My Glimpse Behind the Curtain

Experiencing Stage Crew from an Actor’s Perspective


Scott Drynan

The author, Emma Sharma, performs in last year’s production of “All Shook Up.”

Emma Sharma, Staff Writer

This past fall, I had the opportunity to play the role of prop manager for the Strawberry Hill Players’ production of Picnic.

Knowing that junior year would have me pinned to ground with studying, as well as preoccupied with the other extracurricular activities that I partake in, I didn’t want to commit myself to doing a show like I usually would have. Wanting to still be involved somehow in the upcoming production, I decided do something more “scaled back” and committed myself to the occupation of prop manager. I quickly realized, however, that scaled back is definitely the last word anyone should resort to using when describing the job of a stage crew member! Just like acting, stage crew is both immensely time consuming and very “nit-picky!” Everything needs to be exact at all times, leaving absolutely no room whatsoever for error! And timing is EVERYTHING! If a prop or set piece isn’t on stage at the exact moment that it needs to be, the entire show can be thrown off in a matter of seconds.

As prop manager, I was assigned the job of running around Stamford looking for the necessary props that were required for the show. While the job initially appeared to be fairly simple, I quickly discovered that I was sadly mistaken. My challenge was to ensure that each and every prop I purchased looked like it had come straight out of Singin’ In The Rain, because the show was set in the 1950s. My task went from being what I thought it would be – buying milk jugs from the supermarket and ripping off the labels – to now having to find the perfect-sized lids to fit vintage glass milk bottles; from buying an ordinary Bic lighter at the convenience store to now having to go to a New York smoke shop in search of a vintage ‘50s clasp-over lighter. Not to mention the times when the director was unsatisfied with the appearance of the items that you had searched the ends of the earth to find, causing you to go back to square one and try once again.

The day finally came when opening night was upon us; however, the special evening now had a new meaning for me. No longer was I stressing over not having specific lines memorized or doubts about certain choreography for a dance number. I was now presented with the least complicated job I had throughout my duration as prop manager: making sure that all of the props were set in their designated squares on the prop table and that the actors wouldn’t forget their props before going out for their scenes. As I heard the stage manager mutter “places” into her headset, I followed along with the rest of the stage crew that was assigned to work backstage, to exchange remarks of good luck with the actors as they filed out onto the stage. Nothing can quite accurately describe that strange feeling of misplacement I got standing in the wings on the stage, watching the cast assemble themselves into their opening positions split seconds before the blackout transformed into the Ohio morning sky. Seeing things from a different perspective than what you’re used to can really blow your mind and make you feel as though something’s not right or someone’s out of place…

My experience working behind the scenes has surely forever changed my viewpoint and appreciation for the stage crew. It has opened my eyes to the fact that stage crew contributes to the success of a show just as much as actors do, that their hard work backstage is their way of displaying their talents just as acting is an actor’s way of conveying their talent. It has also reiterated the idea that there really is no ‘I’ in team. While I plan to continue with acting, I’m glad that I was able to experience life behind the curtain.

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