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The Accolade

The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

CUE THE LIGHTS: Theater Tech students reveal the importance of those working behind the scenes

Senior+Rachel+Kim+%28left%29+oversees+sophomore+Draven+Dovalina+working+on+the+lighting+equipment+in+the+Performing+Arts+Center+during+their+second+period+Technical+Theater+class+on+Wednesday%2C+Aug.+30.
Chloe Kang
Senior Rachel Kim (left) oversees sophomore Draven Dovalina working on the lighting equipment in the Performing Arts Center during their second period Technical Theater class on Wednesday, Aug. 30.

With a clipboard, papers and a pen in hand, then sophomore and now senior stage manager Rachel Kim sat at the front row seats in the Performing Arts Center [PAC], her eyes scoping the stage as the actors rehearsed their lines for the upcoming “Lord of the Flies” production. 

Kim’s mind jumbled together as she attempted to properly correct any misspoken lines, covey stage cues to the actors and make sure that the lighting and sound were in tune with the scenes. 

“‘Lord of the Flies’ was definitely my hardest production because I was so inexperienced and anxious with the bigger cast and set than compared with ‘Alice in Wonderland,’” Kim said. “I struggled to keep up with my responsibilities and communicate with the cast members, but it was also a learning experience, and I feel a lot more comfortable stage managing now.”

Contributions like hers fuel and run the shows and musicals performed in the PAC, said theater teacher Christian Penuelas. 

“When you go see a play or musical at our school, there are so many students hands-on making sure the production is running all the way,” Penuelas said. “Without them, it just wouldn’t be possible to put on a show.” 

This behind-the-scenes team, known as Theater Tech, manages all the technicalities that come with running a production. However, most don’t strive for the limelight, finding more reward and joy in being part of the backstage process.

“I was the only tech kid who adamantly didn’t want to act because of my social anxiety, so Mr. Penuelas had me be a teacher’s assistant instead and eventually asked if I could stage manage our first show — ‘Alice in Wonderland,’” said Kim, who joined the combined Technical Theater and Advanced Theater class in her sophomore year in 2021. “From then on, I’ve been the stage manager for all the shows, which I am incredibly thankful for.” 

Kim gains a sense of comfort when being a part of the process behind the scenes rather than as an actor.

“I did want to be involved in theater in some way, just not on stage,” she said. “So during the pandemic, I did some research on backstage theater mainly by watching a lot of YouTube videos and decided that I wanted to do something like that at least once.”

Senior Kayla Beining (right) uses the lighting equipment on Wednesday, Aug. 30, in the Performing Arts Center during the second period Technical Theater class.

Over the years, Kim has stage managed and helped in sound and lighting in all the theater productions so far: “Alice in Wonderland,” “Lord of the Flies,” “Wait Until Dark” and “The Sound of Music.” 

Additionally, she helped write and direct  two acts in the small student-written Theater production “12 Acts of Christmas” performed in December 2021 and 2022. 

“I loved directing and it was a good way to express my creativity a little more,” Kim said. 

As the stage manager of these shows, Kim said she holds the following responsibilities:

  •  keeping attendance of cast members during rehearsals 
  • setting up props on stage 
  • giving stage cues to the actors
  • filling rehearsal reports, which briefly address what was done during the rehearsal as well as any important reminders or announcements
  • serving as a go-between with the actors and the director through sorting out any communication errors, whether an actor will be present, etc.

Despite her time spent with theater, Kim said she holds no current desire to pursue technical theater in college. 

“I love theater and its technicality, but career wise I don’t think it’s right for me financially and it’s not a priority. “For now, I’m just doing all of this for fun in high school.” 

Although Kim said she joined Theater Tech to avoid the spotlight and doesn’t expect any recognition, she hopes more people recognize the team’s contribution. 

“I wish people were more aware of just how much work and stress goes to each production behind the scenes,” the senior said. “Rehearsals are long, and we get there before the actors do to set things up; I’ve invested at least 350 hours into the theater program with rehearsals.”

When Kim first enrolled in the theater class as a sophomore, she was the only one who communicated that she would not be interested in any kind of acting, Penuelas said. 

The teacher said that as the years passed, however, more students became eager to work behind the scenes and help with rehearsals where Theater Tech is present during tech week, a process where the crew helps manage details with equipment such as light and sound. 

According to the November 2020 Accolade article, “Seventh period Theatre Production cut because of low enrollment,” prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Theater Tech was in charge of creating the props on stage, however, from 2021, their contribution to creating the physical set has been limited. 

“Props depend on the show and all the productions we’ve done so far required certain sets and props that were more grounded and the students couldn’t make,” Penuelas said. “I do sometimes ask the tech crew to bring small props they may have from home or to find any online for myself to buy.” 

Penuelas said so far he has mainly rented sets from companies such as The Electric Company Theater or rented from other schools like La Habra High School. 

I think people who are not in theater don’t realize how much there is to do outside of acting.” 

— theater teacher Christian Penuelas

Regarding recognition, Kim said although she would be thankful for small gratitude, she feels rewarded and satisfied through seeing the actors’ performance and their appreciation toward her rather than a grand gesture of recognition aimed at Theater Tech. 

Senior Kayla Beining, who joined the second period Technical Theater class this year, echoes Kim’s words. 

“Personally, I believe we get a lot of recognition from the actors and other stage members, so I feel recognized in that way,” Beining said. “People should know about our efforts but really formal or great recognition is unnecessary.” 

In her sophomore and junior years, Beining was a part of Theater 1 and Theater 3; unlike most, she harbors no feelings of pressure nor anxiety standing on stage, instead, preferring the tenor of working and handling production from behind the scenes she said. 

