Behind the scenes of school productions: Gaya Chatterjee

March 15, 2017 — by Amy Tang

Raindrops seemed to fall from the sky during the fall production of “The White Snake,” landing on the McAfee Center stage, yet the audience wasn’t wet, and neither was the black matte stage that the actors stood on.

This special effect was created by senior Gaya Chatterjee and other members of the tech crew, who made it look as if rain was falling from the sky by projecting images onto a screen, turned umbrellas into moons and built secret tunnels and trapdoors to get actors onstage.

While it is easy to recognize the talent and hard work involved in memorizing hundreds of lines or singing a difficult song, not many audience members truly know what goes on behind the scenes of a school musical.

“Students [on the tech crew] work just as hard as anyone else,” she said. “We spend countless hours working on a show to make sure everything goes according to plan.”

Technical theater is a large part of Chatterjee’s life, who is planning to attend NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in the fall, and working on the musical presents “a good opportunity to learn skills and practice what skills I’ve already acquired,” she said.

With  the upcoming spring musical “Legally Blonde” still in the beginning rehearsal stage, Chatterjee helps communicate information between director Sarah Thermond, the actors and the technical crew to create a vision that will come to life on the stage.

She is the backbone of the production, carrying out logistical tasks such as writing schedules, passing out forms, taking notes and holding meetings, all while helping build the sets and prepping the  stage ready in time for the show in late April.

On average, rehearsals last two to three and a half hours after school. At the end of day, Chatterjee writes a rehearsal report and sends it off to the production staff.

Said senior and fellow stage manager Julie Cai: “Gaya's role in the musical is important because she is one of the two co-stage managers of the production who organize paperwork, take notes at rehearsals, write up rehearsal reports, and act as the point of contact between the cast and director.”

When the production moves into the McAfee Center for final rehearsals, Chatterjee is “on book,” meaning she is following the script to help the actors remember their lines in case they forget during the scene. She also moves into the booth at the back of the theater to either practice calling the show during rehearsal or running lights and audio.

During the last two years that Chatterjee has been pursuing technical theater, she has been the stage manager, a position that entails telling the audio and lighting techs when to adjust the sound and lights.

For the upcoming show, Chatterjee is unsure whether she will keep her position as stage manager, but she will most likely still be running lights or audio, two important components to a high school musical production that ultimately make the show more enjoyable and exciting.

“Basically it is up to me to make sure that everything happens whenever it’s supposed to,” Chatterjee said. “It’s a lot of pressure, but it’s a truly amazing experience.”

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