On stage, the music is blaring and the lights are shining as two students belt out “Don’t Stop Believin’.” They’re later followed by a string duo, a troupe of dancers dressed as pink ladies, and a third-grade drummer keeping the beat to “We Will Rock You,” among other acts. There’s no lack of talent and enthusiasm at the triannual Edgewood Talent Show — but it’s not limited to just the performers.
Backstage, student stage crew members dash around, making sure the curtains go up in time and all the right performers are on deck. They’ve been training for this moment for more than a month, giving up their recess periods to learn their jobs.
There are about a dozen committees that make up the stage crew, from lighting to backstage interview to set design. Fifth grader Elena and third grader Lucy monitor the mics. Fourth grader Bhargava is in charge of the curtain. Fifth grade stage manager Laura and her fourth grade manager-in-training Leah scurry back and forth, loudly whispering instructions to crew members. A big part of her role, Laura says, is “making sure people aren’t goofing off.”
We caught up with the masters of ceremony this year, fifth graders Tessa and Phoebe, on what’s involved with their roles. Do they write their own material? “We actually don’t write anything down,” Phoebe says. “We have a list of the performers, and that’s it. We make up everything on the spot.” Tessa chimes in, “We want to keep things fresh.”
In the balcony above the auditorium, fifth grader Grace is poised to take photos of each act. Fourth grader Jacob and fifth grader Noah occupy the lighting and sound booth. And high above the stage, the sign that proudly states “100 Years of Talent” was created by a set design team led by art teacher Mr. Fitz.
The production of the talent show is overseen by about a dozen faculty members, including Mr. Yang, Mr. Tomizawa and Mr. Cadalzo. Teachers like Ms. Pagel, Ms. Aberman and Ms. Meyer help to choreograph group performances. But the adults are only there to provide guidance. The show is really run by the students — they’re the ones setting up the equipment, doing the sound check, and making sure everything goes smoothly. Since the inception of the talent show in 2010, it’s always been understood that “students would need to be responsible for taking a lead in the production,” says Dr. Houseknecht.
The talent show began as a suggestion by a student council member named Joaquin a decade ago. That first production didn’t have as many roles, but some traditions started then have continued. “Joaquin was the emcee for every show that first year,” Dr. Houseknecht recounts. “He also started the tradition of everyone who works in the show goes on stage to dance at the conclusion.”
“What I love about the talent show,” Dr. Houseknecht adds, “is how supportive our students are of all the performers, how serious our student crew is about their role, and how interest has grown with the faculty.”
Students can apply for stage crew positions by writing a letter to Mr. Yang. Once hired, they’re involved for the rest of the year, honing their skills for three separate performances. They’re assigned runner or assistant roles when they start out in the younger grades, then get promoted to more involved positions. Older students who’ve held these positions for years mentor younger students who will eventually take over.
This year’s projector operator, a fifth grader named Dean, started working with the stage crew as a second grader four year ago. Now he’s training second grader Kyle to take on his position as he prepares to head off to middle school. The hardest thing about his job? “Getting the images up on time,” says Dean. But for this performance, at least, everything goes off without a hitch.