The Life Behind a Play

Stephen Sereyko & Kayla Tyree, Reporters

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West High hosts many theatrical productions throughout the year, but many people don’t know how much work actually goes into putting a play together. Currently in the making is Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead, “the true and accurate account of the Elizabethan zombie plague”.

As with all plays the production began with casting and assigning each actor a character. In addition to actor auditions students also have auditions for how many technicians could be used for the fabrication of the show. As more time passes the actors begin learning their lines and rehearsing with one another. On the technical side of the play, student technicians must begin preparing to build and paint the set, while also preparing costumes, lighting, makeup, sets, and props.

Building a set is no easy task. First the director must plan out how the set is meant to look and the best course of action for building it. Depending on the show, or the script, the director has to follow what the show needs and what the script needs unless the play was written by the director. Once that is decided, the set construction begins. Most of the material that was used for this play was recycled from previous West productions, such as “Tarzan”, “Romeo and Juliet”, and “Dracula”. By pulling apart pieces of old sets and repainting them, it becomes much easier to save money on material.

When asked about his favorite part of putting a play together, director David Block said, “Plays are an interesting art form. Unlike say, a painter, [plays] are a collaborative artwork. You’ve got designers, you’ve got actors, technicians, lighting people, all of that. Everyone has got creative input into the finished product.” It takes a lot of effort and collaboration from everyone working on the play in order to produce a well-rounded product. Depending on how much the crew needs to do, they will sometimes stay as late as 8:00 at night or until midnight just to add details or finish putting up the set.

David Prentice, stage manager for “Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead”, added why he liked being a part of tech. “There are a lot of skills that you learn and utilize when putting on a show in general and seeing the satisfaction that it brings is really nice,” he said.

In order to build a set in such a short period of  time, all members of tech must work together to get things done as efficiently as possible. Sometimes if they need to move faster but don’t always have enough tech, they will also use actors who aren’t practicing their lines to move props or sets. As the set begins to materialize, the techs finish it off by “dressing” it and making it look livable through use of decoration. Once it is almost finished the actors practice each act with one another, learning their movement cues and rehearsing their lines so that they can produce the best play possible. A lot of the time actors get to have their own input on the play to make it comfortable to them but still follow the script and try to stay with their lines. Tech isn’t just about building sets and painting however. A long time member of tech crew Hadassah Conrad said, “The big part of it for me is the community it has and the friends I’ve made and it’s always fun to build and paint the set.” Oftentimes techs and actors alike must stay late after school so that they can build and rehearse for the play, but despite the hard work it really is lots of fun. “Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead” will be shown in the West High auditorium on March 28, 29, and 30 so go and support if you can!

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