Lift Him Up, the 2014 Easter drama presented by the Kempsville Christian Church, is the culmination of months of script writing, set building and rehearsals. But some of the most finely tuned movements won’t be scene on stage. They are orchestrated by stage manager Stephanie Clifford and executed backstage in the darkness by her crew.
“Working backstage is like being part of a choreographed dance,” explains Pete Kish, a veteran of many years. “You have to have your moves memorized. If one thing goes wrong, you can start a chain reaction of disaster.”
Working with a large crew and multi-story sets that wrap around a 500 seat auditorium would be challenge enough, but working in darkness makes split second timing even more crucial. Except for an occasional miniscule flashlight held in the mouth, the backstage workers rely on light operators on the opposite side of the auditorium to illuminate their spaces.
“Your first year is like an apprenticeship, shares Clifford. “By the last show, you have it down pat. Then the next year, you have to get into a whole new routine.” She assigns tasks like moving 80 to 100 pound sixteen foot columns to the strongest ones while scene changes that require getting down low in a cramped space to the under eighteen crowd.
“The young ones are the future,” says Clifford. “They are faster and have more energy.” Check out the accompanying set construction and backstage secrets slide show.
Part of the crew’s job includes crowd control. “You’re like a traffic cop keeping the cast back until we get a scene changed”, says seventeen year old Aaron Morrison. Morrison has worked backstage for three years and has some interesting stories.
“One year we had 45 seconds to get a tent up. We had to stay inside for the entire scene,” he confides. “That’s one reason we wear black. If we get caught onstage when the curtain opens, we drop to the floor behind something and become a shadow.”
The show is free, open to the public and runs at 7 pm. on April 12th, 13th, 18th, 19th, and 20th. Contact the Kempsville Christian Church at 490-3925 or via their website for further information. The church is located at 5424 Parliament Dr. in Virginia Beach.