From behind the scenes, junior Maggie Quigley offers insight into the often overlooked role of stage crew. Like most stage crew members, she has a range of jobs including painting, carpentry, and design. Recently, she has produced sets for Assassins, Fiddler on the Roof, and designed the lighting set for Nitrous Oxide.
Q: What’s something you didn’t know as an actress about stage crew until you joined?
A: What’s really intriguing is how much thought goes into every decision that’s made. Every single color choice or placement choice is deliberate. Whenever you make a choice, the technical director will ask: How are you doing that? Why is that part of the world? The goal is to have a better answer than “it looks cool.”
Q: Why did you join stage crew?
A: In middle and elementary school, I was onstage doing theatre. When I got to high school, I didn’t enjoy it as much. I have always been interested in the backstage aspect, so I joined stage crew halfway through freshman year, and I never left. If you added it all up, there’s more to do backstage than you can on stage.
Q: What would a show be like without stage crew?
A: It would be more difficult to bring the audience into the world of the show where you have this whole environment that is created through the technical aspects. So you can act in a certain way and show that it’s this time period, but it’s harder to do that if you don’t have things to physically show that. In the main families house [of Fiddler on The Roof] , all of the lines are straight, but in a tailor shop, the lines are all diagonal to represent straying from tradition. We do so much to create the world that it would just be people on stage wearing nothing in the dark.
Q: What’s the most interesting aspect of stage crew?
A: I think it’s how we are able to problem solve. Everyday something goes wrong. We have to figure out: “Okay this platform wasn’t made correctly, and we have an hour, how do we fix it?” During break, we had a bunch of new safety rules put into place by the fire marshall and building inspector. Now we have a lot more complications that we have to work around, but problem solving and just working through is really amazing.
Q: What is a downside of stage crew ?
A: How much time it takes up. For instance, in these next few weeks, I’m not going home before 10 o’clock. The hardest aspect is finding time not only for homework and sleep, but for keeping friendships, having time on my own, juggling things like finishing my thesis, and all of my other friend and family commitments.
Q: Are you willing to spend so much time on stage crew?
A: This is more important for me than other things, and I have to prioritize. Like these next two weeks I can’t go out to a movie with my friends because I’m at school. That’s also part of it, so I’m okay with that. You also have to have an understanding with your family.
Q: What’s your greatest creation?
A: I’m really proud of my design in December for Assassins because I had feedback, and I just kept drawing and drawing. I put it into a computer program, and I kept working on it, and it became a thing in real life that people performed on and saw.
Q: Do you think the stage crew deserves more recognition?
A: When you open a program, you don’t really pay attention to the areas that have the stage crew names, but I also think that is part of it because we wear black and we’re backstage. The goal is not to be seen, and for many designs it’s not to be specifically noticed. You don’t realize there’s ten backstage, two above you, three behind you, and three behind that black window. They’re everywhere.