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Tech Students Gain Skills, Friendships

As students preparing for their upcoming production, they learn what works and what doesn't.

Oakton senior Kathy Cortes and her classmates had a problem: Dracula needed an easier entrance. So with the actors and their theater instructor Skip Bromley, they talked about the changes that needed to be made. Instead of their original idea of having four panels straight across the stage, they decided to have three panels make a staggered line. That way, Dracula could get in and out of the shadows much more easily.

"Tech is a lot of problem solving," Cortes said. "We’ll have a set done, and then completely change it the next day."

Cortes and her classmates are part of Oakton High School’s Theater IV class. The class will present their project, "Dracula," in early November. As in all productions, many people are involved offstage to help the production get on its feet. For the Theater IV class, students involved in the technical theater aspects are assigned to do the lighting or sound booth or make costumes. Everyone helps out with set construction.

For this production, Cortes will be the stage manager. This will be her second year stage managing. The friendships she made freshman year fueled her interest to continue in theater throughout her high-school career. She was one of the only freshmen in her first production, "Music Man."

During set changes, "we could tell each other’s motions in the dark," Cortes said.

Set changes, Cortes says, require a lot of discipline. Someone times the changes, and if it takes too long or if it’s too loud, they do it again until they get it right.

"I think if you’re watching the show and it flows well, a bad set change completely ruins the effect for you," Cortes said.

After high school, Cortes says she’s thinking about opening a technical theater business, but she plans to go into communications in college.

"I learned how to communicate, how to lead people," Cortes said of her involvement.

SARAH STANTON’S problem is how to dress the cast of "Dracula." She’s in charge of finding costumes. Because the production actually involves two casts, she needs to find something for everyone.

"We’re trying to pick out the costumes for the cast, and they’re all built differently," said the senior from Fairfax.

Stanton asked some classmates to try on some costumes. In addition to finding costumes, she needs to ensure that they’re in the appropriate time period. They had added empire waists to all the dresses.

"I can research it on the Internet. I have pictures at home," Stanton said.

While Stanton works in the costume area, junior Brian Kalin is in the same room, building a set piece. His responsibility for the production is to hang the lights and aim the beams at the appropriate spots on stage. When he was at Herndon High two years ago, he took a technical theater class just to pass the time.

"I took it for an easy A at Herndon, and then I got addicted," Kalin said.

Kalin says he enjoys the teamwork and responsibility that’s needed to design a production. He also likes using the power tools.

"And good people," Kalin said, stating another reason why he’s remained involved in technical theater.

In charge of the lighting design is senior Matt Green. He’s been at Oakton for four years but has had some experience with lighting in other local productions. He says he’s liked all productions, as well as the process of getting a production together.

"I find out what Mr. Bromley wants, and then we work around it. I add my own ideas, and I consult my crew," Green said.

Like many of his classmates, Green says the friendships make the work worthwhile.

"It’s the people. I wouldn’t be doing this if there weren’t exciting people and things to do," Green said.

Theater instructor Skip Bromley says he's impressed by his students' work. Not only do they do their job well, they will have put on one scary show.

"The work of all the actors and backstage techs thrills me," Bromley said. "The level of excellence that these students have risen to is what thrills me."

Performances of "Dracula" run from Nov. 6-9 at 7 p.m. in the school theater. Tickets are $5.

The Theater III class is presenting the comedy "Moon Over Buffalo" on Nov. 13-15 at 7 p.m.