Behind the Scenes
Lights, curtains, and the stage is set for another York College performance.
Despite being portrayed as something fun (which it is), theatre plays an important role in the lives of many people. It serves as a place for making friends based on similar interests and because of the amount of time that students work together, the friendships are strong. "I believe theatre plays an integral role in college life as it allows students to connect with new people, both personally and professionally," said Bryan Curtin '17 (Hawthorne, NJ). For non-theatre majors, it can be a way to de-stress from schoolwork and focus creative energy into something else constructive. The collaborative and problem-solving skills that come from working in theatre benefit all students.
Theatre is more than memorizing lines. For actors, it takes a grasp of psychology to get inside the mind of a character. For someone working the box office, it takes skills in hospitality, and a technical director must know the engineering behind building a set. These skills are marketable for a variety of jobs in the working world. "Absolutely, I think theatre is integral to both academics and everyday life. For all aspects of theatre, it's important to be well-rounded culturally and intellectually… You have to be educated to perform your tasks on and offstage safely, efficiently, and with confidence. To succeed academically it's important to look at things from multiple perspectives, use critical thinking, and practice time-management – all of which can be learned through experience in the theatre," said Christie Lenhoff '16 (York, PA).
For students like Lenhoff, who is a Theatre major, theatre has been a part of life since childhood. She attended an arts school from 6th to 12th grade, so her love for it was inspired early on. Theatre major Caroline Haller '20 (Moorestown, NJ) was also involved with theatre through grade school, middle school, and high school. For Political Science major Curtin and Theatre major Devon Morgan '18 (Newcastle, DE), their experiences began in high school. Other students did not get to discover their love for theatre until college, but their passion remains just as strong. The theatre program at York College is a welcoming place for all students no matter their major and no matter what role they play – onstage or off.
Being a member of the crew is not restricted to only working behind the scenes. Many students, like Morgan, Curtin, Lenhoff and Amanda Stagg '17 (Downingtown, PA), have also been on the stage as well. Stagg was a crew member for makeup and set creation on A Christmas Carol, and a cast member in the opening production Story Theatre. Since being a cast member and a crew member requires a time commitment, students often choose one to focus on depending on the production. Still, other students like Haller have never been on stage as an actor. Not everyone has the desire to be in front of an audience. The backstage energy is high, as you might expect, because of the excitement and challenges that come with a performance. Stagg said, "Everyone is moving a hundred miles a minute trying to get everything together for each cue." The feeling is indescribable, a different world in which the cast and crew get lost.
The crew members here at the College have the opportunity to explore different backstage jobs. The Theatre majors are encouraged to try as many as possible in order to have a solid understanding of how a production is put together. Seth Werner, Production Manager, said, "Most of the Theatre majors work both on stage and off. This is due to their crewing assignments, personal preference and desires of the Theatre Division to ensure that all students are prepared for theatre jobs after graduation." This points them in the direction they want to go, whether it is as part of the cast or crew. Morgan has been a light board operator, a painter, a builder, part of the makeup crew and scene design and co-directed for Story Theatre. She tries out a little of everything when given the chance. Because the College has different theatre programs like Story Theatre or the YCP Improv Troupe, the time put into a production can vary. Some students say between 8-16 hours of work per week, not counting the actual show time. "Depending on the show, behind-the-scene workers can put in just as much work as actors, only they are not seen," says Stagg.
Without the hard work put in by these crew members, a play or musical would not even be able to go on. For big productions, like The Drowsy Chaperone, the minimum number of crew members needed would be 20 and the maximum would be 60. Under the charge of the stage manager, they build the sets and work out the lights and music, and they direct the actors themselves. The crew relieves some pressure from the cast and the director, and also spreads responsibility for the production between multiple people. Behind-the-scenes is not only just work, but also a great place for creativity. It encompasses art and music, which immerse the audience and the actors in the production. The crew members help bring the theatre to life.