As promised, I continue to highlight the jobs done behind the scenes by our technicians who are so very essential to our success. Please remember, what you read here is just a basic overview of what these hard-working individuals actually do during the production season.
In costuming, the designer will deliver the renderings and research to the costume shop manager and crew. They must then work together to pull items from stock, to rent from reputable warehouses, or to pattern and construct a new costume from scratch. Most of the time, it’s a combination of all three approaches at ETBU. Costumers’ work can also include dyeing, distressing, and altering. Every detail on a new build, from the fabric to the trim, from the buttons to the thread color, is carefully considered in conjunction with a director’s approach, the actor’s complexion, and the lighting and scenic designers’ mix of colors.
The show is then handed off to the wardrobe crew who must plan, rehearse, and execute any quick changes that a play may demand. Nothing is scarier than an actor who misses an entrance because of a wardrobe malfunction, so great care is taken to ensure a timely and complete change.
Makeup, Hair and Wigs
Makeup, hair, and wigs collaborate with the other design areas, especially costumes, to complete the look for an ensemble. Once a designer has submitted drawings for each character, crews must work to fit the design to the theatre. Lighter makeup is used in intimate spaces and more intense makeup is used in larger venues. The designer and artists must work to balance foundation with the actor’s skin tone, execute special effects (which may include age, injury, or creature makeup), and master prosthetic additions like large noses or extended chins. Wigs must be built or styled from stock. And, if working with an actor’s natural hair, appointments are made to predetermine the preferred look.
Properties and Set Dressing
Properties and set dressing involve both hand props and those used to decorate the set. Often these demand extensive research, especially for period plays. Props are pulled from stock, borrowed from friends or family, purchased, or constructed from scratch. Property crew members must set up tables backstage where each prop is labeled and stored during a performance. Often props must be “tracked” as they change hands or make numerous exits and entrances in the course of a play. Additionally, the props crew is responsible for any perishable foods needed for a production. This may include cooking every night before a show as well as clean up after the performance has concluded.
Run crew (alternately called stage crew) are the individuals whose work is predominantly featured during the actual performances. They move set pieces and furniture, man the fly rails to raise and lower scenic drops, open and close the curtains, and operate any special effects equipment including fog machines or special trap doors for the set.
Publicity and Box Office
We take great pains at ETBU to make sure that all our promotional materials present the necessary information in a professional manner. This includes all our posters, programs (a good program can spark curiosity and conversation about the department), voice mails, web sites, and press releases. Our front-of-house staff has responsibilities that can include design, proof reading, distributing posters, writing press releases, answering phone calls and emails from patrons, tabulating head counts, and totaling box office receipts. The box office crew—and by extension our house manager and ushers—are the first people our patrons encounter whether for reservations or for will call pickup. Naturally, it’s important to us that our guests be treated with courtesy and professionalism. Positive word-of-mouth reviews about the entire experience are essential to our success.
Let me close by saying that we do not believe in sexist assignments. Our female students learn to be confident carpenters and electricians, and our male students are expected to know how to handle a sewing machine and apply make-up. Sometimes, when a student faces a challenging assignment in an area they have little experience with, he or she stumbles upon a hidden talent. New confidence is found, new skills are discovered, and an opportunity avails itself for future employment.
Theatre truly personifies I Corinthians 12:15-19.
Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
I think of these verses often when I look at how many different specializations there are in the world of theatre and how these individuals must all work together—with respect for each other’s gifts—to create something completely dependent upon the ensemble.
There are many talents, but only one goal.