The Truth about Theater

The exhausting, magical, messy reality of theater


Bella Van Winkle

Into the Woods cast running through the musical

Bella Van Winkle

Ever seen a meme about theater kids? Maybe one on how they ask everyone to come to their school’s production? Or how the techies are stressed and the actors totally fine? I’m here to say that’s not exactly how it works. Well. At least the latter.

The realm of theater is magical, especially on stage. The actors are the people. Instead of Hunter Hasselbom, it’s Jack, a boy who only wants his beloved Milky White. They dance and sing and never seem to stop smiling or get out of breath. In the perfect show, you don’t even notice the people behind scene. The set movers and props team wear all black so when they do go on stage, they don’t stand out. The set moves quickly, the props are beautiful and the makeup is immedicable, as well as the costumes. The show is magical, take your breath away, makes you laugh and cry and enjoy being there. But it’s all a process. The actors do get out of breath, they have tricks and tips to sound that good on stage. The props and set movers are choreographed too, similar to the dancers, and they have cues and behind stage, they are the biggest ones there. Every person in theater has a tradition before every show, and if not carried out, the show will bomb.

Four months before the show, set, props and cast come and begin to memorize and build. Set makes prototypes, and props starts collecting of list of what is needed. Cast begins learning the notes and the dances.

Three months before the show, set has a list of what needs to be built and has begun building. Props has also finalized the list, and starts looking around for items and supplies to make the props. Cast is learning notes and memorizing and practicing scenes. The costume team starts appearing, brainstorming for the dresses and jackets.

Two months before the show, makeup crew steps in and shows the Director the ideas, same as makeup team. He either approves it or denies it, and they either start practicing the looks and measuring the cast, or they come up with a new idea. Props has made the props and has to paint them. Cast is running through parts, working on details. Set is still building and painting.

The month of the show, everyone is there. Makeup team, costumes, set, cast, props, house, lights, sound- they’re all here and practicing. This is when Sound starts running through sounds, getting the perfect noise for the perfect scene. Lights test the pinks, how high a certain light should be and makeup is getting everything ready, stations for the cast and costumes has finished measuring and is ready for quick changes. The stage is set, the building weekends has passed and the set has transformed.

The day of shows is my favorite time. During build days and the weeks of shows, there is a massive bottle of vitamin C, because tech week is when everyone gets sick. In the makeup room, the leads are squeezing straight honey into their mouths and drinking tea. The honey makes their voices less sore, as well as the honey. A few certain people have traditions that never fail to happen. Hunter Hasselbom, mentioned before, gives everyone a pre-show hug. Not a single person is missed any time. Sierra Northen wears makeup on opening night and closing night, and fuels her Red Bull addiction that only becomes an addiction during the show. Me? I sweep the stage. I make sure every particle of dust and glitter is gone, and it calms me, gets me ready for the show.

Then it’s show time. Cast and crew avoid sightlines, and quick changes happen in a panic. The crew is moving fast, preparing for cues and makeup changes. The lights are changing, sound is loud, the pit is fantastic.

In reality, theater is basically a shot in the dark, but a practiced one. I only joined theater for Into the Woods, but I found a home there. The traditions, the paint that stains my arms, the stress and the people have helped me discover a place I felt as though I belonged.

Next time you go to see the show, get wrapped up in the magic of it all. It’s not perfect, sometimes mics cut out and the moving crew miss their cue, but it’s still magic. The actors are always talented, the crew always ready, and after the show, people are exhausted but happy. It’s a show well done, after all.