INSIGHT: Engagement in the Arts Behind the Scenes

by Ginger Ellingson, Director of Fine & Performing Arts 

As the curtains closed on the fall term and projects came to fruition, the magic makers behind the scenes had already been planning for weeks if not months (or a lifetime) for what comes next. In reality, F&PA faculty inspiration is sourced from an on-going practice of observation – of the world, our students, our colleagues, and our own mentors. How these dreams and realities meet in the middle is the work of putting together a production, and the final stretch of this work is done by the students themselves. We celebrate the students on stage for their storytelling, and, here, will be taking a moment to celebrate the students off-stage who tell stories with lights, sound, props, sets, and a well-managed rehearsal process.

Sev is a senior this year and started his backstage career with EPS as a 6th grader in 2017. Remarkably, this spring, the musical The Addams Family will be Sev’s seventeenth production working backstage in some capacity, most often as Stage Manager. Sev describes the stage management role as “always knowing what must happen and when.” Stage management includes attending rehearsal and writing down everything that happens on stage to create a master script, as well as knowing all of the light cues and sound cues. A stage manager also makes a prop list, organizes props and set pieces, and makes a run sheet for the backstage crew so they know what to do and when. Then, when the show is finally up and running, the stage manager in the booth is on headset calling the show and telling everyone what to do.

Sev says, “I’ve always loved theatre. This role is a great fit for my skill set. It’s organization and time management. I love the process, the people, getting to utilize skills. This term I’m doing an independent study on prop making. I’m going to college for technical theatre and would love to work in a prop shop for a professional theatre.”

Sev’s leadership in the booth has inspired others to join in as well. It is not uncommon now for the booth to be completely run by students. Under the mentorship of Technical Directors Rick MacKenzie and Alek Edmonds, the booth in the most recent production of The Phantom Tollbooth included James (’24) running the soundboard, Addy (’26) on lights, and Sev mentoring Cass (’26) in the role of Stage Manager. When asked about this mentorship role, Sev says, “We have to pass down the skill set and culture of this work, just like the actors on stage do with new generations of cast members. We are recruiting to train and retain students who will carry forward the skill set and shadow line. Cass did a great job so he’ll be able to do this work next year when I’ve graduated.” Also working behind the scenes on that show were Cedar (’24) as Assistant Director, and Guthrie (’25) and Allyson (’28) working backstage.