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In the Shadows: AHS’s Musical Crew in focus


In just three months working six hours a week, the AHS’s musical stage crew has to design, build, problem-solve, and rebuild to be ready for the curtains to unfurl on opening night. It may not seem like a lot, but every hour counts, each must go smoothly to ensure audience members receive a seamless experience. Hundreds of spectators come yearly to see their child perform or watch an interesting play. Every cast member, crew, director, and everyone in between, puts in months of effort to pull off the production. From the first rehearsal to the final bows of the last performance, it’s always a fast environment that keeps you on your toes. “Even the smallest prop that we may miss could be impactful,” says current stage crew member Abby Tole. 

In the musical production, the stage crew often operates discreetly behind the scenes, a force working in the shadows while the spotlight shines on the performers. This gives rise to a question surrounding whether the stage crew receives due credit for their contributions. The meticulous efforts of the crew frequently go unnoticed by the majority of the audience, who are captivated by the onstage performances. “I would say we get the right amount of attention, we still get our attention, but it’s focused on the cast because, to be honest, they do more work than us,” Says former crew member Leo Davis. In an interview with Sean Taylor, former AHS stage crew director, Sean said “Yeah I think so, maybe the previous year no, but this year yes. I think we were very well recognized, I feel like our time was valued. We do a lot, and recognition doesn’t always have to come from directors or anything, it can come from the cast as well.” Contrarily, others contend that the flawless execution of props, seamless set changes, and impeccable attention to technical details are precisely what merits recognition. The debate extends beyond acknowledgment, delving into the question of whether it is time for these people backstage to step into the limelight. Their role in ensuring a smooth and immersive experience for the audience is undeniable, yet the applause and accolades often gravitate toward those under the spotlight. The main issue for people arguing the stage crew doesn’t deserve enough credit differs between different types of crew members. Current crew member, Matthew Pursglove, says “I think the crew on stage got a lot of credit, but the guys working with the lights didn’t really get enough credit in my opinion”. 

Inside the stage crew, there are three main roles. The stage crew director is a student, most likely a senior who has been a member of the crew for a long time and is in charge of organizing a large number of aspects when it comes to workflow inside the crew. Near the beginning of rehearsals, it is up to the crew director to tell their crew what to do and when, making it a highly demanding and stressful role inside the crew. Another role inside of the stage crew is being behind the stage, ready at a moment’s notice to move anything the script needs from a small envelope on a table to multiple large intricate walls that need to be completely turned around in a matter of seconds. These crew members make up a majority of the crew’s volume. Each one of these members has their own set of specific tasks they need to be ready to execute when their cue arrives during the production, putting pressure on them to ensure a seamless performance. The third and final type of stage crew members are the less than four members who operate spotlights above the audience. It is their job to understand the actors’ movements and be ready to adapt to anything, keeping them on the right track. “Things can change in an instant, and you kind of have to be ready for that, one thing I’ve always been taught is palm trees don’t break, they bend, meaning being able to work with what is given, and if they say 5 minutes before the show starts that something must be changed being able to do that,” said Sean.  All three types of crew work together extremely well to help produce an issue-free, exciting experience for everyone watching, and even the actors in the musical themselves. 

Not only is communication between stage crew members vital to the success of the production, but correspondence with cast members plays a large role too. In certain situations, an actor in the musical may need a crew member to assist them in getting changed into a new outfit in a very short time. Each crew member is also responsible for being skilled at working well under pressure; show nights are extremely fast-paced and there is no room for mistakes, any last-minute changes must be ready to go with no error. For example, a vital method of time management and communication was the cue sheet created by the director. The cue sheet is a document created for the sole purpose of having every cue the stage crew is in charge of in a single place, as well as addressing who executes the cue, and when. This provides a comprehensive and reliable apparatus for the crew to use throughout the production. 

The question still stands as to whether the stage crew receives due credit for the amount of work put into the production. Most interviewed members agreed that the stage crew had adequate recognition. While some may debate otherwise, most stage crew members vote they receive adequate recognition for the extensive labor invested in bringing the production to life. According to these firsthand accounts, the acknowledgment may be more nuanced than a spotlight on each member, but the collective recognition and appreciation from both the cast and the audience are very well presented. Despite the cast typically getting more love and attention from audience members, most believe that is the way it should be, after all, the cast puts in more hours. 


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