The Californian

Props to the Techies

Kevin Sablynski, Staff Writer

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A play’s audience may realize the talents of actors onstage without even thinking of the hard working individuals that make the production possible.

Not all heroes get the spotlight, especially if you’re a “techie,” which is a nickname for students responsible for working on the technological aspects of a play production. This includes creating the play’s set or working on the production’s lights or sounds. 

These people are vital to the play, as they are tasked with creating an immersive, live experience for the audience to complement the actors. One aspect of the production the techies are responsible for is the play’s onstage set.

 This spring’s play is ”The Great Gatsby.”

“When ‘The Great Gatsby’ was introduced to us, we said ‘go big or go home’ because we had a larger than usual budget for this year,” said senior Reece Lax. “We decided to knock this one out of the park.”

Lax works with others in the back shop room full of power tools, set pieces and sawdust to create the stage’s centerpiece, while coordinating with the booth for lighting and sound as the set designer for the production.

At the head of the production are student directors, seniors Jordyn Grimes and Neha Kaul, managing the techies and the show as a whole.

“As student director, I make sure the show goes on and looks great,” Grimes said. “We come up with blocking, casting, and input on lights and the set.”

In addition to directing the show, students also work on all other aspects of the play’s production. Junior Lucy Alison and senior Jackie Garcia work as light designers, junior Jessica Pray works as a sound designer, and seniors Justin Buechler, Scott Marrs,  Zach Merritt, and the others help contribute to the set.

“I wanted the production to be all student centered,” said Laura Woods, who teaches play production and drama. “I picked the right kids to be involved and be great leaders, because we all want a successful show.”

It’s the dedication to produce a successful play that promotes cooperation among everyone and keeps everything running smoothly. 

“We’re in charge of each other to make sure everyone is working and staying on task [in the shop],” said Buechler.

Working alongside Buechler are motivated techies, striving to make a once hypothetical concept come into fruition.

“Building something from the ground up is really satisfying,” said Marrs. “It’s really cool to see something you designed on paper to become a reality.”

Buechler, Marrs and  other shop members are tasked with designing the set featured in the play from scratch, requiring intensive ingenuity and commitment.

“This year, our set expands into the stage wings to bring it to a 42-foot wide set,” Lax said. “So that and the themes and colors of the ’20s play a key role in the design process.”

Accordingly, techies have gotten inspiration and help from Woods in the process of creating the largest set to date to be featured at Cal’s theater.

“It’s a large, ambitious and gorgeous set they’ve been working hard on,” Woods said. “I think the play calls for a wild factor.”

Tasked with creating an immersive setting straight out of the ’20s requires techies to put their heads together and coordinate many moving parts of this one of a kind experience. 

“We all work together to make sure the sound, lights and set are all coming from the same artistic vision,” Garcia said. 

As a light designer, Garcia ensures the stage is well lit while portraying certain emotions through color theming.

“Every play has a theme with colors, especially ‘The Great Gatsby,’” Garcia said. “We’re assigning colored lighting to shine with each character onstage, such as green light for Gatsby and a pastel pink light for Daisy.”

With the set, light and sound techies working in tandem with one another, they’re on track to create an extravagant play like never before. 

“Our techies are excited to have their hard work be admired, and I appreciate their dedication,” Woods said.

In the midst of the production, the actors and techies alike dedicate themselves constantly to ensure the production is received well.

“It’s a really exciting yet, overwhelming experience, but it’s a super cool opportunity,” Grimes stated.

With the hard work producing a play comes with, it proves to be a rewarding experience for everyone working diligently.

“Being behind the scenes of a play has many different feelings,” stated Lax. “It can be very stressful, and other times it can be a load of fun to be working with such amazing people.” 

Many others feel the same as work for the production goes on throughout the year.

“There are times you can totally screw up a set piece and it’s hard to restart,” Marrs said. “But other times when everything comes together just right, the crew and I really enjoy building it.”

Being a techie for a production also exposes one to the technology and tools applicable to life skills aside from play production as a class.

“My favorite thing about building the set is that I’ll have the life skill of building and working with power tools,” Buechler stated. “It’s something you really don’t forget so it’ll be super useful down the road.”

Play production is also an informative experience for incoming junior students, Garcia said.

“I came into play pro not knowing about any tech,” Garcia stated. “I’ve tried sound, set, costume design and now I work on lights.”

In the end, the experience results in holistic production that’s worth all the work and effort put into it. Everyone is committed to making the greatest production possible.

“This production has been a lot of fun,” Buechler said, “There’s a lot of work and time that goes into it, it’s been an amazing class.” 

With “The Great Gatsby” production looming on the horizon next month, the silent heroes behind the scenes deserve the same claim to fame as the actors do who share the stage with the set, lighting and sound. 

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