Building Bye Bye Birdie

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By: Melissa Rau, Staff Writer

Theatre on the James has been preparing for their winter musical performance of Bye Bye Birdie. Many students have been combining their talents to create this story to light up the stage in late January; the cast has been hard at work memorizing their lines and blocking, but another group of students have been working just as hard: the stage crew.

The stage crew meets during class periods and on Mondays after school. They have only seven rehearsals to complete all of their work in contribution to the show.

The stage crew “is responsible for all of the backstage scenic, costume, prop, lighting, and sound elements of a show,” Drama teacher and director Mrs. Allison Oyler said. “They move scenery, help actors get into costume, organize and set up props, run light cues, and run sound cues. The crew also works before the show on building and painting the set, gathering and creating costumes and props, and setting up stage lights and microphones.”

Crew members do the majority of their work in secret. They complete their tasks completely unnoticed. Mrs. Oyler describes the crew members as “the magic behind theatre,” and “unsung heroes,” being able to make amazing things happen within several seconds, in darkness and in silence.

Bye Bye Birdie Co-Stage Manager Anna Uitvlucht is on her third year as a crew member. She explains the routine of theater production class.

“Usually we go in, we sit down, we do a pre-show, which is when we go over something within technical design,” Uitvlucht said. “And then we have a project that we work on for the show. Right now we’re making chairs for Bye Bye Birdie.”

Although different responsibilities are divided up among members, Uitvlucht describes the crew as “a team effort.” This team is one that she has grown close to, as she talks about how they’ve come to make her theatre experience so special.

For Uitvlucht, the best part of being on the stage crew is “the people. It’s just really fun, you get to meet everybody and get to work with really cool people and really creative people, and it’s just a lot of fun.”

Despite the fun times that Uitvlucht has with her team members, it can be challenging as well.

“The most challenging part would probably be tech week,” Uitvlucht said. “It’s pretty much just 6-10 every night for a week right before the show, and we just run through the show and we make sure that everything’s perfect and that everything runs smoothly.”

Another difficulty of being on the crew is the necessity of their precision.

“If they do something wrong, it is immediately noticeable by the audience,” Oyler said. “If a sound effect of a gunshot is late or early, the audience immediately knows. If a crew member is left on stage when lights come up after a scene change, his or her mad dash into the wings makes the audience chuckle.”

Even though the stage crew is not recognized with a curtain call or with a standing ovation, they are imperative to the product of a show.

“If we didn’t have a crew, scenery wouldn’t change, lighting wouldn’t change, and sound cues and microphones just wouldn’t happen,” Oyler said. “Those responsibilities, if we still wanted them, would lie in the hands of the actors and they often do not have the time to do those things as they are preparing for their time on stage.”

Through the ups and downs of being a crew member, the experience as a whole can be very rewarding.

“The adrenaline rush crew members get when they complete their scene change/costume change/light or sound cues correctly is like nothing else,” Oyler said.

Be sure not to miss Theatre on the James’ Bye Bye Birdie, January 29th through 31st at 7 pm. Come to support both the cast and the crew that have both put hours of work into their masterpiece.