The Unseen “Wizards of Oz”

A look into the more tech-heavy side of Theatre West

The Unseen

Lucy Polyak and Devin Nolte

On the evening of December 2nd, 2016, lights will go up on a small farm in Kansas inside of West High’s very own Arganbright Auditorium. This winter, Theatre West will put on “The Wizard of Oz,” featuring many talented West High actors. This show will be one of Theatre West’s most technologically challenging shows yet, according to director Katy Nahra.

“We always choose tech heavy shows and it’s always a challenge.” said Nahra, “It’s gotten harder this year because of the school time change and having to now compete with after school clubs.”

Tech crews in Theatre West have grown greatly in the last seven years. Jeff Smith is the man in charge of all of the technical elements that go into a Theatre West show. In Smith’s first show working with West, there were about thirty people on the crew, all working together to try to accomplish everything needed to put a show together. Now that number has grown to around one-hundred thirty people in total.

There are a total of nine different crews involved in Theatre West, as well as two stage managers, three assistant stage managers, and the cast. Each crew is in charge of a different element involved in putting the show together. The various tech groups contain anywhere between seven and twenty-four students working as part of them.  

The groups are each lead by an experienced student, including Callie Dains ’18, head of set, and Alyssa Clark ’17, head of sound.

Dains’ first experience with Theatre West was as an audience member. “I came to see ‘Little Women’ because Bre Bradshaw [’18] was ASM-ing [Assistant Stage Managing]. I decided that I wanted to be a part of this but I definitely didn’t want to be onstage. Then I went to the tech interest meeting for ‘Cinderella’ and felt like set fit me very well.”

Set has become an important part of Dains’ life. She spends every day possible after school working on set. Oz will be the fifth show she has worked on and it is also the first one she has been head of set for.

“Jeff [Smith] is the adult in charge of the important tech stuff and I help him with what he wants. Basically Jeff and I direct everyone what to build, when to build, and how to build it and then during the show I assign people to move things onstage.”

The largest challenge that Dains has found with this show is finding a safe way for the Wicked Witch of the West, Sasha Tyler ’18, to seem to melt at the end of the show. Set crew has been finding ways to improve the mechanism that they have built to achieve this as best they can. “Obviously we want it to look cool, but we also can’t let Sasha [Tyler] get hurt either.” said Dains.

Obviously we want it to look cool, but we also can’t let Sasha [Tyler] get hurt either.”

— Callie Dains '18

Clark joined Theatre West during her freshman in a less voluntary way than Dains. “My brother was like ‘Hey you should do theatre!’ and I said I would work on the show with him but he ended up dropping out. But I stuck with it and I’ve loved it ever since; I’ve done every show.”

Clark has been head of sound crew since last year’s fall play, “You Can’t Take It With You”, and will be for the remainder of her senior year. “I have to train my crew to use mics and I’ve gotta make sure the mics work. My main job is to make sure you can hear the actors.” said Clark.

Nahra and Smith believe that adding a framework to every crew has played a huge part in the growth of backstage work of Theatre West. “We have a preset process that we follow for each show so that we only have to make tweaks to to make a show come together.” said Nahra. “We have so many people that each have really structured planning.”

However, West high’s production of “The Wizard of Oz” will have singing in it, something not typical of Theatre West’s fall plays. This has been an interesting challenge for Clark as she’s had to find a way to work musical tracks into her sound system.

“It’s kind of like a musical, but not, and I have to figure out who she [Nahra] wants to have a mic and when. I’m curious to see how it works with both the rehearsal tracks and singing.” said Clark.

I’m curious to see how it works with both the rehearsal tracks and singing.”

— Alyssa Clark '17

“The Wizard of Oz” is a century-old story that has been a stage show for nearly as long as it has been in print. Despite this, those involved with Theatre West’s production still believe that this is going to be a special one.

“It’s awesome to see all of the little things come together.” said Dains. “I’ll be sprinkling fake snow off the catwalk during the poppies scene and we’ll be using a fog machine during the show too.”

Clark believes that the show will be special because of the people working on it. “It’s [Theatre West shows] always amazing and plus you should come support the arts. Everyone in Theatre West is so talented and it’s so cool to see the show come together.”

In Theatre West, it doesn’t matter if you’re onstage or in the wings; every person has an important part to play in putting a show together. “We have an amazing group of students and they work so hard.” said Nahra, “You don’t wanna miss this show.”

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