Lighting director Danny Kramer makes adjustments before the Saturday matinee of “Urinetown” at Steamboat Springs High School.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Lighting director Danny Kramer makes adjustments before the Saturday matinee of “Urinetown” at Steamboat Springs High School.

Steamboat musical tech crew gets hands-on learning

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Kelly Anzalone watches the Saturday matinee of “Urinetown” at Steamboat Springs High School.

— Moments before the lights came up on the Saturday matinee of Steamboat Springs High School’s annual musical, Sara Stout’s microphone still wasn’t on.

The overture was coming to a close, and high school students Josh Corbin and Danny Kramer stared intensely at the little light that indicated her mic was on, pleading into their headsets for the backstage hands to find her in time.

Just as Stout sauntered to the center of the stage, the light came on, and those in the tech booth breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Stout’s Officer Lockstock began her monologue, and Kramer didn’t miss a beat hitting light cue after light cue. The audience had no idea there was drama going on before the lights came up.

While a cast of 30 told the story onstage, there was a different narrative going on behind the scenes, where 10 students were responsible for the lighting, sound, set design and backstage traffic of “Urinetown.”

They’re not in the spotlight, but to this group, that’s even more exciting.

“You made the show happen,” said David Kelley, the only senior on the musical’s tech crew this year. “You’re the reason the show’s going on.”

And this year, the high school tech crew has had an expanded opportunity to hone its art.

Under the direction of Kelly Anzalone, owner of KPA Productions, the students have been learning the ins and outs of producing a professional-level show.

The school hired KPA Productions as its theater management company this year, and Anzalone's expertise and guidance has given new life to the production side of the high school musical.

“He’s got us all doing everything on our own,” said Kramer, a junior who ran the light board during the performance. Kramer said he wants to study engineering in college and use his education to continue in theater. “He’s really turning the whole theater thing around.”

Director Jamie Oberhansly, who is in her second year as the theater teacher at the high school, said Anzalone’s presence has energized the tech crew.

“It’s 100 percent noticeable,” she said. “He’s tightened them up with professionalism. It's been really awesome having him here. They like the guidance, and of course, they’re learning from him."

Anzalone, who has worked on productions in the high school auditorium before, said he has been enjoying the position.

“I really like working with the kids,” he said. “I like how fast they learn. They really want to do their jobs well; they just don’t know how to do them yet.”

And there’s a lot to learn.

Three years ago, the school purchased new light and sound boards for the theater program, but the ETC Ion technology wasn’t being used to its full potential until Anzalone came on board.

Anzalone had the school get an iPad for the theater program, and now students use an ETC Ion app that interacts with the boards and allows the students to adjust the light and sound from anywhere in the room.

“It’s a really good board for a high school,” Anzalone said.

Morgan Duran, who adjusts the sound levels during the show, actually gets to sit in the audience with the iPad in her lap, adjusting the levels in real time outside the insulation of the sound booth.

“It’s really nice. It’s so hard to hear in (the booth), and it sounds totally different in the theater,” said Duran, who started running a spotlight for a high school show when she still was in eighth grade. She hopes that someday the program will turn into a full-blown class so future students interested in production could get credit for the skills they’re learning.

But right now, it’s a labor of love. In addition to the seven hours it took to input 130 light cues, the crew stayed to work on weekends when even the actors weren’t there. But it’s all worth it, even if they’re not in the spotlight.

“It’s really cool to learn what goes on behind the scenes,” Duran said.

Anzalone truly puts the responsibility on the students. In fact, he wasn’t even in the booth for the little bit of backstage drama with the microphone.

Just after “places” was called, he made sure the students running the lights and sound were settled in the dark booth bathed in green light, and he closed the door as he left to sit in the audience with his headset to offer guidance.

“I’m so proud of those little guys,” he said, grinning.

To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@ExploreSteamboat.com

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