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District 833 students tried their hand at set construction during the annual Loft Stage Theater Camp on Aug. 6. Staff photo by Amber Kispert-Smith.

The technical art of theater

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The technical side of theater often flies under the radar.

However, District 833 middle school and high school students were introduced to the often forgotten side of theater last week during the annual Loft Stage Theater Camp at East Ridge High School.

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During the five-day camp, 86 students from all District 833 middle and high schools participated in a number of various theater workshops ranging from acting to dancing to technical to everything in between.

"There's a lot that goes into creating a production," East Ridge theater director Amanda Hestwood said. "All of these students are going to be audience members, so appreciating all that goes into theater is ultimately the No. 1 goal.

"We want to expose kids to all of that and build that side of theater as well."

Building the technical side

During the camp, students were exposed to a number of technical aspects of theater including set construction and lighting design.

Hestwood said including technical theater in the workshop was an important facet since it so often goes unrecognized.

"I have kids all the time come to a show and make the comment that they didn't know there was a place to do that kind of work," she said. "When they think of theater they think of performing, they don't think about building sets or making costumes."

The technical sides are so important to theater, Hestwood said, not only because it makes the productions possible, but it also creates a comfort zone for other students.

"Technical theater is where we offer a place for a lot of kids that don't have other activities that are really a home for them," she said. "We just need to find them and hook them in."

Jimmy Stocco III, East Ridge's technical director, said technical theater provides a lot of benefits to the students that are involved because it exposes them to important skills such as construction and painting.

"They are really skills that students can use moving forward," he said. "Those are skills that they will use later on it life."

On average, East Ridge has about 30 or 40 students working on technical theater during productions.

"It gives them a different sense of how theater works," he said. "You can get a different view of it."

Stocco said students are often intimidated by technical theater because of the nuances.

"A lot of people will look at a sound board or a light board and be intimidated, but it's it's amazing what a little computer knowledge gives them," he said. "All of these things are computers, computers on steroids, but computers nonetheless."

Both Stocco and Hestwood agree though, that it can be sad to see gifted technicians make the switch over to acting.

"Those kids are really precious to us," Hestwood said.

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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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