LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION
The Little Theatre of Owatonna’s “The 39 Steps” kicked off this past weekend, but what many people in the audience might not know is the fact that for every actor on stage there are at least seven people behind the scenes who make the show possible.
From the lights, to the music, to the sounds, to the costumes, to the set, everyone has two things in common: they have a passion for theater and they volunteer their time.
“It is very special because they are all volunteer. They come on and they have been on four nights a week for the past six weeks just because we need the help and they want to contribute, learn and are into theater,” said Director Linda Karnauskas.
Due to this show’s complex nature, all of behind the scenes crew had to come on board two weeks earlier than they normally would.
“Everybody has had to put in extra hours on this show just to get it to be a really good show. They have had to have rehearsals just like the actors have,” she said. “If you didn’t have them you couldn’t do a real show. It would just be people without props, without sound, without lights, without costumes… it would have no depth.”
For this show, Karnauskas says the most challenging roles include the stage crew because of all the props, the sounds and music because they have to find music that fits the story and do over 50 sound effects, the light design because of all the different scenes on different parts of the stage and the costumes because of all the special alterations that have to be made to allow for quick changes.
“They help bring the story to life. They are as much a part of this show as anything and they are all wonderful,” she said.
Show’s Technical Director
Brenda Hager has been involved with the Little Theatre for five years and always been behind the scenes, while her husband Ron acts on stage.
This is Hager’s first show as technical director. Normally she fills the role of house manager.
“I am in charge of pretty much everything except the actors. It involves making sure your construction guys are doing their jobs, making sure your costume person is here, painting… everything except for the actual directing of the actors,” she said. “Whatever the director tells you to do you just do it.”
Hager came on board for the show in January and she estimates she has put in around 22 hours a week.
“I have been here everyday just doing little things and if I wasn’t here I was working on it at home, writing the program or painting the signs,” she said.
Hager really enjoys what she does because of the people she gets to meet. The most challenging aspect for her is spending time away from her family since she still has kids at home.
“Usually I am the house manager so I get to meet all the patrons that are coming in, but I don’t get to meet the actors so it has been a lot of fun and rewarding,” she said.
Ray Lacina has been involved with the Little Theatre since 1971, with the exception of taking a few years off, and this is his first time trying the construction side of it. Lacina normally plays in the orchestra or directs it.
Lacina’s job has been to build the set and props for the show along with the other construction crew members. For this show in particular, most of the props had to be built a certain way due to the constant moving around the stage.
“I’ve tried to build items that need to be moved on and off the stage that are very solid and sturdy. Normally when you have a door on stage it stays in one spot, but this door travels,” he said.
Lacina said he enjoys “the challenge of being able to put something together” and the people he gets to work with.
“It is fun to see not just what the set crew has done but the full involvement of all the people from costumes, to lighting, to sound. If anyone of those is not to par, the show wouldn’t be successful. It is a team effort,” he said.
Lacina is not sure how much time he has put into it but he has come almost every Saturday for three to four hours to build since November. He says the most challenging part of his role has been coordinating his schedule with the other construction crewmembers.
Mary Butler-Fraser has been involved with the Little Theatre for 25 to 30 years and done pretty much every role behind the scenes and on stage. For this show her job is to track down all of the costumes needed for the show whether that means finding it in their own collection, buying it, renting it, borrowing it or making it herself.
“We are the ones that have to make them look good on stage,” she said.
Butler-Fraser enjoys the hunt of finding the costumes and the transformation of the characters.
“I like being able to take people that I know and make them into the people that they are on stage,” she said.
She estimates that she has put in around 10 to 20 hours a week. What sets this show apart from others she has costumed is the amount of quick changes.
“It is fast paced. There isn’t going to be anyone standing around,” she said. “There are many costume changes and the fact that we are transitioning a man to a woman back to a man.”
The most challenging part of her role has been finding the vintage costumes, especially the dresses for the men to wear.
“It takes place in the 1930s and some of the costumes are hard to find because people in the 30s were a lot smaller than people now-a-days. Their body structure was smaller,” she said.
Butler-Fraser thinks that the majority of the audience doesn’t know how much time goes into a production.
“I don’t think that most people realize how much goes on before this gets brought to the public. There is a lot of work that goes into it,” she said. “It is like a family. Everybody works together and that is why we have such outstanding productions.”
The Gift of Music
This is Kristi Westergaard’s second show with Little Theatre, both of which she has been the piano player.
It is Westergaard’s job to read through the script of the production and come up with music that helps to tell the story.
“It is fun. Linda is letting me throw in a lot of improv stuff and some surprise music in there,” she said. “I’ve been listening to a lot of Alfred Hitchcock music and trying to find ways to sneak it in there.”
She first got the script around Christmas time and after about a month of digging up pieces of music she brought them to Karnauskas so they could alter the pieces if needed.
Westergaard estimates that in the beginning she spent about an hour a day practicing and then at the end cut it down to around 30 minutes, in addition to all the dress rehearsals.
“It is just all around fun and everybody that is involved with it is fun. They are all way more talented than they realize,” she said. “The people behind the scenes are all doing the work of three people. They have everything carefully planned out because there is so much going on and the show goes so fast.”
The most challenging part of her role is paying attention to what she is supposed to be doing instead of watching the actors.
“The hardest part is remembering to play instead of watching the show and laughing, because it is different every time they do it and it is so funny,” she said.