Computers Share Spotlight on Stage at Fairfax

Computers Share Spotlight on Stage at Fairfax

Cammie Gordon, a freshman at Fairfax High School, looked on her computer to get characteristics for her part as a monkey in the upcoming school production of the "Jungle Book." Kristen Pumphrey did the same for her role as mother wolf. Stage manager Kristen Gastrock printed out the plans for the stage that was made on the program "WYSIWYG" as well so she could give specific stage directions. Mauren Pereira printed out the costume patterns, cut to the exact sizes, courtesy of Pattern Master and Boutique, two programs they utilize for that purpose.

Computers have made life on the stage for the Fairfax High School drama department streamlined as they enter the Cappies competition with last fall's production of "Medea." Drama teacher Bob Smith talked about the changes technology has introduced.

"We're basically working with the same tools as professional designers. We're the only high school on the east coast that has it," he said.

COSTUME DESIGN and the stage simulation programs are coupled with computerized lighting and sound programs that completes Fairfax's repertoire. Pereira works in the costume department. All she does is plug in the correct sizes needed and it designs a pattern for any part of the costume needed. Then she prints it out, piece by piece on regular printer paper and tapes the sheets together before cutting them out and attaching them to the fabric.

"It walks you through what you need. You can even see the draft of the pattern," she said.

Some of the theater students measurements are put into the computer so when the next play comes along and the same people are in it, their information is already on the computer.

The use of computers in the department are nothing new to Smith but these programs, which were paid for partially out of budget and partially from the boosters club, add a new dimension.

"I've been doing computer-assisted design since the late '80s but it's really taken off in recent years. I push the students to design, I'm a techie and that's my push. They can walk out of here with a good portfolio. It's something that didn't exist 10 years ago," he said. One former student, William Johnson, is currently enrolled at Full Sail School that focuses on technology and lighting for theaters and concerts.

"I got students out working professionally that got started here. One of my former students is up at Marymount Manhatten University and they don't even have it," Smith said.

Pereira likes what she's learning.

"It's worth every cent," she said.

BACK ON THE SET of the "Jungle Book," which is scheduled for May 9, 10 and 11, Meredith Lynch, a junior, is playing the jackal.

"It's very educational for the technicians to use these programs, it's used in the professional world," she said.

Pumphrey likes the sizing of the costumes with the program. She was used to using the old patterns which came in one size and then had to be adjusted to fit particular people.

"We used to use the old patterns. You don't have to adjust the sizes," she said.

Computers can only do so much though, according to Pumphrey.

"My learning lines and characterization takes place off the computer," she said, remembering one more thing she liked before computers dominated the drama lab. More computers were installed in the class and left little room for other important facets needed by drama students.

"The only one downfall, we used to have a couch in there and now it's been replaced by computers," she said.