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Let’s get technical

For Northwood senior Jacky Lao, being the technical director of Northwood’s theatre is both stressful and challenging—but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Lao, who joined Northwood’s theater in his sophomore year, wasn’t always the technical director or even on construction. However, he soon realized that what he loved about the productions wasn’t the acting; it was the set pieces. He joined the carpentry department and got to learn how to design and build structures that had both form and function.

“It’s totally different from building things [that you would find in houses],” said Lao. “For some pieces, actors might be climbing or jumping on them, so not only do they have to look good, but they also have to be sturdy and functional.”

Now a technical director, Lao is in charge of the carpentry department and all of the other groups involved in the technical aspects of drama productions. Together with the drama teacher, Danyelle Dunavold, and the stage manager, senior Adrian Belmes, Lao leads weekly production meetings in which he and the department leads discuss the agenda in the week ahead. Afterwards, Lao makes sure each department stays on track and has everything they need to get their jobs done.

It’s a demanding position, and it’s not uncommon for Lao to be at school for hours after classes end, working solely on the production.

“In the weeks leading up to tech and show weeks, there’s rehearsal for about two hours a day, but I have to be the last one to leave to lock up the theater. It gets a little crazy during Tech week [February 9-13], when the actors rehearse from 4 to 9 p.m. and I get home at 10,” said Lao.

Lao’s dedication to Northwood’s productions has earned him the respect of his peers.

“I’ve picked up a bunch of nicknames so far,” says Lao, laughing. “In ‘Mulan,’ I was a messenger, so they called me ‘Messenger.’”

But his dedication has earned him his share of battle scars, too.

“While working on the ‘Our Town’ set last year, my drill slipped and I stabbed myself in the finger,” said Lao. “As I left to the bathroom, I dripped blood on the stage. From then on, they called me ‘Blood Sacrifice.’”

But to Lao, all the blood, sweat and tears become worthwhile when the curtain closes and the audience applauds.

“Behind every production is a mountain of technical work that the actors stand upon during show week. Every time the audience applauds, everything we’ve done for the production behind the scenes becomes worth it,” said Lao.

(Image Credits: Dinasha Dahanayake)