Behind Backlight

Bomb-itty crew members

Bomb-itty crew members

What do Alex Nelson, Emma Brutman (both class of 2014), and now Erik Hoornstra (12) all have in common? These are three Vernon Hills High School students who have designed a set for a school production. Erik Hoornstra designed this year’s set for the winter play The Bomb-itty of Errors.
Designing a set for any production is not an easy task. From December to the week of the show, Hoornstra spent anywhere from 120 to 140 hours constructing this set in particular. His inspiration came from Chicago architecture. For example, “the steel work from under the L Track created the arch.” In addition to a Chicago vibe, Hoornstra stated that “the entirety of its form was vaguely based on urban atmospheres and Elizabethan architecture,” an urban twist on a Shakespearean environment.
“I decided I had to get out of the boring rut of parallel and rectangular.” Erik said, “From there, I took my favorite ideas and messed around with them.” This set began as a couple simple buildings and an alley but then grew into so much more. All in all, Hoornstra describes the set idea as a “trashy, metallic piecewise actor playground.” The one piece Hoornstra is the most pleased with is Othello’s Pleasure Palace; which consists of a garage door with a four leaf clover painted over door, and a large mural which shapes one of the offstage walls. This piece had a lot of work put in to it. Hoornstra says, “I’d highlight the ‘steel’ arch. It’s over 14’ tall from the ground up. The parts were interesting to build, but the assembly onto the stage took many consecutive miracles. It’s something that the whole crew can be proud we made happen.”
Since the end of his freshman year, Hoornstra has been a part of backlight crew.Through his years of crew he has been a master carpenter, assistant technical director, and most recently the set director for The Bomb-itty of Errors. His first show was the spring play, And Then They Came for Me (2012).
Hoornstra typically has the title of Master Carpenter except for this year’s show where he has the title of set designer. “If incoming members need to learn how to use equipment or a particular technique, I show them. Along with that, I receive the more complex/ambiguous projects.” Hoornstra states that this

“all feeds off of my experience, not seniority. If I were a sophomore and built as well as I do, it’d make no difference.””

— Erik Hoornstra

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Bomb-itty set

Hoornstra has made a lot of memories while being a part of crew. Although he can’t pinpoint an exact favorite memory, he says he remembers when the upperclassmen would do “absurdly stupid things.”
On an average there are about 20 students spread out working on either lights, set, paint, props, costumes or sound. Beginning work over a month before the show students work day and night to be fully prepared for the upcoming performances; “Every day after school when rehearsals are going on. Usually until about 6” is how long Emily Moisant (9), an active member of crew, works with the show. Hoornstra spoke highly of Kayley Woolums (11) who has been master carpenter as well: she “backs that title up.”
Emily Moisant was the assistant stage manager for the winter play, but she has also worked on stage crew. She joined crew at the beginning of this year for the freshman sophomore play and so far really enjoys it. Her job mostly entails completing tasks given to her by either Ms.Freichels, the director, or Jenna Repkin (10), the stage manager. Moisant says “It’s a lot of fun, and I get to work with a lot of my friends, and when the set is all finished, it looks amazing.” Through being a part of crew, Moisant has made new “friends and a wonderful experience with theatre which I love.”
Paint adds a lot to set pieces and ties the set together. Freshman Maddie Fernandez works alongside both the set designer and Mr. Phelan to design the colors, mix the paints, and choose paints for the set pieces. Fernandez says she “spends a fair amount especially towards the nearing of the show.” Through being a part of crew, she plans on improving not only her paint techniques, but her teamwork and building techniques. Fernandez joined crew at the beginning of this year and worked on the freshman sophomore play: “Once you are in there’s no going back!”
Crew is a place where one can meet new people and learn to work efficiently with others. For example, Melanie Rodgers (12) has only been a part of crew since the winter play of her junior year, but she feels like a member of the crew family. “It has just been a really cool experience for me to meet a whole bunch of new people and work with them on such a massive project,” said Melanie. It all started because Melanie needed a winter activity: “I decided to do crew when my winter season freed up. It was something I had always wanted to do, and it turned out even more fun than I expected!”
Being a part of crew means being apart of a crazy, hectic, yet loveable family. Backlight theater crew will not just provide one with a handful of skills but provide one with a great time and a new family.