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The unsung heroes of the show

Woodbury Community Theatre technical director Doug Jensen works on sound mixing and microphones for "Amahl and the Nigh Visitors." Staff photo by Amber Kispert.2 / 2

In any type of theater performance, it is typically the cast that draws the applause and the praise of the audience, but the unsung heroes who would make a performance almost impossible without them are the technicians and the musicians.

Woodbury Community Theatre's production of "Amahl and the Night Visitors" is no exception, especially since the show is an opera and the music is more or less the star of the show.

"Amahl and the Night Visitors," which tells the story of an imaginative boy and the three wiseman, opened Dec. 4 on the Loft Stage at East Ridge High School.

"We've practiced, so I can't really do anymore," Woodbury Community Theatre technical director Doug Jensen said of opening night nerves. "If something is going to go wrong, it's going to go wrong."

'Tech' show

In any theater production, it is important that all technical aspects -- sound, lighting, and video -- go off without a hitch.

"Our role as tech is to be invisible deliberately," Jensen, said. "We want the audience to focus on the performance that is going on up on stage."

However, in a show such as "Amahl and the Night Visitors" there are some unique technical challenges associated with the sound aspects.

Some of the unique qualities of an opera such as "Amahl and the Night Visitors" include the absence of dialogue, trying to balance the cast with the live orchestra and the dynamic voices.

"One of the biggest challenges, when you're doing an opera, is it's a lot harder to stop and start the show during rehearsals since you have the live orchestra," Jensen said. "But a thing that makes an opera easier is that there aren't a lot of people coming on and off stage with a lot of different scenes."

Jensen said the biggest element he has to worry about, from technical aspect, is that all of the microphones are in working condition. Additionally, Jensen said it is very important to make sure that the microphones are not too loud so that the audience can still hear the East Metro Symphony Orchestra.

"In a way, an opera is less complicated in turning the microphones on and off, but it's more technically difficult to get the balance between the orchestra and the cast members," he said. "Trying to get the actors balanced so you can actually hear the orchestra, but balance the orchestra so you don't drown out the cast."

Balancing music

Jensen said the new technology in the microphones makes it easier so that there isn't as much over driving, however it is still a challenge to find the right sound level for the cast since the community theatre wasn't able to practice with the orchestra until two days before opening night.

"Rehearsing separately is a big challenge," Woodbury Community Theatre music director Jerry Williams said. "The orchestra gets their act together separately, the cast gets their act together separately so that when we do put those pieces together we can make them glue."

Williams agrees that the biggest challenge in producing an opera is finding the balance between the orchestra and cast.

"The acoustics here (at the Loft Stage) are amazing, so that makes the audience hear everything," he said. "You have to make sure you don't have too much cast or too much orchestra."

In addition to balancing the music, the orchestra as well as the technicians must figure out how to balance the quiet space in between the musical numbers.

"We do the best to figure out when we need to have something happening, director Marcie Berglund said. " Sometimes the music can stand on its own, but at the same time I didn't want to overdo it and I don't want the music to look forced."

When the musicians, the technicians and the cast all come together, there is no greater feeling, Jensen said.

"There's nothing more satisfying than when the curtain goes down and the audience applauds," he said.

Woodbury Community Theatre's production of "Amahl and the Night Visitors" will continue Dec. 10-11 at 7:30 p.m. on the Loft Stage at East Ridge High School. Visit www. for more information.

Check out the Woodbury Bulletin online for a short video clip from "Amahl and the Night Visitors."

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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