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Peter Russo, Theater Faculty
Upper School theater

In the theater, it takes many hands working together to get a show to its opening night. In the quiet hush that happens in the audience as the house lights go down, all the potential energy generated by months and months of effort is, at last, realized on stage. The experience of that audience is partially determined by how well the group of individuals that came together to create it were able to collaborate, in order to clearly express the thoughts and ideas of the playwright, with the guidance of the director. The theater tech and design classes in the Upper and Middle Schools at Calhoun aim to give the students who participate an appreciation for all of the roles on the technical and design side of a production, by exploring and taking on those roles themselves.

We always start, of course, with the text of the play or show that we are working on. By reading and analyzing the script, a designer finds many of the answers to the questions necessary to successfully complete their task. A lighting designer needs to know what time of day a particular scene takes place to make the light look right, or a props maker needs to know if an item is right for the time period. Going back to the text again and again is a necessary part of a designer's job, and students are encouraged to do so as well, throughout the production process.

Then comes a period of time spent coming up with a concept for your design, which is done in collaboration with the rest of the design team. In the Upper School, Theater Tech class coincides with the fall play, and the students get to meet professional designers, ask questions about their processes during the development of an idea, as well as how those plans are changed and adapted when considering things like the show’s budget and venue. The students get to witness the entire process from start to finish, and see how an idea is made into reality.

Students in this class are given opportunities to learn new skills, and to see the result of their efforts realized in front of an audience. Not everyone likes to be in the spotlight, but for the motivated student, our program gives them a chance to actually run the lights, as well as sound, projection, or be on the backstage crew.  The Theater Tech and Design Club, which started in 2020, gives students another chance to get together with their peers and work towards a common goal.

Fostering community, hands-on learning, and working with others towards something bigger than oneself, are all standards at Calhoun. And working in the world of theater, when at it’s best, is an engaging, challenging and inclusive experience. Our Theater Tech program tries to highlight this in the work we all do together, inside and outside of the classroom, throughout the school year.

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