Theater tech crew continues its work

Stage will be transformed for “Into the Woods”


Liam Eifert

During E period on April 14, senior Ethan Velazquez adjusts the light board in the auditorium for the upcoming production of “Into the Woods.”

Liam Eifert, Managing Editor

Standing over a flakey wooden desk, sophomore Paul Sheddy mans a large miter saw, guiding it up and down for each incision. Between each cut he checks his progress as he works to create a clean juncture between two halves of a charitably donated cardboard tube. 

Looking on, theater department chairman Mr. Michael Moffatt explained, “We’re building pipes out of small pieces of cardboard tubes. I could have bought those, but my budget just didn’t allow us. (The tubes) are a donation. Somebody donated those tubes to us. They’re a bunch of these little mailer tubes and somehow they were manufactured incorrectly and they were going to throw them away. There was like a big pallet of tubes and I was like ‘I’ll take them.’”

Moffatt said the theater has tried to reuse as much as possible. “Luckily, we had a turntable (and) some of the pieces on stage that are (already set-up). We had them up in storage and we just had to pull them out, redecorate, repaint, put paper maché on them, make them look like birch trees.” Moffatt said, “The budget was getting kind of tight at the same time. The theater had (an) accident at the beginning of the year, we had that roof leak, so we had to buy some new equipment for that.” 

This left Moffatt less money to work with in a year in which a “$17 sheet of plywood is now $55 at Lowe’s.” Moffatt said, “I have a storage shed, so whenever I buy a piece of plywood I try not to ruin it. I try to unscrew it carefully, remove staples, whatnot, clean it up and put it back in the shed so we can reuse it.” 

Moffatt pointed to a single piece of plywood in the back of the workshop. He said, “I used to have like one hundred 2 x 4’s back there; I now have none.”

Some projects had to be done differently with the difficulty obtaining raw materials. Moffatt said, “I do have a lot of small squares of plywood that aren’t really useful. This time, for this set, it required a lot of little stepping places, so we built individual steps out of small pieces of plywood and scrapped 2 x 4 instead of building a long staircase out of large pieces of lumber, we used small pieces and kind of piecemealed it together. 

“It was a long process for my classes to build that because they’re doing all this building and the results were just a small six-step unit.” He said the incremental progress provided a greater opportunity for teamwork. Moffatt said, “They’re all making individual pieces, so everybody got to be a part of that staircase.”

Moffatt gestured to drapings overhanging the backdrop of the set. “That camouflage netting, I think I have had that here for 15 years,” he said. Its last use came seven years ago in “Shrek the Musical.” 

The design of the current set began in mid-February. Moffatt said, “We work with a local studio artist here in town. His name is Kyle Ragsdale. He helps us with some of the concept artwork, the big picture look. I take all of his ideas and I put them into technical terms where students can understand it and can build the scenery.”

The overall design of this year’s set was somewhat strained after the musical changed from “Ride the Cyclone” to “Into the Woods.” He said, “We tried to keep some elements that were already in place for (‘Ride the Cyclone.’) The biggest thing was the use of a turntable, which was the circular platform we built on stage.” 

“Into the Woods” will incorporate the turntable for choreography and to show movement rather than scene changes. Much of the current turntable was originally intended for use in “Hairspray,” the canceled-due-to-Covid 2019 musical.

Senior Ethan Velazquez, the head of lights crew for the upcoming production, said he began his involvement with the tech crew his sophomore year. That leaves this year as his first musical. He said, “Honestly, I’m not as nervous as I thought I would be. I’m actually more confident.” 

Having helped with every production since joining, Velazquez said, “That’s the joy of doing other shows before a musical. You start realizing how unique (each show is) but also how connected they can be.”

Velazquez encouraged as many students as possible to attend the musical, which is free to view with a student ID and opens to the public April 28. Velazquez said, “Show up and see the last musical of the seniors before they leave, because there are some senior actors who are going to be on the show. You also get to see the work of amazing people who put their heart and passion into these shows.”