Camera, Lights, Action: Behind the scenes with stage crew

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The stage crew during the middle school production of “Oliver!” Photo by Reyut Wasserstien, LT.

Lena Nadaner , Feautures Editor

Moments before the curtains opened, panic ran through the backstage of the Middle School show, Oliver!, as the stage crew frantically tried to fix five broken lights that could have ruined the production. 

Behind the scenes of every musical, Kabbalat Shabbat and assembly, the stage crew runs the show by organizing props, people, lighting and timing to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience for audiences. 

The stage crew, which is run by Director of Arts Education Dr. David Solomon, consists of stage managers and assistants with various responsibilities. These responsibilities include controlling the sound department, costumes, props and ushering guests into the theater. The stage crew had around 15 participants for the most recent production, “Oliver!” although this changes based on the show. 

According to Solomon, the students on the stage crew take leadership and act independently from him. The stage managers usually teach the other students many of the skills required to succeed as a member of the stage crew. For example, Solomon will tell them who is performing at Kabbalat Shabbat every week, but they manage and plan the rest of the event. 

“These are people who are the unsung heroes of the school. They are master organizers. They problem-solve in the heat of the moment,” Solomon said. “I am not typically there telling them how to fix things that go wrong. They take care of it themselves. So they really run the school.” 

Junior Samantha Eidelman, co-stage manager with her brother Remy, explained that she enjoys being a part of the theater environment and getting to know new people. 

“I really enjoy the responsibility and the leadership that comes with it. I’ve also found that I’ve had to become really good at problem-solving on the spot, which was something I didn’t really anticipate. So as stressful as it’s been, I really enjoyed the like on the spot thinking where it comes from,” Eidelman said. 

Every Friday, Eidelman spends her Zman Kodesh time gathering instruments, music stands, microphones and performers for Kabbalat Shabbat. 

Stage crew can be a great way to pursue technological interests and receive arts credits, according to sophomore Daniel Schlactus. In sixth grade, he initially joined the stage crew to spend time with his friend, who was starring in a show, yet he discovered that the crew enabled him to express his passion for STEM. 

“It’s a lot of fun, especially, because I get to spend time with other people who are in the show as well,” Schlactus said. 

Over the first few weeks as a crew member, he became friendly with the set contractor and learned how to make props and move set pieces on and off the stage and lighting. 

However, stage crew is not always all fun and games. It is their responsibility to make sure that the audience does not see any mistakes, such as with costumes or music, which involves them scrambling to fix things backstage and doing many things simultaneously. This stress is a natural part of the theater experience, and some students appreciate the feeling that it gives them. 

“I will usually try and give myself more responsibility than I can handle, knowing that I’ll have two things to do at once, and it will be more exciting,” Schlactus said. 

During the COVID-19 lockdown, the stage crew adapted to the new responsibilities of creating videos for virtual programs and Kabbalat Shabbat and ensuring that the new platform ran smoothly too. 

Solomon described stage crew as an “art in and of itself” that gives students experience and sets them up for their futures. Eidelman plans on taking her experience and skills of organization and responsibility that she learned on the stage crew to help her achieve goals in the future. 

“It builds problem-solving skills. The students who traveled through stage crew and stage management leave as master organizers and really strong leaders,” Solomon said. “It is a skill that can be applied to any job out there. And I love watching students grow and figure things out and make big decisions.”