By Helena Burgueno
On Saturday mornings, the darkened halls of Hamden High School seem like a shell of the bustling hub that students and staff have come to expect during the school week. To the unknowing visitor, the high school seems to be almost entirely empty on the weekends, save for the stray track kid or custodian going about their business. However, just under the surface of this quiet façade hides a hive of activity known in the theater department as Crew.
For many students, school is the last place to be on the weekends. However, for a dedicated few, the Hamden High School Theater and its facilities are home from 9:30 to 4 every Saturday. Crew members are tasked with the creating the sets and technical components of every theatrical production. This job is no small feat and requires an organized chain of command to ensure that all work is done in the most efficient and safe manner possible.
The overall Crew is divided into smaller groups, giving students the opportunity to work in a specialized field, whether it be building, painting, lighting, sound, costumes, or production. Each specific crew has a crew chief, usually an upperclassmen who is experienced within the theater program. Crew chiefs are responsible for assigning jobs and communicating with adult advisors. Stage Manager, Co-Master Carpenter, and Hamden High Senior Mark Atwood detailed his job: “What I do is get a carpentry crew together and then we study the set design in a group. We divvy up the set design into separate little jobs and I have them working on separate little tasks.” It is leadership like this that keeps Crew afloat.
Not all people are cut out to be successful Crew members though; self-motivation and dedication are crucial qualities. Atwood explained, “You must be willing to take a leadership role,…There’s definitely a lot of responsibility in being in Crew.” Still, the rewards of working hard at Crew are worth the effort. “When I found out I was going to be Master Carpenter, I thought that was a really big deal” said Atwood, “I think the Crew is treated pretty well…We’re put on a pretty high level of respect and they trust us a lot with what we do.” Furthermore, Crew’s reliance on teamwork brings people together. There is a constant hum of people chatting as they work and some Crew members have even been known to organize “Crew Lunches” outside of school. Kylie Miller, high school senior and paint Crew member affirmed, “We have fun…[Recently] we were all on stage and singing together and having a good time.”
It seems, however, that not all Crew memories are fond ones. One Crew member who wished to remain anonymous observed, “I feel like there’s a problem with integration. [When I joined] I kind of expected it to be a symbiosis of Crew and actors…we’re not seen as important members of the ensemble as a whole certainly”. Co-master Carpenter and high school senior Danielle Palm admitted, “we’ve hit some rough spots with Crew, you know like, whether it be different crews conflicting with different crews or people conflicting with each other…[but] we’re all one big happy Crew family.
Still, the number of people working Crew on a regular basis has decreased drastically in recent years. “A few years ago we had some really dedicated actors and Crew members who brought…their friends to Crew but more recently not a lot of people have seemed to be interested,” says Atwood. In fact, this year, the lighting and build crew have fewer than five consistent members each. Regardless, some stay optimistic that change is coming. Miller observed, “There have been more people coming, certainly, as opposed to last year when we lost almost the entire crew….It’s getting better. I think it’ll continue to grow…hopefully”
The loss of Crew members could be devastating to the Hamden High School theater program. As senior leaders prepare to graduate, the lack of new recruits is becoming more and more of a concern. The heads of theater program are doing their best to spread the message about Crew in hopes of drawing in members. Furthermore, leaders are working hard within the program to ensure that the strongest possible crew is ready for next year. For example, Crew chiefs have spent the past school year training underclassmen so that the transition will be easier come next fall. Kylie Miller spoke hopefully when asked about the freshman Crew members: “They’ve got a lot of skill that will only get better as they progress…I think we’re leaving Crew in good hands.”