How I Got Started
Starting with applicants for the fall of 2004, the UC system dropped its admission requirement of physical education and instead asked students to complete a year of arts. I was happy with this change, as I was not a big fan of fitting PE between classes. The most interesting art class that satisfied this requirement at my high school was Theater Arts. I enrolled in the class for my sophomore year.
The Theater Arts room was markedly different from all the other ones on campus. There was an elevated stage that took up one end of the room and had movie posters behind it. Mrs. Seeley's class was a combination of taking notes in a steno notebook, taking Scantron tests, and a few participation projects like getting in front of the class and talking/acting/being creative.
One of the requirements was seeing both of the plays put on by Theater Arts in the year. People who worked in the production of the plays would receive extra credit for the class. While my grades did not need any help (my weighted GPA for that year was 4.67), being the overachiever I was I signed up to help. I did not want any acting, but they had technical things they needed help with.
I showed up and I was on stage crew. Since the school did not have its own theater, we rented the Huntington Beach Playhouse for a couple of weeks. This was convenient for my family and me, because I lived two blocks away from the theater and was not yet old enough to get my licence. (I went to Mater Dei High School, which is a Catholic school nine miles away from my home.)
The Next Stage
As a member of the stage crew, I helped build the sets. We used flats (big 12x4 foot fake walls) to construct a fixed set. They had to be screwed in place, braced, then painted. Next the furniture and other set pieces were put in place. Along the way a few different things had to be purchased at the Home Depot. We made a lot of trips there (it was only a block away) and also to school to pick up different set pieces. Then all the lighting had to be adjusted. Lights had to be refocused, given different colors, and replaced when they burned out.
By opening night, we had built a living room for the play You Can't Take it With You. My job was to sit behind one of the doors on stage and make sure it was closed after the actors and actresses walked through. I also got to start the fog machine. There is a point in the play where a fire starts in the basement and fireworks are set off. I set off the fog machine to simulate the smoke, while lights were flashed to give a burning feel. That was my first play.
The Jobs and the Time
For most of the plays my official job related to lighting. However, lighting is a last minute type thing. The set needs to be built and the thespians need to have planned where they are going to stand before 100 light instruments can be focused and colored properly. So I spent most of the time building sets. A few highlights of pieces I took the lead in building include a table, a couple of flats, and a window seat with a hinged lid to hid bodies. By the end of everything I had a toolbox with a set of screwdrivers, pliers, tape measure, level, random nails and small items I was asked to hold on to, and the most essential of all stage crew tools, a screw gun.
Each year the school put on three plays. Two of them were at the Huntington Beach Playhouse, while the third was the senior musical which was held at Santa Ana High School. Work at the HB Playhouse usually lasted two weeks from building the sets through performance and striking (tearing everything down and removing it). The times were from after school to around 8 or 9 in the evening. The senior musicals were shorter in theater time since the rental rate per day was higher in the different venue. Senior musicals were normally all of two weekends and the week between. The stage crew had to get to the theater before the actors to get everything ready for the scenes and then stay to clean up and store everything after rehearsal was done. Often I would not leave until 10 or 11, drop a couple of people off, and get home with only a little time before the AM. Somehow I showed up for classes at 7:20 the next day and was prepared enough. By the end of the week, I could feel the lapse of time between when I did something and mentally processing it. My Associate can explain how much I put into the plays.
All Nine Productions
For 15 weeks everything in my life took a back seat to theater and making the current play a success. These are the plays I worked on with a few comments.
There were many things going on in these productions. I learned a lot about using power tools, building things, and some good advice from Mr. Sepulveda like "cut once, measure twice" and "safety last." There was also a lot of fun. All of the people were great to work with. The stage managers Adrian, Megan, and Eric were friendly and helpful students; they caused many laughs. Everyone on crew was dedicated and wanted the production to succeed. Even the actors were good natured. Mrs. Seeley and Mr. Sepulveda did a wonderful job leading everyone in acting and technical direction.
Everyday there was a story. A few people would spend hours building something that had to be redone, or a little crisis would come up and need to be settled immediately with another trip to Home Depot. Carpooling from school to the theater and making trips to get food along the way were also sources of amusement. It could be stopping at Moonlight Chicken and Pizza or meeting people who were high at Carl's Jr. The dull moments were few.
I could write a book on all of my fun theater experiences. That is, if I remembered enough of them. For now 1582 words is enough.