Oberlin Blogs

Coming Home, Summer Theater Adventures, and Org Charts

August 8, 2015

Tom Cline ’18

Part I: The Going Home Part

When I knew for sure I would be heading home this summer, I leapt into organizing my summer with the gusto of a college student immersed in studying for finals (a time consisting mainly of Buzzfeed quizzes and complaining about how I hadn't started studying for finals). I booked my flight home last minute and packed by throwing as much as I could fit in my bags, hoping I had enough clothing left at home to make it through the summer.

In the midst of finals prep, I looked forward to relaxing when I got home, but as my departure date approached, the thought of lounging around all day during the summer was both mentally unbearable and financially impossible, and so I started my summer job hunt. Luckily, I was able to secure a job with the theater company I had worked for since 8th grade, working as the technical director for their summer shows.

Part II: The Job

For those of you unfamiliar with the theater hierarchy chart, the traditional theater hierarchy looks like this:

An organization chart showing roles in the areas of performance, design, and tech.

(via Broadwayeducators.com)

Children's Theater Hierarchy
Translating that to children's theater required color coding the chart, with each color representing one person and the jobs they did for the show. For the record, I'm teal.

A similar chart, but with fewer roles. The roles in teal are sound designer, projections, technical director, master electrician, sound board operator, and microphones.

Disclaimer: The chart above is just an approximation of who actually did what, and there were many wonderful people who did things that aren't included on this chart, and many wonderful people who did more than can be represented by the box or two they get on this chart. Also, this was children's theater, so an organizational chart with strictly defined duties doesn't represent the "do whatever you can to make sure this show actually opens, job title be darned" attitude that is required.

One day at rehearsal, a cast member's parent came up to me, and she eventually asked me if I was there because I "loved working with children." With what I thought would be refreshing honesty, I replied, "No." After a brief but loaded pause, she turned back to me and asked, "So why are you here?", which I'm sure she meant to sound less hostile than it did. I tried to explain that there is something uniquely appealing about theater and the hard work that goes into it, but she quickly walked away as I continued talking.

What that parent didn't hear was that the real draw was getting to work with the director who introduced me to theater, and watching as a new generation of actors, dancers, technicians, and stage managers came to the company that had given me so much. While seeing so many fresh faces made me feel old, it also served of a reminder of my own youthful jubilance the first time I worked backstage and got to wear a headset.

This summer I alternated between trying to explain to friends and loved ones why theater was so important and worth the 10-14 hour days, and being convinced that it was the most futile of all pursuits. My mom will attest that the first attitude prevailed when things were going well, and the second came out in full force when one of our principals sprained his ankle two days before opening and was unable to perform.

Even with the injuries, shrieking children, and caffeine withdrawals, the shows happened successfully. The parents were happy they got to watch their kids perform, the kids enjoyed being in a musical, and I got $75 in Starbucks gift cards from the cast members, so everyone won.

On the closing night of the teenagers' show, the director and I cried during the closing number, both impressed by the hard work of the older cast, but mostly just exhausted from late nights of passive-aggressively trying to force audience members to leave the theater so we could lock up and go home.

As strike (restoring the theater to its initial condition and packing everything up) came to a close, I said good bye to the theater, to the cast, to the crew, and finally to the director. I had been working with this director for six years, and we both knew that this was going to be my last show with her. Through smiles and teary eyes we parted ways, and as I headed home that night, and as I head to Oberlin in a few weeks, I am happy that I got to come back for one last hurrah in the theater company that I started in.

Part III: The Oberlin Part

While I love that theater company, I've been lucky to find a passionate and lovely theater community at Oberlin, and have learned so much in the year I've been here. I highly recommend that anyone who is interested in theater get involved in some way at Oberlin. Between OMTA and OSTA (two student theater organizations), department Lab Series shows (which are student-directed and largely student-run), and department Main Stage shows (which are faculty-directed), there are plenty of ways to get involved at various levels of commitment.

The theater department website is here, and if you're interested I definitely encourage you to check it out, and if you have any questions please feel free to email me/comment below.

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