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Drama Group Seeks ‘Techies’

After light designing just one show, Kelzie E. Beebe ’03 had shows beating down her door, asking her to work for them.

Beebe is a rare find on campus for student producers, who struggle each semester to find sufficient technical staff to run their shows.

“I get probably every semester 20 offers to do shows, from the biggest shows to the smallest shows,” Beebe says.

But a solution might come from an amendment passed last Friday at a sparsely-attended Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club (HRDC) open meeting.

The newly updated constitution of the HRDC reads, “The HRDC Board shall institute a mandatory technical theater requirement for actors in Loeb [Drama Center] shows.” The exact nature of the requirement is still to be determined.

HRDC Technical Liaison E. Peyton Sherwood ’04 says the amendment seeks to mitigate the chronic shortages of student technical staff in the Loeb, a problem that has existed for years.

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Sherwood says it could also foster a stronger sense of connection between those on stage and those back stage, “bridging the actor-techie gap.”

And, board members say, the new requirements will improve the quality of shows. Requiring a larger group of people to fill technical roles, Sherwood says, will train potential directors in fully utilizing the technical capabilities of campus theater spaces.

Troubled History

The shortage of technical staff is hardly a new problem. Sherwood says graduates from the classes of 1996 and 1995 have told him stories of scrambling to find light and sound operators when they were first-years.

As far as why these positions go unfilled, Sherwood says he thinks many students have priorities in different places.

“My speculation is that Harvard students are concentrating more on academic and leadership-type things and less on the hands-on type things that are required for the technical theater jobs,” he says.

Lesley W. Ma ’03, who has produced four shows and had trouble finding technical staff each time, says the problem has to do with the nature of backstage work itself.

“These jobs are not as glamorous as acting or directing can be,” says Ma.

A further aggravating factor, she says, is that technical theater requires a sizeable time commitment.

And for technical directors taking on more than one show at a time, the work can be draining. Beebe light designed “four or five” shows last semester, and she says that though she enjoyed each experience, it was simply too much for one person to handle.

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