We were on a break in tech for the MFA 2nd Year Actors’  Bing Production of As You Like It. Most everyone had wandered away from the room for a ten-minute break.

Stage Manager Meredith O’Gwynn                      at the tech table.

Christian Henley, one of the MFA Y2 actors, left by his classmates, took that moment to relax, dancing gracefully center stage, framed behind by scenic designer Lea Branyan’s “pole-trees.” Christian’s left arm aloft, he gyrated, his phone aloft, faintly playing the song to which he swayed. His white Henley t-shirt (I wondered, is he aware that his clothing punned on his name?)  Several people asked him what tune he was playing.

I’m jamming! Give me a minute!

After he finished his dance, he shouted out to the house:

“Budapest” by George Ezra!

It was a lovely moment in the middle of tech for As You Like It. The design team, guided by competent and calm BFA Junior stage manager Meredith O’Gwynn, sat shoulder to shoulder at the tech table, while director, Michael Arabian, sat a few rows behind them, watching the pictures unfold, and making adjustments with his team.

Lighting Designer, Sabrina Cadena programs while THTR 130 student Javi Dominguez-Ruiz

The clickety-clack-clack of Lighting Designer Sabrina Cadena’s fingers on the light board never stilled, as she constructed her cues, splashing pattern across the verdant cyc, reminiscent of the fall of light through a Cathedral’s windows.

dodecagonThe action on this tech is all on the fly rail, where the student crew, students from our THTR 130 class, are arrayed across the rail.  The set design, consisting of a dodecagonal platform atop a larger dodecagonal platform (12 sides), framed by two sets of legs seems deceptively simple.  But delights await the audience, as set designer, Lea Branyan has plotted extravagant motion of trees and lanterns. Much of the action of the play takes place in the auditorium, lit inventively by Sabrina Cadena, the lighting designer.

The THTR 130 team members who are backstage are guided by ASMs Kelly Jonske and David Delgado, both of whom are supervising the stage left rail throughout the show.  All afternoon, the crew has practiced their moves, trees in, lanterns in.

“HOLD!” as the lanterns hit the deck.

IMG_3711 2
At the dinner break, I caught this photo of Lea, adding some foliage to the lanterns for one scene.

The spike marks on the rail have multiplied throughout the afternoon, the system of marking created out of necessity – the failure of hearing the trees thump dramatically on the deck; they’ve labeled the lines with colored tape, with large numbers on white gaff tape. This is the first time most of the students have run the rail. Today they learned what it meant to have their line set out of weight. Some of the lanterns have not been circuited yet; as a result, these line sets will have added weight from cabling which will be counter weighted at the rail. For now, we joke that their biceps will be highly developed. Who needs the gym? Line set 29 requires a heroic effort. Terrence, David and Spencer were all on that line set. There was a lot of laughter audible from the offstage area, as well as some loud clanks as the locks on the rail were released. At the moment, they are telegraphing every rail cue. They giggled and bonded over their lantern labors.

The intrepid rail crew in the triumphant afterglow of a successful shift – L to R. Terrence Leung, Spencer Carney, David Delgado, Alliyah Ferrera, Kelly Jonske, Audrey Lipsmire, Zach Blumner (Kim Rogers not pictured)

I can’t wait until tomorrow when we breeze through these shifts. Their hard work will definitely pay off.

By Monday night’s first dress rehearsal, they will all be old pros. My perverse fantasy is that I will go back there and find each of them pulling the ropes with a donut in one hand and a cigarette hanging out of their mouths. In between cues, they’ll be playing poker in the wings. It’s just a matter of time.

USC School of Dramatic Arts

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