Behind the Scenes of Theatre Shows

Every few months, CHS students, the Claremont community, and theatre fans gather at the Don Fruechte Theatre to enjoy the shows that the CHS Theatre performs. It is easy to only focus on the work that happens on stage, but there is much more that occurs behind the scenes when putting on a performance-ready show. Besides the actors who obviously contribute greatly to the show, there are also many technical people with different responsibilities. However, the person in charge is unquestionably CHS Theatre Director and President Elect of the CA Educational Theatre Association Krista Elhai.

Elhai’s job is to select the shows and set the schedules. She also has to cast the shows, create the production schedule, direct the shows, teach the classes, and so much more.To prepare for a theatre show, she has to work with the students who are set, light, costume, sound, and prop designers to share her vision of what she wants the show to look like. After that, she has to block the show, choose the crews, meet with the crew heads, and run the dress rehearsals and performances. Elhai believes that the best creativity comes from listening to the ideas that her students have to offer, so she gives them space to be open with their creative visions as well. She works hard to make sure everything proceeds as it should. One of the toughest parts of Elhai’s job is having to stay on campus from 7:30 in the morning until 10:30 at night for 10 to 15 weeks out of the year. Although her job has its share of difficulties, Elhai perseveres nonetheless.

“Watching a production happen with the students in charge and always being amazed by how amazing high school students can be is the best part of my job,” Elhai said.

Below Elhai, are the assistant directors, who block the entire show. This means that they are in charge of positioning the actors’ body movements to act and go along with their lines. The technical director takes on a big responsibility because they have to oversee the entire show and make sure everything goes smoothly. Along with the technical director, there is a production stage manager (PSM) who conducts the show by controlling the lights and sound. The PSM and the crew communicate backstage with the Assistant Stage Managers (ASMs), who help the actors stay aware of what they should be doing and where they need to be. In addition, there are also people working on costumes, hair, and makeup backstage to make sure the actors are performance-ready. From props and stage crew to audio, there is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes of a theatre show.

“Tech and performing can be stressful, but when it all comes together and you actually see your hard work and all the technical aspects come together, it is worth it,” junior Elena Ramsey said. “Theatre, especially backstage [during shows], is a great place to be creative and work collaboratively with other people. It’s a really cool environment.”

A student that has plenty of experience with all of the backstage elements of a theatre show is senior Duc Nguyen. Nguyen is part of Theatre Tech and works mainly with audio and lighting, but he has also had experience working with the wireless microphones they put on the actors. For a recent show, he worked as sound and light board operator as well as the Assistant Technical Director (ATD). Nguyen has also participated in the Backstage Audio Crew where he taught their crew how to correctly put on the microphones. Experienced theatre members like Nguyen, a “super” or theatre crew captain, train newer members carefully so that the shows proceed as effortlessly as possible.

“The day of the actual show has the smoothest and best work from every crew,” Nguyen said. “Every problem should have been fixed during rehearsals, the actual show should be easy in comparison to dress rehearsals; there are no re-runs of the same scene to work out the mechanics.”

At the end of a show, every student involved can feel proud of the work they have done. Every little contribution on and off stage is very important to creating a successful show that everyone can enjoy.