Theater is more than the actors

Lighting. Costume changes. Set design. 

These are all things that happen throughout a theater show, and no one knows who does them, but they should. 

Faith Hagen is a stage manager who’s worked on productions such as “Rent,” which just wrapped up Sunday, and was an assistant stage manager for “Something Rotten,” which was staged last spring. Her main job is to be the liaison between the production team, the actors and the director. 

Hagen said stage managers often get overlooked, and people don’t realize how much goes into a show. 

“A lot of times, people think of lighting, sounds, and costumes, but they don’t really think about how all that gets put together. Every single change that you see, I have to call off every single one of them to make sure that they happen,” said Hagen.

Hagen’s job even includes handling some unusual situations, such as the time an actor came down with a kidney stone.

“So it was my job to call around, see who had been put in, put in rehearsal, figure everything else out and ended up running very smoothly,” said Hagen. 

Parker Adams, the stage manager for “The Importance of Being Earnest,” said being a stage manager is like a full-time job. They have to balance school and life on top of the theater production. 

“We go to classes just like everyone else from nine to five, and then we have a whole other thing from six to ten every night,” said Adams. “It is definitely hard to find that balance, but I’m really lucky because theater is just what I love to do, and I wouldn’t imagine not doing it any other way.”

Another thing people may not know about is how the sets get made. 

George Grubb is the co-department chair of Performing Arts and the technical director and sound designer for the theater program. He has worked on over 250 shows at MSU. One of those shows, “Metamorphoses,” included a huge water tank in the Andreas Theatre. 

“I built a 30-foot by 15-foot by three-foot deep swimming pool. And then, it had an underwater tunnel to another swimming pool so that people could go underwater in the main pool and then just disappear and never come back out again,” said Grubb. “It was incredibly complex to build, and we also had to make the building strong enough to hold that much weight because water weighs a lot. It was a crazy process.” 

Grubb said one thing people may not realize about building sets is the engineering and physics involved. He said they are the “blue-collar workers of the arts.” He also said a lot of hours go into building sets. 

“On average, set is about four weeks of 26 hours a week of the shop being open. That’s about 100 hours of people being there. If you did labor hours, it’s something like four or 500 labor hours per show,” said Grubb. “The number of people kind of fluctuates, but it’s usually in the neighborhood of four or six people working during those times.  

Grubb said he enjoys working on sets because it is a constantly changing field and is what keeps it working for him. 

“Now I know I have to know how to control that kind of thing with a computer; there’s a new technique for that, or suddenly everybody’s using computer-controlled routers to cut out complex scenery,” said Grubb. “So if you have ADHD like I do, that’s great. You know, I can always focus on a new thing.” 

People can reach out to Matthew Caron at matthew.caron.2@mnsu.edu to learn more about being a stage manager. Students can sign up for a stagecraft class under the Theatre Arts tab on e-services or contact Grubb at george.grubb@mnsu.edu if they want to work on set design. 

Write to Lauren Viska at lauren.viska@mnsu.edu

Header Photo: The stage production team works long and hard to put on theater productions for Minnesota State and its students. Everything from structures to props, lighting, sounds, costumes and more are elements the team puts together for productions. (Dominic Bothe/The Reporter)

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