Stage crew steals the show

The stage crew in front of the Three Musketeers set – Motto Films/Mr. Jordan Hayman

Although the actors and actresses in the fall show of The Three Musketeers were tremendous, the stage crew played a key role in helping to produce an entertaining, action-packed, and comical play. 

     The group of nine students worked tirelessly from mid-September until the performance days in mid-November to ensure all props, set pieces, lights, sound, and designs were ready to go. The process of preparing for the show began in September, when scenic designer and technical director Mr. Dex Woodward first had to acclimate to working with high school students as opposed to professionals.

     “I come from mostly dealing with professional stagehands in my previous jobs,” Mr. Woodward said. “There is an obvious learning curve working with the students here and getting them to learn about the stuff that they’re using; however, this group of guys absorbed everything that I threw at them pretty readily, and I was able to show them something once or twice and they were able to run with it, which is not something that can be said about the so-called ‘professionals’ in the industry that I have worked with in the past.”

     “Under [Mr. Woodward’s] leadership, we were pushed to tackle large-scale jobs that had previously been neglected, for example, cleaning out and organizing the catwalk,” Sixth Form assistant stage manager Cole Stecker said.  

     After organizing the shop and the catwalk, the stage crew was posed with the task of designing the set.

     “A bunch of the components we already had in our inventory here including some of the platforms that made up the set,” Mr. Woodward said.

The Three Musketeers set supports the cast in performance – photo by Motto Films/ Mr. Jordan Hayman

     “Assembling those pieces with the stage crew was one of the first things they worked on to build the framework for the actual set. Then, there were a bunch of custom pieces of different shapes and sizes that also had to be custom-built and fabricated for the show,” Mr. Woodward said. “In order to do that, the guys on stage crew learned about some of the power tools in the scene shop, that they may not have had the opportunity to use before.” 

     Once the main set pieces were constructed, the stage crew moved onto programming the light board. 

     Mr. Woodward said, “For the lighting we brought in an outside professional lighting designer who worked with a couple of the guys to teach them about programming on our lighting console as well as how some of the lights get focused and why the different choices were used to have certain lights pointed in different locations, with different colors and intensities. Once the programming was done, our guys were able to take it and execute the cues throughout the show.”

“I really enjoy hearing the audience’s applause when operating the lightboard. It lets the crew know that we’re doing a good job operating the scenes of the play.”

Donovan Fairfax ’21

     Fifth Former Donovan Fairfax was in charge of operating the light board.

     “At first, the lightboard looked really intimidating. All I could see were a bunch of sliders, buttons, and monitors which I knew nothing about… I would always press the wrong button or go to the wrong cues. But over the years, I grew,” Fairfax said. “I really enjoy hearing the audience’s applause when operating the lightboard. It lets the crew know that we’re doing a good job operating the scenes of the play.”

     After programming the light board, the stage crew had to prepare all sound effects and music for the show. 

     Fifth Form light board operator Jamiir Shaw said, “Working the sound makes me feel like I have more of a purpose on the crew.”

     Within a few days of the show, the set, sound, light board, and props were all ready to go. 

     Third Form backstage crew member Arnav Sardesai said, “We practiced the show so much that by the time the show came around, we memorized all the scene changes and knew exactly when certain props went on stage.” 

     The frequent scene changes and swords that had to be constantly passed over to different actors throughout The Three Musketeers presented the stage managers with a busy, but enjoyable evening.

     “I really enjoy managing backstage because it allows me to hang out with the actors” Stecker said.

“This particular show succeeded because there was great communication among the members of the stage crew both before, during, and after the show.”

Ethan Diamond ’21

     Fifth Form stage manager Ethan Diamond said, “I think this particular show succeeded because there was great communication among the members of the stage crew both before, during, and after the show.”

     On opening night, all was going well until the director Mr. Hengst noticed a problem. 

     “There was a scene at the end of the show where two swords needed to be preset on the wall for a sword fight,” Mr. Hengst said. “The scene started, and the two swords were not preset. I went to the stage crew and told them that we had to get the swords on stage. I turned around, and I saw that [Mr. Woodward] was behind the set with the swords in his hands. As the Musketeers entered the stage, he went behind them with the swords in his hand to go behind a wall. He handed one of the swords to an actress and tossed the other sword onto the stage. I’m not sure if the actresses would have been able to figure out how to execute the scene if it were not for [Mr. Woodward]. He really saved that scene.”

     The successful performance of the stage crew did not go unnoticed by the actors either. Fourth Former Nick Pante, who played “Rochefort,” said, “[The stage crew] told us when to come on stage, gave us cues, and organized all materials backstage so that when we had to come on and off the stage we knew where everything was. In other words, the stage crew basically did everything that the audience didn’t see on stage and it was very important to the success of the cast.”

     “The result of the show was a testament to the hard work and dedication that they put into it,” Mr. Woodward said. “Everybody on the crew worked together as a team and they had each other’s backs. If one of them was having trouble, they jumped in to help each other out to make sure everybody was back on track. There was very little that didn’t go well.”

Author: Ryan Rodack '22

Arts Editor Ryan Rodack is in his second year working on The Index. He previously covered sports.