Actors of a show normally receive most of the applause for a performance from the audience because they are most visible on stage, but while they are crucial, there are many more members not seen by the audience that play a large role in a play’s production and success.
The university’s Theatre Department’s current play, “Closer Than Ever”, is playing this week. Stage director and choreographer of the production Alan Shorter said the show has a cast of eight people, but that does not come close to the number of crew members that is backstage during the production.
In fact, around 50 people have been involved in the show in some way, Shorter said.
“What you see on the stage is sort of just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.
Shorter, a professor for the Theatre Department at TCU, said there are many crews backstage that have to coordinate and work with each other. These include the running crew, property crew, costume crew and a lighting crew, which each have about five to 10 people in them.
Mitchell Stephens, a senior acting major, is on the lighting crew for “Closer Than Ever,” meaning it is his responsibility to make sure the lights work for the show.
“The cast is so small and people really only think about the actors, but all of us behind the scenes are making the show move and making the show tick but honestly, it’s their show once we kind of run it,” he said.
Lia Palazzo, a junior musical theatre major who plays “Woman 4” in this semester’s production, said she really appreciates the help from the backstage crew, especially during costume changes.
“We wouldn’t be out there in time without them,” she said.
Shorter said many weeks worth of time is put into a show.
“We start even at the beginning of the previous year talking about set designs, costume designs and various things like that even before it’s cast and [we] know what actors we’re working with,” he said.
In terms of selecting a play, Shorter said the process for that is also very time consuming.
“Each class has an elected representative who shows up at the meetings to be a conduit for suggestions they have,” he said. “And then the faculty meets with [the representatives] as well to take a look at various things like what they will be exposed to in four years here.”
Shorter said the department wants their students to have a balance of plays from different periods and of different styles.
When choosing the show the department also has to take into consideration how much time the theatre crews will have to prepare costumes and scenery, he said
Shorter said productions take up a lot of space. Backstage, there is the Ann Rhodes Green Room otherwise known as the “green room,” the dressing rooms and the rear projection screen.
The play selected for this semester, “Closer Than Ever“, is an examination of relationships. The play looks at the rocky road of life and how it, if experiences are navigated correctly, brings people closer together.
Actors and actresses work four hours a night, five days a week, for six weeks before the play debuts, Shorter said.
Students that assist the production behind the scenes receive class credit for their work.
Mackenzie Schulien, a sophomore musical theatre major and lighting crewmember, said after students audition for the show, they receive a production assignment. The students then sign up for the corresponding class and receive one credit hour.
Alex Adams, a sophomore acting major, is one of the spotlight operators behind the scenes. All the crewmembers, as a whole, are incredibly important, Adams said.
“Without one of the crews, the show would fall apart,” Adams said.
With the help of the backstage crew, “Closer Than Ever” is showing in the Jerita Foley Buschman Theatre Oct. 1-6.