Do you know what all goes into a college theatre show? Auditions, rehearsals, and then the show, right? Wrong! There is so much more that goes on behind the scenes. Being in college theatre here at Northwestern, we, as students, get to be involved in every level of production. From auditions to measuring actors for their costumes to texture-painting the scenery, we’re involved in every step. This was the story of “The Crucible,” our fall show that closed two weeks ago.
This is one thing I love about Northwestern’s theatre department: whether you’re the lead in the show or you make one costume piece for the production, every element of the show is equally important. Everyone who is heavily involved in theatre is a part of Theatre Production Ensemble (TPE). In TPE, we’re on crews, and so in theory, during our four years at Northwestern, everyone gets to be involved in each element of putting a show together.
For “The Crucible,” I was on set crew. This set was big and beautiful and had lots of pieces. We built the backgrounds out of cardboard and 1x4s so it would stack on top of itself to create a 16-foot-high wall in the back of the set. We then covered paper in watered-down glue, poured sawdust all over that, and let it stick to the cardboard. We also built and painted platforms on wheels that rolled exactly where we needed them to when they were rolled downstage. We built tall wooden beams that we wanted to look like real hand-hewn timbers and texture painted them to look like real wood. (I’m sure there are more technical terms for what we did, but the set was amazing.)
I also have a work-study job in the theatre costume shop. When you have nearly 20 actors who need handmade costumes, it gets a little crazy. We measured all of the actors, bought stacks upon stacks of fabric and got to work. We had to fit all the actresses for corsets, which we altered to make more period-accurate, wrap all the shoes in “bloody” bandages, and finish many other small tasks that made the costumes perfect. I think almost every person on costume crew sewed at least one garment themselves; I got to make a dress. As you can tell, it was pretty involved.
These were only two elements of what went into this production. In addition to the talent of the director and designers, there were props, lighting, sound, people on stage, and the run crew backstage who made sure everything ran smoothly. Each of these jobs and roles in the theatre were equally important, because without even one of them, we couldn’t have had a show.