Behind the Scenes in Theater

BY SARAH PORTERFIELD
SC STAFF WRITER

“To the left, no, right. Yes, now down. Focus and lock it,” shouted one student to another as a sole spotlight appeared on center stage in the dark Dale-Snow Theatre.

The theatre is full of red velvet seats placed in rows and is also usually full of hustling students.

In this case, students worked to finish the final tasks before the upcoming production of “Top Girls.”

Many people have watched a play at East Stroudsburg University (ESU) and left feeling entertained, inspired, impressed, or indifferent.

Comments after the show might include “What great acting!” or “That was an interesting play.” However, comments after a show will not center around lighting, props or scenery.

For each hour of performance, tens of hours of work were invested behind the scenes, both in rehearsals and backstage.

Audience members can spend a few hours each semester watching shows that the ESU Theatre Department puts on. ESU students may even perceive attending the on campus plays as part of their student experience.

But for the theatre students, time spent in the Performing Arts Center is more than part of their student experience—it is their student experience.

Mary Dennis summarized her student experience in the theatre as “busy.”

She explained how she sometimes wishes she had the freedom to try other school activities, like running, but theatre has to be her priority.

Dennis feels that it requires a full commitment. To her it’s worth it.

“It’s what I want to do, so I’m willing to work for it,” Dennis said.

Musical Theatre Organization President Mike Lloret also commented on how “hectic” theatre life truly is.

He sighed wearily and said, “Honestly, I love the theatre department. I love how we are small, and all are so close. But that is not enough to hold us together and carry us through the busy times. We need more people to help out. Life here is so hectic.”

Kelsey Pulzone, a junior in the theatre department who has worked on lighting for numerous shows, said, “Once people find out you are reliable, you become dependable.”

Since the theatre department is considered small, the people within the department depend on each other to complete all the necessary tasks before a show.

To the audience looking in, it may not seem like a show could be so time consuming. But theatre students feel it consumes almost all of their time and energy.

The majority of their days at school are spent in the Fine and Performing Arts Center, especially the Dale-Snow Theatre.

The theatre is where many rehearsals take place and acting classes are held, but there is much more to the Dale-Snow Theatre than the on stage experience.

Backstage, on the right side, is the scene shop. Hammers pound, paintbrushes stroke, and scenes are built in the large spacious room full of work tables, old furniture, and random tools.

It is where the scene designs created by ESU Theatre Professor Yoshi Tanokura are constructed by various staff and students.

Also, nearby are a couple doors to a backstage tunnel with several dressing rooms and a couple of prop closets.

An assortment of items spill over through the hallway including a couch, rowboat paddle, hula hoop, stacked chairs, and some empty luggage pieces.

Every single item that appears on stage, whether it is a large table or a small napkin, was researched and purchased by the theatre students and faculty.

Past the prop closets on the far side of the tunnel is the costume room, where a countless amount of costumes have been crafted, sewed, and ironed.

Clothes hang from a couple of racks, an iron sits on the ironing board, and often a student or teacher can be found hemming a skirt or creating a pattern on the stretched out countertop attached to the wall.

Despite the many hours spent rehearsing, constructing scenes, producing costumes, fixing lights, and gathering props, many theatre students described how being involved in theatre gave them confidence and important life skills.

One such student, Tyler Adams, said, “I have become a better critical thinker, organizer, and leader because of theatre. All around it is a great growing experience.” Michelle Duff, another theatre student, shared how theatre made her “open up” and become “more comfortable” with herself.

Student Naomi Snyder also agrees that her involvement with theatre has reaped positive benefits.

Because of her experiences in theatre, she feels like she has become more personable and has learned more about “communication between professors and students.”

The theatre students interact with their professors both in and out of class.

Between rehearsals and all the other preparation that is needed before plays, professors and students interact on an almost daily basis.

Another student who enjoys interaction with her professors from theatre class is Icey Leng, an exchange student from China, who said, “My professor has opened my imagination.”

Leng also said, “My experience has been good and very interesting. It is different than China. There is a lot less pressure. I love it very much.”

Cindy Ding, who is also a Chinese exchange student, said the whole theatre experience at ESU has been “very relaxing” and given her a “clear mind.”

Ding said, “I have learned to listen, watch, and feel with my heart. It has been really good for me.”

Some feel like the theatre at ESU is exhausting. Others feel it is inspiring. Most feel like it is a combination of the two.

As Dr. Margaret Ball, ESU theatre professor, puts it, “You cannot have the magic of theatre without the work of theatre.”

Email Sarah at:
sporterfie@live.esu.edu

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