"And ... go!"
The stopwatch begins ticking at the prop-swap station. Though under pressure, the two students maintain their focus and work silently on the wooden table before them, laden with what appears to be Victorian-era props. One swaps out a pair of candlesticks for an old clock; another grabs a stray rifle and walks briskly to set it on the counter. In just one minute, the table has been transformed. The set has been prepared for the next scene.
Connelly, Rosary and Servite high schools in Anaheim came together recently for Tri-School Theatre's third annual Tech Challenge at Servite High School. Students were given the chance to participate in a series of technical theater competitions to bring attention to those you wouldn't normally see onstage during a theater production.
"Technical theater doesn't really get to be in the limelight that often because it involves a lot of behind-the-scenes work, and the kids usually prefer to be backstage," said Hillary Pearson, executive artistic director of Tri-School Theatre. "But this is our way of putting out there for everyone to see what the technical theater students do."
Some of the tech challenges included light hanging, knot tying, cable coiling and scene changing. Competitors were timed at each event and also judged on accuracy in order to challenge technicians and teach actors basic tech skills. Teachers, parents and Tri-School alumni volunteered to facilitate the competition.
"They're the ones designing what the set's going to look like," Pearson said of theater technicians. "They're the ones that are designing the lighting. And quite often with things like lighting, people in the audience might not notice how much that enhances the production – how much that really sets the tone and the mood for the production."
Jacquelyn Cutts, a senior at Connelly High School, is one of these student technicians.
"A technician is by definition a jack of all trades, so I am equipped to do everything from building a set to running lights to calling a show as a stage manager," said Cutts, who works as a stage manager and prop designer and has been contributing to the theater for all four years of high school. Her favorite part of working backstage is creating the world that shapes the show and its characters. She's working on her 10th production.
Katsy Kennedy, a sophomore at Connelly High School who grew up in theater, is learning how to hang lights and fold backdrops. Her mother works as a lighting technician for dance concerts and theater productions in Los Angeles.
"The hours in theater are so long that growing up, I had to spend a lot of time there with her," Kennedy said. "It wasn't pushed upon me. I really did love it." She enjoys experimenting with building and moving sets, as well as working with lighting and sound.
"It's interesting to look at something and know that you did it," Kennedy said. "It's one thing to be an actor, but a completely different thing to be backstage and making everything happen."
Contact the writer: 714-796-2258 or varsityarts@ocregister