Student stage tech offers behind the scenes thoughts on production of spring drama, ‘Play On!’
Junior Grant Yang, who plays a character named Billy, performs during a rehearsal for the spring show, “Play On!” in the PAC on Monday, May 13. The comedy runs this week until Saturday. Photo by Accolade photographer Annie Choi

You’ve probably watched or at least heard of one of the many musicals and plays that come and go throughout the year. Here’s a different perspective on the matter.

As part of my second year in the technical theater class during seventh period, I help build sets and work on the less physically tasking aspects involved in a show, such as lights and sound.

Some high school theater students across Orange County participate in a program called Cappies, which recruits youths from one Orange County campus to attend dramatic performances at another one and to write an evaluation of those shows, also known as critical reviews.

So as our tech crew read through Cappies reviews for last year’s musical, “Chicago,” we realized that the critics ignored most of the technical aspects in favor of appreciating the actors and dancers more.

Since the reviews were read while discussions about the set for Sunny Hills’ theater production of the spring play, “Play On!” (May 15-18 in the PAC) were made, it was a perfect time for a bit of discussion.

And so the ranting began.

“They think it’s impressive for the show to be this great?” one of my theater tech classmate asks. “They should see all the hard work I put into making the show sound great.”

Another of my peers responds: “I don’t think they realize all the hours that we sacrificed after school to actually make the stage not look like an empty black spot.”

“Those lights were a pain to hang up and adjust,” says another student from the technical theater class..

And then my turn.

“I wish there was a way to tell them that I sacrificed my sleep to make this set seem like an actual house,” I say. “Painting the cubes that the ensemble danced in took way too much time than I would’ve liked.

Yes, you read it right.

From building the actual set to hanging up lights and to recording many sound cues, techs do almost everything that one can imagine.

Building the set is always the first thing we do, and it involves using drills to screw pieces of wood together, cutting wood using a miter saw and painting.

One big obstacle in our path for “Play On!” was painting and glossing french doors that are average in size and pretty wide, which are very fragile and have lots of little nooks and crannies.

Attaching them to the actual flat took a few days, such as making sure the doors were level with the ground and having to be careful so the wood didn’t split. Such a prop is a major component in making humorous scenes, such as an actor peeking through the slots and making sure the others don’t slack off.

Then we spread out to our own respective jobs.

As opening night crawls closer and closer, we started to have tech Saturdays starting from May 5, which meant that we have to come to school and go to the PAC at 9 a.m. on Saturday and end close to 7 p.m. This last tech Saturday on May 12 went on until 9 p.m to make sure that both casts of the play went through the entire show without stopping.

We put finishing touches on the set and made changes to accomodate the actors, which usually just means moving set pieces back and forth many times to make them satisfied.

It’s pretty annoying because the original spot that the set piece was in is usually the final place that the directors decide on.

To allow more techs to have experience in different areas, I was next in line to learn all about sound.

It was a new experience for me, such as looking up the actual sound cues online and editing them in a software program called Audacity, which made me appreciate all the work my predecessor did even more.

Then the week before the show came knocking on our door.

Affectionately dubbed “hell week” by the techs, it is one of the most stressful times of the year with last-minute rehearsals and costume changes.

Staying until 8 or 9 p.m. after school from May 7-11 really took a toll on me, especially when I had to finish homework and take a shower.

Yet I believe it pays off in the end to see a full house and the audience clap after the end of each song although techs don’t get to go on stage and take a bow until the last show because of a long-standing tradition.

But please. Remember how hard techs work their butts off backstage. Some words of praise and thanks are greatly appreciated. Even applauding when we come out and bow on the last night is great.

So don’t forget about us when you’re watching “Play On!” this week.

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