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Life Behind The Scenes

The first thing that your counselors tell you in that introductory assembly in high school is “Get involved in anything!” I never really paid much attention, being too excited with actually being in a high school to soak in the words of someone I didn't know, but subconsciously I took it to heart when I signed up for the Drama Club. And I can't imagine my life any different.

Being involved in Drama is an experience that has transformed me, in ways that will serve me the rest of my life. I can now recite entire scripts off the top of my head, know the voltage required of a 36 Lycos light and hang a thirty pound light up a seven meter ladder with ease!

I joined the Drama Club in ninth grade, not quite sure what it was all about, but interested and eager to learn. Junior members are assigned small roles, and I was publicity crew for my first production. In essence, I had to convince people to attend the show, sell and collect tickets, and make the posters. That was fine, but opening night, when the curtains opened and I saw the performance, I knew what I wanted. I wanted to be in the play, not selling tickets, I knew I should be on stage, saying those lines and dying tragic yet dramatic deaths.

The next year I got my wish. I was cast in multiple roles in our production of Arrivals and Departures, a Canadian comedy, showing how people's lives can collide, when they are delayed in an airport. My main role was that of a boyfriend (a married man), who is called by his mistress who tries to convince him to leave his wife. This was a bit awkward for me because my girlfriend was sitting in the third row, and also because it was my first time on stage. To make matters worse I had a fifteen minute monologue! With no one else on stage! I didn't think I could do it, with two hundred people watching! What if I forgot my lines? But when the moment came, I did it-and it was exhilarating!! The opening night was like nothing I had ever experienced before, silence of the theater, the blinding lights and the roar of the audience as the lights came down. It was an amazing experience. After our production run was over, I just couldn't wait for our next production. It was an addiction for me.

The next show we ran was the Canterbury Tales, another show in which I had multiple roles. It was such a challenge, trying to distinguish one character from another, giving each his/her own personality, and little quirks that made each character come alive on stage. This was the production with the biggest cast we'd ever had. There were over 20 actors, and we never left the stage! Being with all those other people on stage, just feeding off one another's energy, was a totally different experience. It was also a challenge, with so many characters on stage, trying to make yours stand out without upstaging or overshadowing the other actors. This was a show to be remembered, and once again I felt the surge of adrenaline as the lights came up, but as with all shows, the run must end at some point.

I was just counting down the days until our next show, and I remember the casting meeting on Friday: I was ready to read my script and start the character boiling process all over, and then I found out. I wasn't to be cast in the upcoming production. Instead, I was going to be part of the technical crew. It was a small one act production that was to be very abstract, with actors wearing all black, and no set changes. The only things distinguishing the changes in the scene, or characters were the actors themselves and the lightning. It was quite a disappointing moment in my life but I decided to stick it out and see where it would take me.

The technical side of theater was something that I had never even given thought to before. I mean the lights came up and down, and we had sound cues, but I never realized the extensive work that this was to put it all together. I started out just trying to remember the whole new vocabulary that they spoke, Lycos, Dimmers, Channels, Fernals, and the always-useful XLR. I couldn't believe that in order to hang and focus lights, it meant you had to carry a thirty pound light, up a seven meter ladder, with a wrench in one hand! I had no idea what I was doing those first few weeks. I was determined to learn as much as I could, no matter what it took. By the end of that production I was hanging upside down hanging lights by my toes, while yelling out. “Turn up the dimmer on channel 7, I want to see how this fernal looks!” I had discovered another side of the theater, one that could manipulate the looks of the show, just as much as being on stage. I could now flatten actors, give them shadows, make them look as if they were glowing, or if they annoyed me, give them no light at all. I had found another part of theater that I loved.

As we decided what to do for our next production, I wasn't at all disappointed when I wasn't chosen to act in this play. I instead, was thrilled that I would be able to express my creative side as the technical director of the play. This was a completely different experience from my previous play, as before I was the dutiful student, and here I was the teacher, making the decisions of where each light would go, whether we would include that sound cue, or have that blackout there. I realized how much as an actor you rely on the other roles in a production to make the play happen. I spent many nights trying to figure out how to make this production the best I could with the limited resources most small theaters must deal with. But on the opening night, it was just as much of a thrill to be able to hear the words “LQ1, Go!” and be the one that pressed the button that make the lights come up and the magic begin, as it was to be the one on stage. I realized that I loved this just as much as being the one on stage.

I have been through many trials and tribulations since then. I have experienced a whole variety of activities the world has to offer. But even though I have moved on from theater during these last few years, nothing has come close to shaping my life the way theater has. I never realized this would be the thing where I would make lifelong friends, gain confidence and have a whole new world open up for me.