Tommy: Behind the Curtains

By Sara Seaman

With the Upper School’s production of the Who’s rock opera “Tommy” approaching, the crew is in for something big. The Oracle talked to the stage manager, Tracey Thompson ’16, to get the full scoop.

Working on the musical is Mr. Farley (theatre teacher), Mr. Hutchinson (music teacher), Ms. Lucky (tech supervisor), Ms. Kessin (sound designer), Jennifer Sarabia (assistant stage manager), Amanda Mihalke ‘15 (assistant director) and the general cast and crew.

Thompson has rehearsal everyday after school where she has to “show up, set up the stage [making sure their isn’t anything the actors can hurt themselves with/putting set pieces where they need to be], call role, write down blocking, make sure people are in the right spots when rehearsal occurs, email parents, keep everyone organized/quiet/ and productive, and when Hutchinson isn’t at rehearsal, (she) or Jennifer Sarabia are in charge of the music.” According to Thompson, “Building a set is really hard.”

With the showings approaching, everyone involved has his or her hands full. From a corner of the Black Box, one can observe the whole cast up on stage marking a scene, each act involving heavy dancing and a lot of focus. While Farley energetically structures the scene, Thompson and Mihalke busily type stage notes into their laptops.

Thompson says, “The show is very fast paced, particularly since it’s a rock opera,” being based on the 1969 double album of the same name. She is “anticipating it to be very difficult” but on a lighthearted note says, “I get to boss people around which is pretty fun.”

Poster for Archer's production of Tommy.
Poster for Archer’s production of Tommy.

Thompson describes it as, “fairly physically strenuous” and that “during the shows, working back stage can be very stressful.”

“In every show something is guaranteed to go wrong. But as they say, the show must go on… having done lights, sound, and additional tech work for several shows now, I would have to say overall the experience back stage is exciting but can be stressful.”

Although not an active participant in the spotlight, the life behind the scenes is just as rewarding for Thompson. She continues, saying  “I honestly have to say my benefits for being stage manager are the same benefits that everyone else gets, knowing that I helped put on an amazing show. To know that this show wouldn’t have been able to happen without me helping is a pretty cool feeling.”

“Tech can be seen as a pretty fruitless job. But that’s why I kind of like it. There is a hidden appreciation for doing tech. Without tech there wouldn’t really be a show to see. There would be no lights to see the actors, there would be no set for the actors to be on, they would have to pantomime everything because they don’t have any props. Tech adds a level of completion to the performances.” Perhaps a new sense of appreciation will pique as more people become aware of the importance of the job.

Archer’s “Tommy” will have showings on Nov. 15 at 6:30 pm and Nov. 16 at 3 and 6 pm.

Featured Image: The main Archer sound board, bringing life, along with volume, to Archer Performances. Photographer: Marcela Riddick ’16