A spectacular set for the upcoming Belfry Production of Newsies can be seen from every seat in the Arts Center. What is most surprising about the set is that all of it was designed and produced by GA students. While overseen by Technical Theatre teacher Paul Moffitt, it was his students from technical theatre classes and those who joined the show’s stage crew that created it from the initial design to the painted sets to the very last welded corner.
Planning for the Newsies set began right after the show was chosen in the fall. Candice Medina ‘22 and Bethany Matje ‘22 designed the show’s set with assistance from Coco DeBartlo ‘23. At frequent production meetings, designers, crew, and production talked about the overall vision of the show which has an industrial theme. The gears in the set represent an exploded printing press and the entire look harkens back to the Industrial Revolution. “Seth Roth ‘22 did all of the technical construction draftings and made Candice and Bethany’s ideas into a reality. The entire Advanced Technical Theatre and Foundations of Technical theatre classes then used those draftings to build and weld the set together,” said Moffitt.
The set for Newsies is unique because it uses a lot more steel than usual and requires more welding. Students have proven their love for learning how to weld but it is just one of many skills that they gain through Technical Theatre courses. While the end product is a set for a show, students get to try their hand in all different aspects of building that set.
“At GA I have become heavily involved in building the show and have done a lot of the welding and metal work,” said Asher Sasson ’23. “I also helped with the carpentry side. I am learning how to do sound design as well and will be working the sound board. What makes this especially exciting is that Mr. Moffitt guides us but also gives us the reigns and lets us make decisions about different aspects of the show.”
The talents of students from all different areas in the Arts Center will be integral parts to the show. In addition to the metal and wood, giant set pieces are being painted by David Love’s painting and drawing class. “Throughout the musical there are mentions of the Jake Kelly character who is played by Will Cooper, who is not only an actor but also an artist,” said Moffitt. “Throughout the musical there are mentions of Kelly’s artwork and painting, so it seemed natural to reach out to David Love’s art classes. Now their artwork gets to be in the show!”
For those in stage crew, it has been a fantastic experience. “Newsies has given all technical theatre students so many outlets to figure out what they're passionate about in stage crew,” said Medina. “It's been a lot of work from day one, but it's been fun work, and I'm very excited to see everything come together for the final performances. This show is the largest production at GA so far!”
Technical Theatre classes are rewarding to both the creative students and their teacher. The production of Newsies is no exception, which is giving its stage crew a great opportunity to design, create, and literally build their own path. “This project is especially rewarding because almost every aspect of the show’s production [set, lighting, sound, and more] has been created or implemented by GA students,” explained Moffitt. “It is always my goal to empower students with the knowledge and skills necessary to make the show their own. The life lessons and skills they learn making a musical happen will stay with them the rest of their lives.”
Students who are interested in theatre but don’t particularly like performing are encouraged to give stage crew a try. Says Medina, “I started doing Technical Theatre as a sophomore, and I've fallen in love with it more every single year!”