Behind the Scenes of the Scene Shop: The Making of Sweeney Todd

The Periwig Club’s technical crew works its magic behind the scenes, making sure the show runs smoothly from start to finish; without it, there would be no show at all.

The Periwig Club’s technical crew works its magic behind the scenes, making sure the show runs smoothly from start to finish; without it, there would be no show at all. From adjusting the spotlights and painting scenery to welding and woodworking, the technicians do it all. Periwig’s scene shop provides collaborative makerspaces for students to create entire structures from scratch using materials such as wood or metal.

Since preseason, on-stage technicians have been working with Performing Arts Master Matthew Campbell to build the set from scratch and create personalized special effects for this year’s Fall Musical, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

The senior technician leaders manage everything. With years of experience under their belts, they know their way around all the corners of the Kirby Arts Center, from the basement to the catwalks. Their work doesn’t end after the Fall Musical either; many of them are involved in Winterfest and the Spring Dance Concert as well. Through pre-show games of Kumcha and long hours of tech week, the senior technicians have created life-long bonds with one another by working together in the shop and on stage.

Production Stage Manager of Sweeney Todd Anushka Agarwala ’20 has been a part of Periwig since she was a II Former. Working closely with the actors, faculty, and technical crew, Agarwala controls everything that happens on stage, including light changes, sound cues, and scene changes.

Although she was an actor before coming to Lawrenceville, she thought tech was interesting and decided to stage manage the II Form Shakespeare production of Romeo and Juliet. After her first experience stage managing, she decided that “there was no going back [because] acting was no longer something [she] liked as much as tech.” Periwig has transformed her life entirely, and she now sees theater as a potential future career. Although she originally wanted to go into finance or law prior to coming to Lawrenceville, she changed her mind after going on a Harkness Travel trip, where a group of Lawrentians performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. After that, “it clicked that stage management was what I wanted to do with my life.”

Similarly, Emily Matcham ’20, Executive Technician and Head of Winterfest, came to Lawrenceville with some previous experience in theater. While she knew that she enjoyed building, it was really “the community that made [her] stay.” While building sets, she enjoys “figuring things out like a puzzle and designing things,” which makes the scene shop the perfect place for her to develop her skills. According to Matcham, building an entire set is much more complicated than it might seem, because “there’s a lot of things you have to engineer, do the math, and design, so it’s a lot of thinking…[and] it’s definitely not as easy as people think it is.”

Alex Stach ’20, the Co-Head of the Technical Crew, has participated in all aspects of Periwig, from directing to working in the costume shop to building scenery. While working with those around her, she has realized that “there’s never a time when you're working alone … Working with others backstage is something I take for granted.” Working backstage is a collaborative process, and it would be impossible to pull off an entire show alone. With so many elements involved in a performance, including lights, scenery, fly, props, and sound, Stach also loves tech because she “get[s] to oversee and be a part of something from start to finish.” Over the years, she has learned countless skills, such as the proper way to measure or how to use a staple gun.

Before coming to Lawrenceville, Co-Head of the Technical Crew Oona Pierre ’20 had wanted to do tech crew since middle school. Through Periwig, she has “learned to work efficiently with other people [because] everyone has a part to play.” Whether it be working by herself to complete an independent project or carrying a 20-foot wooden structure along with five other people, teamwork is a necessity to working backstage. She loves seeing “all [the] pieces come together at the end [because] the set is something [the entire crew] all took part in doing.” Working with the technical crew has allowed her to meet new people while pushing the limits of her own comfort zone.

Head of Scene Shop Ashley Van Den Bol ’20 enjoys the collaborative aspect of tech because there's a lot of freedom, especially for the V Formers. According to Van Den Bol, there’s “a lot of working together, not only to complete [different tasks], but also just collaborating to figure things out.” Over the years, she has grown closer with many of her fellow technicians, and she loves when the crew finishes building the set and gets to see all their hard work pay off during the show.

This year’s fall musical, Sweeney Todd will be performed over Parents Weekend on Thursday, October 17 and Friday, October 18. Because “Sweeney Todd is very different from some of the more mainstream musicals,” Agarwala thinks that it may be different from peoples’ expectations, and she is “excited for people to come and watch it.”

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