Oberlin Blogs

Trying Theater Things

February 13, 2022

Claire O’Brocta ’23

When I was in high school, I was someone who could loosely be described as a theater kid. I was an actor in the school musicals, and I intended to take drama classes, but they stopped being offered as soon as I had the availability to take them. As much as I enjoyed my theatrical experiences, I knew when I started college that there would be people who were way more into theater than me, and I figured that I’d leave the acting to them. Besides, my double-degree schedule didn’t leave much time for it, and I enjoy being in the audience just as much as I like it on stage! However, theater involvement extends so much further than acting, and this past year, I’ve had some great opportunities to be a part of theater crews.

The first crew role I had in college was in Summer 2021, as the light board operator for A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. This was a student-run musical presented by the Oberlin Musical Theater Association (OMTA). My partner was playing percussion in the show, so I found out about the crew opening through them. Because I wasn’t enrolled in classes over the summer, I had the time for it. Plus, the show was in need of people, and my partner was going to be there anyway, so I figured why not do it? And I’m so glad that I did! As the light board operator, I had to go to a tech rehearsal to learn what to do, and then I just had to do it at the three shows. It was an extremely chill role; I basically just had to press the same button whenever there was a light cue in the script, which was about 100 times. When there wasn’t a cue, I could just watch the show! Gentleman’s Guide was a funny musical with catchy songs, so I was more than happy to see it four nights in a row.

The next crew opportunity I had was almost incomparably bigger. Rather than four simple nights of pressing buttons, I spent an entire semester on this one. In Fall 2021 (with an extension into the first two weeks of 2022), I was the sound designer for Hamlet, which was being put on as a student directing capstone. I had done some sound design work before as a TIMARA major, so this was the perfect opportunity to combine my skills from my major with my interest in theater! The twist to this production of Hamlet was that it was Christmas themed, so I spent my semester editing classic Christmas music, much of which I distorted to fit the creepy mood of the play. In addition to the music, I also made ghostly drones and soundscapes, and a whole slew of miscellaneous sound effects. I had to program them all into a cue list for tech rehearsals, which my role in Gentleman’s Guide prepared me well for. It was the same sort of button pressing I was used to, except with sounds instead of lights. By the time of the actual shows, the button pressing got passed onto someone else, so I was able to sit in the audience like normal when I went to see it. Hamlet was an amazing production, and it was so cool getting to hear all of my sounds make it come to life!

As of now, I’m not sure if I’ll be a part of any more theater crews before I graduate. Even so, I had so much fun being a part of these shows in such vastly different ways, and it was nice getting to do something other than acting for the first (and second) time. I encourage anyone like me, who was only kind of a theater kid, to get involved with theater in college anyway. Whether you’re a big part of a production or small, it can be a great experience.

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