The Unsung Heroes . . . Behind the Scenes at the School of the Arts

 school of he arts• December 11, 2013 • 7:05 pm

Over the decades, Rochestarians have enjoyed the community jewel that is SOTA’s Performing Arts program. Last month, we were treated to the first ever dramatic production of The Twilight Zone which sold out every show. In December, the featured production is Shrek The Musical. Get your tickets early! )   untitled

Perhaps less appreciated in making this theater possible is the Tech Crew.  They call themselves the Ninjas . . . hiding in the shadows and always dressed in black. These indispensable stage hands are in SOTA’s Theater Technology program, one unique to all of Monroe County, if not most of Western NY.

Theatre Technology majors learn every technical aspect needed to launch a theatrical production. Students learn everything from carpentry, electrics, sound production and painting to stage management, design and computer drafting. Many alumni have gone on to professional theatre in NYC and other parts of the country. Some have gone on to related fields such as sound, welding, construction and performance.

On the day I was at SOTA, the crew was striking the set of The Twilight Zone. I was impressed by their methodical efficiency. I felt I was watching an old-fashioned community house-raising in reverse. The walls, doors and furniture that had been parts of an apartment building, a department store and a hospital were carefully brought down, then wheeled off to storage.

I spoke with the Stage Manager, junior Michael Mayer. Michael is an accomplished young man, having worked at last summer’s Highland Bowl production of Shakespeare’s Richard the Third and last spring’s SOTA-sponsored Lilac Festival choral performances. (Please see: Flower City student musicians set to bloom at Lilac Festival on Friday )

Michael described the sometimes nerve-racking life of the Stage Manager where there is no such thing as a perfectly seamless performance and where potential crises lurk around every scene. For example, one evening the laptop essential to the production crashed as the play had begun. Michael had to quickly think on his feet as to how he could restage – after all the show must go on. Happily, the power did return and the audience was oblivious. After the show closed, the actors—who best know the vital importance of Michael’s crew who worked 25- 30 hours a week after school—rewarded him with flowers and a signed card.

Another young woman, junior Lily Feldman, has been interested in theatre for years. She also worked on Shakespeare’s Richard the Third. Very impressively, she recently stage-managed a professional production, David Mamet’s Race, at MuCCC. Lily is in Theater Technology for the long haul, hoping to study it in college and make it her career.

Both Lily and Michael, like most members of the crew, are not especially interested in acting themselves. As they described, if there is a Theatre Technology personality, it would be pragmatic and maybe a little reserved – not really the flamboyant actor/actress type craving attention. The Tech credo is that a successful performance is one where the crew goes unnoticed.

There is much more in store for the Tech crew. This summer they hope to raise money for School of the Arts to participate in an educational, cultural exchange program, including presenting Seussical The Musical at the 2014 American High School Theatre Festival as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the largest and most prestigious arts festival in the world. A once-in-lifetime opportunity. Watch out Scotland, here come the Ninjas!

About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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