets. There were three fourteen-foot sets that need to be moved on and off stage as well as be rotated. They were all very heavy and difficult to move. “Some specific challenges that we have run into for this show are moving very heavy sets and especially moving a large set of stairs onto one of the scenes in a very limited amount of time,” Soph. Brayden DeCoste said. These abnormally large set pieces make for difficult set changes, especially since there was not much time to complete them. Even with a crew of eleven people, completing these set changes was arduous.

  Another difficulty is having three backdrops. Generally, shows have one, maybe two,. However, “Crazy For You” has three. Not only are there more backdrops, there are also more set changes where the backdrops need to be put in/taken out. “For this show we have five different changes of the fly and there’s like five backdrop changes and they’re really hard,” Soph. Mariah Vongphachanh said. Bringing in backdrops is not as simple as it seems. The backdrops are each on different pipes and are wrapped up with chains. “The backdrops are a pain to get down,”  Violante said.

  When bringing in the backdrop, the pipe must be brought down, each chain must be unhooked, and then the pipe is brought back up. The process is then reversed when taking out a backdrop. Despite sounding simple, the hooks are difficult to get on and off and there is limited time to do this. The pipes are very heavy and could kill someone if they are brought in too fast or are dropped while someone is in the way. The line between going slow enough for safety purposes and fast enough to complete the set change is very fine.

  “The backdrop is difficult because it’s dark and you can’t see what’s happening,” Soph. Tyler Zoerhoff said.

  One specific set change that is challenging involves getting the moon backdrop in. The fourteen foot sets must be pushed back far enough for the moon backdrop to come in, and if it is not pushed back far enough the set change is not possible. This specific set change was not mastered during the four rehearsals the crew had to practice. Jr. Miranda Singletary recalls not completing this change during the rehearsals, and it caused worry for the actual show. Luckily, during all five shows the backdrop made it in, but only barely. “We got the moon in a second before it was shown,” Sr. Justin Bowker said.

  Crew is an underappreciated but critical aspect of theater. It requires focus and physical exertion. “It’s a lot of work. My feet hurt all the time. We’re not allowed to sit down and it’s torture,” Zoerhoff said. Crew requires being on one’s feet figuratively as well. Bowker recalled a problem that occurred during opening night. After intermission was over and Act Two was beginning, the big blue curtain had to open to the stage. However, no matter how hard he pulled, Bowker could not get it to open. All five stage left crew members tried to help but to no avail. Musical Director Joe Huber and Tech Director Bruce Snoap had to run backstage to try and help. After neither men could open the curtain, they discovered the ropes had been tangled at the top, meaning no amount of strength would have opened the curtain. Luckily, Instructor Jay Gainforth had conducted the pit orchestra to repeat measures of the overture so none of the audience members were aware something was wrong.

  Another problem that occurred was when Bowker was attempting to bring in the desert backdrop. “Justin tried to pull down the fly but it got stuck and he didn’t know what to do,” Zoerhoff said.  Zoerhoff ran over to help and noticed the lock was still on it. These kinds of hiccups mean crew members have to concentrate in order for things to run smoothly.

  Despite an inexperienced crew that had a bigger than usual task for this show, most set changes ran smoothly. As always, there were a few problems, but the crew handled them well and the audience suspected nothing. Although crew requires a lot of hard work, it is still very enjoyable. Even without being recognized for all the effort that goes into a successful show, crew members are still proud of themselves and have a lot of fun.