Lights, Cameras, Theatrical Design!

By Bella Skinner

This year at Jenks High School, students are preparing to put on a Dr. Seuss themed musical called “The Seussical.” While attending, it is easy to zone in on the actors and forget about the small details that bring the show together, but little do attendees know that highschool students are responsible for designing and building the set, controlling the light cues, and stabilizing sound systems to make this year’s Seussical perfect. 

Theatrical design is a relatively new class, run by Anita Hardy, that depends on the hard work of students to make a play, musical, or any other form of event at the Performing Arts Center (PAC) come alive. Many of the students involved in Theatrical design have come from stagecraft which is another drama related course that helps to build the scenes in a performance. 

Sound:

Senior George Harrington has been in stagecraft for three years and joined theatrical design last semester. 

“I thought it was a blow-off class, but then I joined and started liking it and now I’m looking at it as a career path,” says Harrington.

Harrington is in charge of making sure anything sound related is in top shape by the time the Suessical begins to perform for the public. He is responsible for setting up and finding placement for all of the microphones and hanging microphones. Along with this, he also sets up the sound monitors in order to enable the performers to hear the music while they are singing. 

“It’s nice to be able to make the choir kids sound even better than they already do,” says Harrington. 

Microphone set up inside of the sound station.

Not only does Harrington work on the sound systems for the Seussical, but he also works to help design the set with the other students involved in the theatrical design course. For this year’s musical, the design process has been different than anything done in Jenks’s history. 

“We’re definitely going about building the set differently because Dr. Seuss loves to not use straight edges so everything is curved and completely different,” explains Harrington. “We have to go to other schools and load supplies and we’re just building differently.”

Aside from the set alone, the Seussical will have a much brighter and playful tone compared to previous plays such as The Hunchback of Notre Dame. 

“It’s very Pink Floyd-esque but it’s really good and the songs are catchy,” Says Harrington. “But the way we’re going about the musical retains a lot of the vibes that Dr. Seuss books have and I think that’s how he meant it to be when it became Seussical.”

Lights:

Senior Zach Saterlee controlling the light board.

Much like Harrington, senior Zach Saterlee has also been a part of stagecraft for three years and joined theatrical design this year. While there are many parallels between the two courses, theatrical design allows students to let their creativity run rampant. 

“Our final last semester was that we created a costume design for a play we read during the semester and based it off of what we saw in our heads when we read the play,” says Saterlee.

Not only does Saterlee play a key role in designing the set of Seussical, but he also works to design light cues. These lighting ques serve as important devices that signal a change in mood or tone within the musical. 

“Lighting sets the mood and adds dramatic effects,” says Saterlee. “The Suessical is a pretty bright performance with lots of colors. It’s gonna be really good.”

Though the lighting is crucial for setting the perfect ambiance of a play or musical, it is oftentimes overlooked. 

“You don’t really think about it [lighting] because you want to focus on the characters and actors, but there’s a lot more behind the scenes action than people may think,” says Saterlee. 

Design: 

When it comes to the actual design process of the Seussical, a tremendous amount of hard work and dedication goes into inventing the perfect scenes. Senior Hannah Zeller transitioned to designing sets after being in charge of lights. Because of the work that Zeller and the other theatrical design students put forth, viewers are able to enjoy the aesthetic values in a musical. 

“Without set design, I don’t think it wouldn’t be a very good play if it just had an empty stage. There are some really cool plays that are very minimalistic,” says Zeller,  “but Seussical, you need it to look like a Dr. Suess book.”

Set design students have been working on the Suessical since the beginning of the school year. 

“Set building takes weeks if not months and we build everything from scratch usually,” says Saterlee.

Senior Hannah Zeller’s rendition of the Dr. Seuss jungle.

But not only does the process of designing and building from scratch takes many hours of labor, the set design students only have a limited number of members to help build and design. 

“We have about 5 people working on the design at most, and it’s really overlooked,” says Zeller.

Even though design students spend days, weeks, and months on the sets of every play and musical in the PAC, they often times get little to no recognition. They are a crucial aspect of the drama community but many do not perceive them this way. 

“A lot of times we don’t get invited to the cast parties even though we put on the plays,” says Zeller. “The only time I can remember us [design students] being compensated for our work is when we got a 10 dollar quiktrip gift card for Trojan Idol and it was great.”

The Performance: 

The Suessical is performing Thursday, Friday, and Saturday during the first week of March. Bring your friends and take in all of the hard work that the theatrical design students have dedicated to making the Seussical bright, fun, and crazy for your enjoyment. 

“This musical is gonna be happy and bright. It’s gonna get the crowd interactive,” says Saterlee 

“The audience needs to come ready to dance.” 

When you see the Seussical, remember to congratulate and appreciate the students that have worked so hard to put the scenes together.

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