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Wiregrass Ranch theater techies star behind the scenes

Out of sight, out of mind. That is the way for techies. Rarely is the applause directed at them. That's okay. Their place is in the shadows, laboring behind the scenes where they know full well, the show couldn't go on without them.

"We joke about it in the theater," said Wiregrass Ranch High drama teacher, Margaret Peacock. "We call it "going to the dark side." It's for the kids who love the theater, love being creative, but maybe they don't want to be on stage."

Indeed, while star thespians rehearse for Bye Bye Birdie in the commons area, about a dozen techies have been logging hours in Peacock's classroom, creating a world of 1950s style backdrops and various props for the upcoming opening. On Monday the techies will load the show into the Center for the Arts at Wesley Chapel and embark on a full day of practice honing each set change — about 18 in all — before the actors will be allowed on stage for their rehearsals.

Their performance happens when no one's watching, but each change has to be perfectly choreographed and rehearsed, Peacock said. "The idea is to keep the flow of the show going with kids who know exactly where to be and what piece goes where and when. It's more difficult for them (than the actors) because it's all done in the dark."

Come show time the "drama ninjas," as they call themselves, will be dressed all in black. Their direction is to be quick and quiet when the curtain drops and get to turning a school girl's bedroom into a bustling train station in a couple of minute's time.

Art student Abby Cole, 17, thrives on working behind the scenes where the sound of a working drill heralds the fruition of an idea she came up with months ago. Cole is the set designer for Bye Bye Birdie, a production based loosely on the hullabaloo created when real-life heart throb Elvis Presley joined the service in the late 1950s. She landed the role last year after stopping by Peacock's classroom with an offer to help with Guys and Dolls and ended up designing the show right down to painting the gritty cityscape scenes.

"It turned into a long, arduous journey," Cole said, adding that there's a lot of research that goes into building a show. "I read the script multiple times to see what I could do to with the sets and I try to design a set that can be flexible to the needs of the actors and the directors and will be appealing to the audience — and fit on the stage."

And travel well.

Rehearsals are at Wiregrass, but the show takes place at the Center for the Arts at Wesley Chapel. That means sets must be broken down, packed into truck, moved across town and set up easily on stage.

"The set up is a challenge," Cole said. "We're in the second year of doing this so we're in the process of learning from our mistakes."

And she has some good help.

There's technical director and English teacher Michele Crimella and students such as Camille Caesar, 18, a senior "tech-tress" with a practical sense who also plays the mayor's daughter in Birdie.

"I'm the one who makes sure Abby does it the easy way," Caesar said.

A big contributor is Mark Glassman, a retired shop teacher from Centereach High School in Long Island who happily spends his free time building sets with his wife, Renee, and his grandson, Wiregrass High sophomore and techie Jacob Glassman, 16.

The trappings of Birdie are not a big deal for a man who once created paper mache mountains for a school production of The Sound of Music, a working merry-go-round for Carousel and a two-story stage house for The Miracle Worker.

"What can I say," Glassman said. "We love the theater. We love doing this."

"This is a place for all kinds of people," Cole said. "There are people here who just want to do something after school. People who are actors and musicians. People who auditioned and didn't get a part but still want to be involved."

And who knows where that involvement might lead.

For Cole, it's been a transformation from quiet artist to outgoing leader. Her next step after graduation is furthering her studies at Bob Jones University where she plans to major in art and eventually pursue a career doing what she's already doing — working behind the scenes.

"I'd love to go into film or theater production," Cole said. "This is what really got me interested. This is where I want to be."

. If you go

Bye Bye Birdie

Wiregrass Ranch High's presents the musical, Bye Bye Birdie at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Center for the Arts at Wesley Chapel, 30651 Wells Road, Wesley Chapel. Tickets are $10 for adults; $8 for students and $5 for children 10 and younger. Purchase at the door or in advance online at

Wiregrass Ranch theater techies star behind the scenes 04/06/13 [Last modified: Saturday, April 6, 2013 1:58pm]
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