A lot goes into a theater performance at Auburn University, but not many in the Auburn Family realize how many hands it takes to build a production.
Trevor Turner, the master electrician for the 2017-2018 season production of “A Civil War Christmas,” took The Plainsman on a walk through how a show is brought together.
In the pre-production phase, the director decides on the work as well as the significance of the story for putting it on.
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“[The director] also goes over what all she wants the show to look like,” Turner said.
Tessa Carr, an associate professor of theater, is the director of “A Civil War Christmas” this season.
Claire Waid, the wardrobe supervisor for “A Civil War Christmas,” is in charge of costumes for the musical, as well as helping Turner out with electrician work. Electrician work pertains to lighting and sound.
The crew for a show works crazy hours – more than a normal job, according to members of the crew. The time commitment is large, but Waid and Turner both said it is worth it.
“If you are a theater major, this is all you have time for,” Turner said. “But it’s worth it. I love it, and I wouldn’t be able to work these hours if I didn’t.”
Building a show from the ground up doesn’t just happen overnight. Costuming starts early, but because of the wardrobe archive, costuming doesn’t always have to create costumes. However, for shows like “A Civil War Christmas,” period pieces have to be handmade in many cases.
“In this show, we have two hoop skirts, and we used a lot of fabric to make costumes,” Waid said. “We had a lot of period shirts that we pulled, but a lot of the dresses were built.”
An average person can guess that there are plenty of rehearsals for actors and blocking scenes, but the crew has to rehearse light and sound cues as well as quick changes.
“I have a crew of eight on costume crew backstage helping with everything during the show,” Waid said. “We have a ridiculous amount of quick changes in this show.”
In “A Civil War Christmas,” there are 22 actors portraying over 60 characters, so the costume department is always on their toes.
Each person on Waid’s costume crew is assigned two or three actors to help with quick changes. Waid said that sometimes they only have 15 seconds to complete a quick change, so it’s important for the crew to practice and have rehearsals for quick changes.
If you go backstage, the crew has meticulously labeled props that are well-organized to the best of their ability, ready to be handed off to an actor at the right time.
Every lighting cue has to be scheduled to the second, and Turner’s crew set up the light and sound boards to be ready for each performance so that only one person has to be in the booth.
“We have over 260 cues for just lighting in [‘A Civil War Christmas’],” Turner said. “And there are plenty of sound cues and much more we have to go over.”
Set design is a large part of a production, and the theater department at Auburn has many tools that assist them in creating grand sets that complete the look for a show.
Every area of a theater crew works simultaneously and bounce off each other. If one group is late, everyone is. They all rely on each other to succeed and put on a great show.
At the University, shows are put on by mostly students, many of them majoring in theater. However, you don’t have to be in a theater major to be involved with a show.
“A Civil War Christmas” is a grand production, and opening night was Nov. 9, 2017. There are many more shows left, and tickets are available on the theater department’s website.