By Future Nobleman staff writer (2020-21) Ryan Sanghavi
The Nobles Theatre Collective (NTC) recently produced one of their most ambitious musicals to date: Les Misérables. In addition to the actors and musicians, many students and advisors worked on tech theater, which involved lighting, sound, set building, and more. One of the most noticeable creations of the tech team was the revolve, or the rotating stage. Hadestown, the 2019 winner of the Tony Award for Best Musical, also features a revolve, although a Broadway show requires a bit more time and manpower than a high school musical to produce it.
Some Nobles students recently had the opportunity to interview workers on Hadestown to discuss their lives behind the curtain. The interview was held via Zoom, the digital conferencing app that Nobles students are now very familiar with, alongside various high school journalists. The four professionals interviewed were Assistant Stage Manager Cherie B. Tay, Head Electrician Patrick Medlock-Turek, Deck Automation/Assistant Carpenter Spencer Greene, and Carpenter Emma Greene.
Hadestown performances, for the audience, begin in the afternoon or evening and run for under two and a half hours. But, work for stage managers like Tay lasts much longer. “Keep a Google Calendar,” Tay advised. Stage managers have incredibly busy days, including arranging props, organizing understudies, checking on new bands for every show, constructing programs, and being omnipresent to lend advice or aid. Medlock-Turek also recommends being really organized and keeping a calendar when doing anything in theatre.
Emma Greene has her own busy schedule as a carpenter, building set pieces and other units: “I’ll start at 7:30 in the morning. Usually we’ll go to 3:30 in the afternoon. If we work late we’ll go to 6:30 at night,” Greene said. Some workers struggle with finding availability for their personal hobbies and interests. “We have our jobs, but we also have our outside lives,” Tay said, adding, “It’s really just making the time for it.”
Many technical theatre workers agree that as soon as you enter the business, you are constantly looking ahead. “There are some signals when shows are about to close,” Spencer Greene said. “You’re always basically auditioning for your next job.” The more goodwill and connections that a worker builds up during their time on Broadway, the easier it can be to find their next job.
One concern among students with theatrical aspirations is finding a place to start professionally. “Do it, do it, do it, do it, wherever you can, learn whatever you can, be super well rounded,” Tay urged. She further explained, “Whatever you can learn now in school can help you later.” Spencer Greene built on the same idea: “Never be afraid to ask questions, show up early, be someone that everyone else can rely on.”
Much of the business is asking for opportunities and reaching out to actors, managers, and technical design personnel who already work professionally; there is never harm in asking. “Be ready for a lot of ‘no’s. Be ready for a lot of times when you might just not hear back,” Tay said. She also recommended, “Check out all the different jobs you can do.” After all, the worst thing that somebody could tell you is “no.”
Working on Broadway or in any theatrical setting can be incredibly difficult; many face long days and intensive schedules. While often high school and college theatre can feel like hanging out with friends, Spencer Greene noted that Broadway is much more like a job that is clocked into and out of.
However, “this is an extremely rewarding business,” Medlock-Turek said, also acknowledging, “You might start to get frustrated, but I always tell myself, ‘You know what, we could be in a cubicle somewhere.’ It’s really important to remember that we’re getting to do some really cool stuff and a lot of people get to enjoy it,” he said.
After all, work from every person in the cast, crew, and band, comes together for the enjoyment of the audience. There is pride in entertaining hundreds of people daily. “I was standing in the wings at the Tony Awards,” recalled Tay. She reflected, “I’ve achieved my goal. I have done my dreams. I am doing what I love, which is really, really awesome, and I’m proud of myself.”
Spencer Greene said, “Very few jobs get applause; 900 people a night applaud what we’re doing. That’s a unique and very special experience.”