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Stagecraft

By Davis ’24

I’ve always been interested in stagecraft – even when I didn’t know what the word was for it yet. I’ve always been interested in the behind the scenes work that goes into putting on a show.

So in 6th grade, I decided to pursue stagecraft. It wasn’t something I was planning to do, it was more something I came across and ended up enjoying. I wouldn’t call it a passion, rather something that I found fun and interesting.

A few months later, I went on my Harvard-Westlake admissions tour. When we took a peek at the Saperstein Theater, I was blown away. While I didn’t see every nook and cranny, I could tell by the sheer size that it was somewhere I wanted to not only be in, but understand. 

When I arrived at Harvard-Westlake and started going to our weekly assemblies and various performances, I wanted to understand what was going on behind the scenes. I wanted to know what went into what I was sitting through. 

So when course selections for 8th grade started at the end of 7th grade, I signed up for stagecraft. I was expecting to have fun and learn a lot, so over the summer I was extremely excited for the school year to begin. 

When I arrived at our first class, I had a blast. It was a small class – no more than 5 people – so we all became friends really quickly. We did a lot of our own lessons – like hanging up lights, testing the queue software that enables Harvard-Westlake to put on shows, testing the sound system, and much more. But I’d say most of our time is spent setting up for upcoming shows – and through that, learning lessons about stage production. 

Towards the end of the class, we also really focused on the “craft” part in stagecraft. We went into the workshop to learn about all the tools and techniques, which was so much fun. We were challenged to build a wooden staircase in groups, which was really great as we got to actually use the tools and delegate tasks to people.

The thing that amazes me the most is the technology in the theater. You really feel as if you’re working in a Broadway theater, because every little aspect is given the best of the best technology – such as the sound system (that can shake the whole building if you turn it to the the highest setting) and the fly system (a ton of metal rope lines and pulleys that allow us to easily fly curtains, lights, scenery, and other components. It can also lift people, but we’re not allowed to do that!). 

Another thing that amazes me is the catwalk. The catwalk is a walkway 40 feet above the ground in the Saperstein Theater where various lights and components are attached. Some of my favorite days in class are when we go up to the catwalk to work on things up there. It’s really thrilling yet also nerve racking.

We also had a stagecraft party at the end of the first semester, which was definitely a highlight. We played hide and seek in the theater, watched a movie on the big screen, and had a ton of candy.

I ended up enjoying stagecraft so much that I dropped one of my other electives to take stagecraft again, but this time, advanced stagecraft. Advanced stagecraft is much like stagecraft, however, you’re given more trust when working on things. It was just as fun as stagecraft but I didn’t get to experience it for that long as two months into the class, COVID-19 shut down school. 

Even during this unprecedented time in quarantine, it was still a super fun class. The class is literally called stagecraft, so it’s obviously very hard to do stagecraft without a stage, but I still had fun and learned even while away from campus. One thing we did was watch various plays and musicals, and analyze the stagecraft techniques that were taking place as well as technologies they were using.

I ended up signing up for advanced stagecraft again, even though I’ve already taken the course. It’s so much fun and I’ve learned so much, so I just want to keep doing it for as long as I can. I can’t wait to start it in the second semester. 

Overall, stagecraft is a really amazing elective and experience. I’ve learned so much about what it takes to put on a production as well as the ins and outs of the theater. For most of my class and me, the top of the theater became a hangout spot, just to have a good time and play around with the technology. Even if someone has a tiny interest in stagecraft or theater production, it doesn’t hurt to try!

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Tags: Last modified: September 23, 2021