“I’m not afraid of acting in front of an audience,” she said. “I just don’t love it as much as being backstage.”  

Although Beining was not enrolled in the Technical Theater class in previous years, with the trust and approval of Penuelas, she has helped manage a total of 11 band and club performances throughout her high school career. 

Beining said when Peuneulas then gave her the opportunity to work as the assistant stage manager for “The Sound of Music” musical last spring, the experience pushed her to take the Technical Theater class this year. 

“I love all parts of running tech,” she said. “It’s challenging and exciting, and I think I’m good at all the aspects that come with stage managing. During the time I spent on ‘The Sound of Music’ I felt more drawn to being backstage, communicating with all the performers and running the curtains rather than acting.” 

Sophomore Draven Dovalina, however, joined the Technical Theater class in the beginning of his freshman year for similar reasons to Kim, hoping to contribute to more shows in his remaining two years of high school in a more muted direction. 

“Because of my stage fright, I decided to work backstage and hope to learn how to make a show possible and what you need to make it happen,” Dovalina said. 

From a young age, the sophomore had a fondness for film, he said. 

“When I was a kid I loved movies but realized I couldn’t write or draw, so I thought ‘why not make the movies instead,’” he said. “I still have a lot to learn which is why I decided to join Theater Tech and hopefully create a career as a movie producer or director in the future.” 

As of now, Dovalina has moved sets and helped manage actors for the “12 Acts of Christmas” show last school year. 

“I know Theater Tech doesn’t get a lot of attention compared to actors who more people recognize since they’re on stage, but I know that we still play an important role in shows,” he said. “As long as some people in the theater community are getting recognized then I’m ok with it.”

On April 30, 2023, seven Artist of the Year winners were announced for the 10th year – a program run by the Orange County Register, sponsored by the Chapman University College of Performing Arts with support from the Bodge College of Film and Media Arts, made to  celebrate and recognize student artists. 

The awards are categorized into seven disciplines: Dance, Film & TV, Fine Arts, Instrumental Music, Theater, Media Arts, and Vocal Music.

Each discipline is divided into specialties, the Theater artists having the chance to win in either acting, musical theater performances, or theatrical design. 

“The program, and other programs like it, is something I’m definitely open to looking more into and introducing it to my students,” Penuelas said. 

Recognition from outside sources such as this appeal to Dovalina.

“I think it would be fun to have a program like that,” He said. “It would not only give us more recognition but also motivate everyone to do their best.” 

Nevertheless, Kim said she feels more hesitant with introducing such awards.  

“I don’t think it would be good to have something like that at Sunny Hills,” Kim said. “Although it would give recognition to those who want it, I don’t want the theater to become a competitive program — it should be about growth and establishing relationships with others.” 

The main source of recognition for Theater Tech comes from the Theater Banquet, which was held on May 5, 2023 last school year. 

Here, seniors in the Theater program are shouted out for all the shows they were a part of and receive a certificate as well, Penuelas said. 

“We didn’t recognize any Theater Tech students last school year because there were no seniors in the class,” he said. “This year, however, I will definitely be recognizing many seniors who were involved in the technical aspects of theater.” 

I’m not afraid of acting in front of an audience. I just don’t love it as much as being backstage.”

— senior Kayla Beining

Despite being behind the limelight, the unexpected and hidden aspects of theater that behind-the-scenes work brings is what attracts crew members, Penuelas said.

“It’s a completely different side of what people think of when they think of theater,” the theater teacher said. “It gives students an opportunity to shine in different aspects of the performing arts that don’t revolve around the performing aspect — they can be a part of the storytelling process in another way.” 

Penuelas and students in the Theater Tech class hope to expand on these opportunities by creating a separate class in the future instead of being combined with Advanced Theater like they currently are. 

“As of right now, we don’t have the numbers that warrant a separate class, but Theater Tech is really its own separate thing and has nothing to do with advanced theater,” he said. “I keep pushing to try to make that happen and get students involved, so hopefully we can make it its separate class someday soon.” 

With a current Theater Tech group of 17 students, Penuelas said he hopes they can enroll a class of at least 25 students next school year. 

“I think people who are not in theater don’t realize how much there is to do outside of acting,” he said.

Members of the current class hope for the same outcome in the future. 

“I wish more people knew what an amazing and fun environment working in tech is and what we bring to the show,” Beining said. “I don’t think a lot of people are aware of what and how rewarding working behind the scenes could be.” 

Other current recognition for the Theater Tech at Sunny Hills consists of their names in the cast bulletin in a show and a raised hand to the tech booth from the actors, Kim said. 

“Although I don’t think it’s necessary, I would appreciate a thank you or an intimate card or some kind of small recognition to show that people know how much work we put in,” Kim said. “Like how during the ‘Lord of the Flies’ show, Mr. Penuelas gave all the cast members of the Theater Tech crew individual, personal cards that thanked and praised us.” 

However, Theater Tech students continue to help produce shows — even if that means staying behind the curtains and having their names known by less.

“I hope people know that we really do love being backstage and making the stage come alive without the recognition that the actors may receive,” Kim said. “For me personally, as long as I contribute something and know that I’ve done well, that’s enough.”

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Stepping into her first year on The Accolade staff, junior Christine Yoo looks forward to diving deeper into her responsibilities as the co-sports editor. She hopes to sharpen her journalistic skills and broaden her knowledge of the niche aspects of sports writing. When not typing out stories, Yoo can be seen involving herself in different clubs and volunteer organizations. In her free time, she enjoys listening to true crime, finding new music and going out with her friends.
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