In any theatrical production, what the audience sees is only half the show.
Set design, lighting, stage management, costume design, all go on behind the curtain.
But last week, local high school students got a behind-the-scenes look at how a touring production of Broadway’s “The Color Purple” all comes together.
“It’s been a real career exploration,” said Michael Gatzendorfer, the youth programs manager. Proctors began its Broadway Tech program, which brings local students together with Broadway professionals, last year when the show “American in Paris” came to Schenectady.
This year, 13 students from seven high schools in the Capital Region headed to Proctors for four days packed with workshops and meetings with the stage manager, set designer, wardrobe coordinator, sound designer and engineer of “The Color Purple.”
“There are so many more jobs [in theater] than acting,” Gatzendorfer said, “You can see these kids’ eyes light up.”
Although Madison Morrissey, a senior at Lansingburgh High School, has been stage manager her entire high school career, she garnered a few other ideas from the workshops.
“It’s always been stage management [before], but now I’m interested in production and set design,” Morrissey said, “I’m so curious to fill my brain up with all this.”
Especially after hearing from the stage manager, Christine D’Amore, and the assistant production manager, Carter Sullivan-Irwin, Morrissey noted that it was their passion for the theater that really made their careers possible.
And Morrissey’s passion for the theater is in no way lacking.
That passion is also how Jim Lanahan, the general manager for “The Color Purple” and a Scotia native, his job in the theater world.
“I would die to have had this opportunity,” Lanahan said of Broadway Tech. Growing up, he would save up money to see as many shows at Proctors as he could. After graduating from Shenendehowa High School, he attended Siena College and got a theater certificate. He worked in the field for several years, but took a break from it and worked as a general manager position at General Electric for a few years before landing his management job in the theater business.
“It’s a thrill to have one of my shows come to Proctors. It’s come full circle,” Lanahan said.
It’s an experience that most students in the program hope to echo.
“It’s a really good experience to have because you need relationships in this business,” said Madi Yung, a senior at Middleburgh High School. Her heart is set on acting, but she wanted to get a better understanding of what goes on apart from acting.
Although she’s acted in community theater since she was in elementary school and acted in most of her school productions, she found that there was so much more about the industry than she’d thought.
“A lot of teachers didn’t go to school for drama,” Gatzendorfer said.
Thus, many students aren’t aware of the ongoings of a large-scale theatrical production. This was exemplified on the first day of the program when students briefly observed a meeting between theater legend and director John Doyle, who recreated “The Color Purple,” and his stage manager. According to Gatzendorfer, Doyle delegated tasks to the stage manager and others, placing trust and responsibility on everyone involved in the production. He was giving guidance and direction, but not taking control of every aspect of the production.
It’s an exchange that magnified the message behind Broadway Tech: there’s no such thing as a one-man (or woman) show.