The Stars out of the Limelight

“A show is not just what you see” was vocalised by Mr. Cee but felt by many of the contributors to the musical. Even with all the lights, pizzaz, and movement in the spotlight, there are millions of things going on behind the scenes that the audience, and even some musical members, don’t know about. It’s a whole other world backstage.

“For a general audience member, I don’t think that they recognize all the contributions of the backstage people,” Ms. Baird, co-director of the musical, speculates. In fact, “there’s a lot of things going on that no one member of the cast knows about. This show is not just the practices that I did with the singers or that Mr. Howe did with the actors or Ms. Palko and the dancers. There are hundreds of hours done above and beyond that with regards to costume preparation, lighting design, set vision, with the stage directors sitting down and writing the cues in, with the musicians practising their runs and their notes.”

In order to gain an understanding of everyone’s roles, “the biggest thing is to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and to think about another person’s contribution from a different angle, [because] there’s a lot of sides to it.”

Joss ‘20 is the epitome of dedication unseen working in the tech booth. Officially the student technical director, Joss is in charge of “technology other than what the staff is doing in terms of sound,” from making sure that all the actor’s mics work to executing the lighting arrangement. Not known by many, over the summer Joss has dedicated a solid three weeks to the “planning and designing for lighting because at that time we did not have a lighting designer…all the lights you see currently during rehearsals were from my design.” Besides that, Joss was also involved in the idea and creation of the use of TV screens, an integral part in the musical. Without it, people onstage would not get the cues that they need from Mr. Miles, who is hidden behind the set, to perform the musical pieces. Finally, leading up to the show, Joss’ schedule included him “dedicating prep, lunches, and after school from 3 to 6 every single school day,” so as Joss expresses, “come watch the show! We have seating for almost half a thousand people.”

Another person whose importance is often overlooked is Michael (Mike) ‘18 from the Pit orchestra. Not only does Mike play eight instruments — suspended cymbals, snare drum, woodblock, tambourine, bass drum, ride cymbal, and triangle — but other musicians also rely on him to be an auditory conductor. “Without someone keeping time audibly, everyone else is looking at their score and trying to keep with Mr. Miles, and if you’re not looking at him sometimes you can also listen back to the percussion and keep time.” Being the percussionist in the ensemble, he is the anchor and backbone of the group, and at times the role demands “nerve-wracking because you have this big responsibility of keeping time,” particularly in songs like Be our Guest and Gaston that have unusual time signatures. “There’s definitely a big pressure. You’ve always got to be practising and you’ve always got to know your part as much as everyone else.”

Finally, there’s a whole other dimension of the backstage manager.  Aishwarya (Aish) ‘20,  Raya [‘18] and Nava [‘20], are tasked with making sure the actors are on standby, moving the arch and the set accordingly. It’s not as easy as it seems, evident through Aish’s intense schedule: “I stay after school every day from 3 to 6…at Saturday’s I’m here from 8 in the morning till noon at 6.” Ms. Baird also reports that “they’ve been working since last May, working on the design and the vision of the show.”

Nava ‘20 and Sera ‘18 in particular “really worked with people to get their shape in the way they walk, the way they talk, in the way they express themselves,” since Beauty and the Beast characters are not all human. Additionally, as stage managers, “we [basically] get to work with the teachers” in terms of decision-making and “certain ideas relating to the execution.”

“More than the final product, what I value are the collaborations, the teamwork, and how we worked with teachers and other students and the PIT, the fact that all the performing arts came together to work on this musical. It’s that part that I admire the most rather than the final product, and I’m pretty sure that the final product will pay off as a result of our hard work.”