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Behind the scenes, not in the limelight

After more than a decade of basking in the limelight, Central High School student Jacy Thibert traded in makeup sessions, costume fittings and the sound of applause for the much less glamorous spotlight control booth.

Jacy Thilbert
Jacy Thibert, a twelve year veteran with SPA and an actor in past years, this year is a lighting technician with the spotlight crew on the production of "Guys and Dolls". Herald photo by John Stennes.

After more than a decade of basking in the limelight, Central High School student Jacy Thibert traded in makeup sessions, costume fittings and the sound of applause for the much less glamorous spotlight control booth.

The difference between acting in theater productions and spending show nights manning a heavy spotlight is "like black and white," she said. But she's always been intrigued by theater and wanted a change of pace in her 12th and final year of being in the Summer Performing Arts program.

"Behind the stage, you're just trying to accent what's going on onstage," Thibert said. "You get less facial time, you get less of the accolades and stuff, but it's still so rewarding because you get to be up here and see the whole panorama and how everything comes together."

She'll start her senior year of high school in the fall, and she had spent some time learning the ropes of sound and lighting operation in the past. But she made the plunge earlier this summer and decided to be one of five students in the spotlight booth fulltime.

"Putting on a show to entertain people, I just think it's incredible," Thibert said. "I'd really like to learn all of the aspects of anything I can about the theater."


While the actors take a bow at the end of the night to a round of applause, it takes about 20 students in the tech crew to make sure everything from hair and makeup to lights, sound and video all go off without a hitch.

The tech crew

As the final preparations were being made for Wednesday's "Guys and Dolls" production at Red River High School, three juniors were making sure they were ready for their behind-the-scenes contributions to the theater.

Solveig Bloomquist has been a light technician for the past three years, programming a myriad of lights to shine different intensities and colors on the stage at just the right moment.

That requires programming each light fixture into a channel, then a dimmer and then a control board -- more than a month of work to get ready for the production of "Guys and Dolls," which ends tonight at Red River.

"It's really self-explanatory if you look at it," she said.

Bloomquist was a quick learner and was put in charge of operating about $100,000 of lights for the summer.

Vanessa Simms, a Red River student who will soon start her junior year, said she never considered herself to be a tech-savvy person.


"I didn't even think about it until I reached high school until they showed us the stuff, and I thought it was more interesting," she said.

But after a couple of shows, Simms got the knack of it and was soon put in charge of the five-person spotlight room.

She said she liked acting and singing, but enjoys the technical side of theater even more -- even if it's a job that won't earn a standing ovation from a packed theater.

"I think the biggest thing that they don't realize is how much work we put into it and how much time we have to take to do some of the things we do," she said. "I don't think we get enough recognition."

Chris Decker, also a junior at Red River, operates 20 wireless microphones during productions. It's a lot of responsibility for a junior high school student -- each mic costs about $1,500.

But it's something that comes pretty easily to him, he said. Decker acted in elementary and middle school SPA, but said he enjoys his new gig even more.

"I don't like being in front of big crowds," he said. "I'm more of a technology guy."

Being a sound technician could come in handy after high school because he's considering a job in the technology field.


SPA technical director Josh Anderson said the program's staff spends much of the year purchasing new equipment, choosing productions and preparing for the theater season.

But the kids take over in the summer, with the staff acting more like assistants than managers as kids design elaborate sets and right thousands of dollars of equipment.

"Some other facilities don't let students run those things, and that just amazes me because I think it's just a great opportunity for kids," he said. "It just brings me joy to be able to pass it on and let other kids do it."

Johnson reports on local K-12 education. Reach him at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send e-mail to rjohnson@gfherald.com .

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