What’s Going On Behind the Curtain: A Look Inside the World of Technical Theater


Picture taken by Ryan Monroe

Ellie Robert, Staff Writer

As the band finishes warming up, the lights flicker to signal the beginning of the show. An eerie quiet spreads as the audience waits in anticipation. Behind the curtain, the actors rehearse last-minute lines and warm up their voices. The show begins; the audience is so fixated on the characters in front of them that they don’t notice the other cast members, those directing every queue and controlling the entire show.

Jordan is well-known for its theatre program, but those who work to make it happen aren’t just the actors. Technical theatre students play a variety of roles in the theatre program, including typical roles like lights and sound. However, they also are stage managers, makeup artists, and costume designers.

Senior Jacqueline Rice has taken all three main types of theatre (musical theatre, technical theatre, and theatre). She says there are many things people don’t realize about technical theatre.

“Not only do we help the theater program, but we help other programs in the school like dance and chorus a lot,” said Rice. “Also, I don’t think people realize there’s a lot of potential stuff you can do in tech. Like there’s light, sound, stage management, costuming, carpentry, building, painting, props–there’s a lot of different things than just building a set with tools. People don’t necessarily realize that.”

Olivia Bellido has been teaching the technical theatre program at Jordan for 15 years; in fact, she’s the one who started the course. Bellido said she never intended to become the technical theatre director. When the principal at the time asked if she wanted to teach technical theatre, she first turned down the offer, at the time waiting for a professional theatre job, but later changed her mind.

“So I said, ‘I guess I could fill in until you–until I get another job.’” recalled Bellido. “Then by the time I had filled in for a month, I decided it was where I wanted to be.”

The technicians put in a lot of work to prepare for performances. Junior stage manager Lily Fernandes said the class can have up to four weeks of rehearsal. The first two weeks consist of solely the actors, but over the following weeks, the technicians and actors rehearse together.

“The few last weeks it’s the technicians and stuff,” Fernandes said. “Before those weeks, we have ‘set build weekend.’ We just come after school or during the weekend, and then we build an entire set.”

Bellido said that during “tech week” the technicians and actors run through technical rehearsals. They go to rehearsal every night, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., with technicians sometimes having to stay as late as 10 p.m. for clean-ups.

“Their night is usually a first run of rehearsal. The week of the show would be a first run of the show with cleanups, stopping and starting, cleaning up problems and getting things down,” Bellido said. “Basically [during] a set transition I’m going to say, ‘okay, you’ve got ten seconds.’ They may have a ten-second transition that they’re doing right now in a minute. They’ve got to break it down and get it down from a minute to ten seconds.”

Bellido has worked 30 main stage shows at Jordan. She says that not only is she a teacher for the theatre students, but a boss. “They’re learning to come on time for work and learning to take responsibility for the show, because once the show begins, I don’t actually do anything in shows other than watch them,” Bellido said. “It’s completely student-run. So, I would say I go from being their teacher, teaching them all the skills they need to know for the class, then I turn into more of the boss of the program when they’re here at night, working.”

Bellido hopes that every performance transports the audience to another world. “You know, the goal of any theater program or any show is that you can take your audience on a trip with you and that wherever you’re going, you take them with you,” said Bellido. “We’re hoping to capture that by when they first walk in and see the set… that’s what we’re hoping, that they feel [like] a part of the story.”