Ms. Violet Hamel-Wade
An air of anticipation hangs in the dark theater. The whispers create a quiet hum as phones are switched off and parents shush their children. The pit orchestra has been playing a continuous tune that fades to silence as a spotlight appears in the center of the stage. Behind the curtains, nerves are high.
Some of these students are performing in their first CVU show, while others are about to have their first experience playing a main part. The voice of the audience falls silent and the show begins. The cast entertains the audience, singing, dancing and joking their way through the story. At the end of the performance, the curtain falls and families leave the theater, laughing and recounting their favorite parts. What they don’t see, however, is the team of students who live behind the curtains.
While the actors and actresses we see on stage certainly play their part in the magic of CVU’s theater productions, the crew is an essential yet often unnoticed piece of the production.
“I don’t think that the people who see the show really think about [the crew] at all. The cast is really good about understanding that they need and depend on the crew,” says Bronwen Cobden, the stage manager at Legally Blonde, the most recent musical at CVU.
Cobden says that she usually spends around ten hours a week working on the musical. “I see the entire process and attend every rehearsal, except for the singing ones. It depends on the week and how much I have to do at home.”
Kali Adams, the costume mistress for Legally Blonde, had a similar time commitment. “As we head into the second month of the production, I can be there upwards of 10-12 hours a week,” she said when the production was in full swing.
Everyone has a different job when it comes to working behind the scenes. “While the play is in development [I am] working on sewing and fixing costumes, then during the actual production I am the person who does any quick changes or quick repairs as needed,” Adams says.
Cobden fills the leadership position backstage. “On show nights I have to keep the running crew on task, make sure the curtains open and close at the right times, keep everyone quiet backstage, make sure the set changes happen on time, communicate between the lighting and sound booth and backstage.”
Cobden says that being a part of the CVU Theatre crew has influenced her time in high school. “It taught me very quickly that sometimes you just have to be assertive. Until I started doing [theatre] I tended to be very passive.” She also mentions how she has been impacted socially. “I know everyone better, and I am more of a part of the sense of community than I was when I started.”
For anyone who missed their chance to get involved, Cobden recommends attending the crew meeting that will happen before this year’s spring production, The Laramie Project. “There’s always space on the crews, lights, sounds, costume and front of house,” she assures.
If you’re looking for your place at CVU, you just might find it in one of the “little communities” behind the theater curtain.