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“The Ash Girl”: Behind the Scenes

Take a few steps behind the theater. A faint buzzing sound grows as you get closer to the little-known design center. Step into the high-ceiling room and you see an unusual puzzle of old set pieces, props and a wide selection of tools from drills to hammers to paintbrushes of all sizes.

Breathe in. The smell of wood and paint. Listen. Voices of managers and leaders backstage, hoarse from yelling over the noise. A vision is set before you: a perfect show thanks to these hardworking people. Thanks to the tech crew.

Technical theater encompasses a variety of roles like sound, lighting and costuming, utilizing a crew of approximately 36 people to ensure that the show runs smoothly.

“When people see a show, they don’t realize that there’s so much stuff that goes on behind it,” senior Jacky Lao said. “There’s people who, a month ago, were building the set you see there. And there’s people behind the stage right now, doing things to make sure you guys have a great time.”

Lao, currently an assistant stage manager alongside senior Alejandro Torres and production stage manager senior Bianca Lewis, has participated in many aspects of theater, from on-stage roles to master carpenter backstage. With three other students, he also designed the main sets for “The Ash Girl,” resulting in the first student-designed NHS production in 10 years.

“I really have a philosophy in my teaching that it’s not about me or my vision or my direction,” drama teacher and play director Danyelle Dunavold said. “It’s about the students having ownership of their production.”

In a summer Regional Occupational Program workshop called Tech Theatre Boot Camp, students learned how to use VectorWorks, a type of architectural design software, and applied it to set design for the show. Head designers included Lao, junior Jessica Keasberry-Vnuk, sophomore Madison Chimielewski and sophomore Joshua Lee. A total of four main sets were planned, and construction began in late September after technical crew interviews.

“We all agreed we wanted it to be minimalist,” Keasberry-Vnuk said. “So that was hard, since it’s supposed to be intricate.”

Keasberry-Vnuk designed the palace of Prince Amir and Princess Zehra, exiled son and mother who escape their war-torn land to start anew in the grays of Europe.

“The Ash Girl” is a darker retelling of the Grimm’s Cinderella story, following the path of titular character Ashgirl, a neglected girl living under dominion of her stepmother and two stepsisters as she battles her inner demons to find her self-confidence and her happily ever after.

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