The stars behind the curtain
CTTA runs the backstage show
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The show is about to begin. The audience takes their seats as adrenaline runs through the performers’ veins as they take their places.
But the performers are not the only ones feeling nervous.
“Before the show, I always feel nervous but excited to see what magic will happen on the stage and how we’ll contribute to that,” said senior Matthew Bowker.
Bowker is the vice president of the Carlmont Technical Theater Association (CTTA).
“CTTA is a group of students who volunteer their time to run the lighting, sound, and backstage work for every event that takes place in the Performing Arts Center,” said Carlmont Theater Manager Geoff Horn.
To make every show run smoothly, this group of students, the crew, is not only responsible for the lighting, sound, and stage work, but also for whatever task comes their way during the show.
“In a classroom, there are opportunities to share an opinion, but you don’t always have an opportunity to take ownership over an event affecting hundreds,” he said.
CTTA’s Rachel Taube, a sophomore, said, “The hardest part of working a show is making sure to stay on task while also being fast and on time with cues no matter the job.”
From Bowker’s point of view, communication is key during an event to ensure that if something does not go as planned, every crew member is aware and ready to act.
“The hardest part is making sure everyone on [the] crew is communicating properly so everyone knows what’s happening and everything remains smooth and calm to the audience,” said Bowker.
During the show, nerves from the performers often fade away as their performance is a celebration of their hard work.
Many CTTA members are familiar with the performing side of the process, but backstage, they must remain focused.
While Taube joined choir this year and experiences a different side of the performances, Bowker believes that CTTA helps those like Taube to perform better in his band ensembles.
“You know how to handle the equipment, you know how to get the best sound when performing into a microphone, and you know how things should look when onstage,” said Bowker.
CTTA begins their post-show shut down onstage as the performers greet family and friends after their final bows.
“After the final night of a show, the crew begins to strike [clean up] all the equipment we used, which can be things like lighting trees, sound equipment such as microphones, props, and even a large floor used for a dance called a marley,” said Gloria Capulong, a junior.
During this process and throughout the entire show, the crew has countless opportunities to learn new skills under Horn and other crew members.
“We also have ‘shadows’ which gives new students the opportunity to learn from their peers rather than just me,” said Horn.
By signing up to shadow another crew member, inexperienced students have the opportunity to learn hands-on without feeling the pressure of a job during the live show.
However, there are limitations to what all students can do because dangerous equipment is often involved.
Horn said, “During a more complex job I encourage the students to be there and watch the process, so that if they ever get a job in this field they are familiar with the process.”
Learning these new things, along with the cleanup process, often takes a lot of time and effort from the crew.
Capulong said, “The cleanup process can take anywhere from under an hour to seven hours, depending on the event.”
These long hours can be exhausting, but the result is often a unique bond between crew members and Horn.
“It’s a unique opportunity for students to learn behind the scenes, but also it’s an opportunity to make friends and grow,” said Horn, “It’s really exciting to see the diversity of the student population come together for one common goal.”
Outside of the performing arts center, CTTA members might not cross paths, but working together for one common goal gives them opportunities to form unique friendships with people they might not encounter on a daily basis.
In addition to learning and making new friends, Horn has seen shy students shine and get really excited about the work they do behind the scenes.