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Turning a setback into a stage tech career

A senior on staff explores how he found his passion for technical theater at VHHS

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Turning a setback into a stage tech career

Eli (second from the left) acts in the 2015 freshman and sophmore play “30 Reasons Not To Be in a Play” with castmates Samantha Kolber, Darby Barnett, and Mr. Killinger.

Eli (second from the left) acts in the 2015 freshman and sophmore play “30 Reasons Not To Be in a Play” with castmates Samantha Kolber, Darby Barnett, and Mr. Killinger.

Kevin Phelan

Eli (second from the left) acts in the 2015 freshman and sophmore play “30 Reasons Not To Be in a Play” with castmates Samantha Kolber, Darby Barnett, and Mr. Killinger.

Kevin Phelan

Kevin Phelan

Eli (second from the left) acts in the 2015 freshman and sophmore play “30 Reasons Not To Be in a Play” with castmates Samantha Kolber, Darby Barnett, and Mr. Killinger.

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Eli (second from the left) acts in the 2015 freshman and sophmore play “30 Reasons Not To Be in a Play” with castmates Samantha Kolber, Darby Barnett, and Mr. Killinger.

Kevin Phelan
Eli (second from the left) acts in the 2015 freshman and sophomore play “30 Reasons Not To Be in a Play” with castmates Samantha Kolber, Darby Barnett, and Mr. Killinger.

This semester, I’m taking a psychology class, and one of our units is about development theories. We learned that in each stage of development, there is a common thread: conflict. Most VHHS students are in the stage of identity vs. role confusion. In this stage, we are figuring out who we are and/or who we want to become. This theory holds true for me; the person I was freshmen year is extremely different than the person I am today.

I came into freshman year and auditioned for the musical. I stood in front of the stage nervously as I was getting ready to sing a song that I sang many times for other play auditions, but this time it was different. This time, the faces in the audience were unrecognizable.

The audition ended, and I was finally able to take a breath again. I tried to go home as fast as I could and went on the Backlight Theater page. Nothing yet. I hit refresh. Refresh. Refresh… a list of names appeared and mine was not one of them.

I was crushed; I saw many of my theater friends make callbacks, and I couldn’t even do that. I got angry at the Theater Department, thinking that they didn’t know how to cast their shows. I later found out this was wrong, and I was just being defensive and immature.

After I finished sobbing in my dad’s office and thinking that my life was over, I got myself up and decided to find a way to still be involved in the musical, but from the other side: backstage. I signed up for set crew, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. If I had not done this, my life would be totally different than it is today.

Sophomore year rolled around, and I still was not making any of the plays I auditioned for. Before the auditions of the last show that year, I decided that I liked this backstage thing, and I wanted to continue with it. Even though all of these rejections were heartbreaking at first, it led me to my passion.

As I started my junior year, I received an email asking me if I wanted to be a stage manager for the musical. It shocked me that they thought of me to take on this huge responsibility.

I instantly replied with a “yes,” and fell in love with it. I loved the pressure and problem-solving that I faced during stage managing. It was different than just working on the tech crew; it was taking a leadership role and making sure everything runs properly backstage during both rehearsals and the final show. It was a whole new level of responsibility and skill that I was excited to take on.

Now that I’m a senior, I realize that not getting into that very first show was necessary to my development as a “theater kid.” It helped me realize two things: I am a horrible actor, and everything happens for a reason.

In high school, I had many setbacks, and most of them gave me a new opportunity to grow in some way. Over the four years, my interest in theater tech grew into a genuine passion, and something that I know I want to do for the rest of my life. None of this could have been accomplished without the support of the staff of VHHS, especially Phelan, Freichels, and M. Kills.

Next fall, as a freshman in college, I will be majoring in Stage Managing. My experience in theater at VHHS taught me to take all of the opportunities you’re given; it might not be what you expected when you started, but may just be what you want to do for the rest of your life.

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