The Technical Crew provides support for all theatre programs at Lake
Forest High School and is open to all students. No experience is
necessary. Students participating in other activities can also join the
crew. Lake Forest High School is proud that all set, lighting, sound and
prop designs are by students, led by the staff Technical Advisors, Ms. Ashmore and Mr. Balonick.
Tech Crew generally meets on Saturdays from 9:30 until 12:00 and again
from 1:00 until 4:00, usually beginning the Saturday following auditions
for a particular show. Exceptions are noted in the schedule
Prior to 1959, LFHS presented two plays a year in what is now the Library, but was the Student Cafeteria and originally the Gym. The control was very advanced for its time, using motorized dimmers from a control panel off stage right. Each homeroom (called a “Session”) got together a skit for a special “Session Stunts” show performed in the evening and almost every student was in the production or helping behind the scenes.
The Raymond Moore Auditorium was opened in 1959. There had not been any “Session Stunts” for a few years and there wasn’t any Tech Crew. Sets were built by the shop class and painted by the Art teacher. Lighting was accomplished by some student volunteers with help from Mr. Glen Naselius, on the faculty of the Goodman Theatre. Mr. Herb Gladding directed all the shows, with technical help from Latin teacher Miss Helen Cory. Most of the sets were flats, purchased from a specialty supplier.
But there was a movie club (ComCinArt) which presented a series of films in the new auditorium with the new (and dusty and hot) carbon arc projector. Most members of the club were Audio Visual Aides, and helped sponsor Mr. Joe Lawlor in the Language Lab and ran films for teachers. Since there was only one arc projector and the films took at least two, often three reels, the group running the club wrote and performed skits during the reel changes, becoming more elaborate each time.
One of these, a satire on rock and roll at the time, was chosen as the finale act of the brand new APT fundraiser, the “Talent Show.” The late Tim Weigel’s (Channel 2 Sports) parents were the first directors, and they got some friends in professional entertainment to be the MC’s of the shows. Acts tried out, much as they do today, and were put together for the performances. The ComCinArt group became the Tech Crew, lending their expertise and experience to the production.
In the early years, LFHS presented operettas in the gym. In 1962, LFHS tried its first book musical: The Boyfriend. English teacher Mr. Russ Hogan directed. Mr. Lester St. John was the chaperone backstage while Physics teacher Mr. Bill Conway supervised the lighting. Mr. Denny Herrmann and the Woods classes helped with the sets. There were about 20 lights and students were on their own to devise sound, set and to create lighting cues. Audio was controlled from a console backstage, and the lighting cues were done by a crew of 9 people using a manual dimming system on the balcony stage right. If there was an error, we had to determine if the cue was wrong or if one or more of the nine people didn’t get it right. Most Lighting Designers at the time wrote cues at home, since having the large group present while setting cues was not possible. And those cues were called by a person sitting on top of the dimmers on the balcony.
By 1966-67, the tradition of a play, a musical and the Talent Show had been firmly established. The position of faculty Technical Director was created and the Tech Crew became a formal organization within the school. Since that time, students have generally designed the sets, props, sound and lighting, and have been responsible for assigning crew positions and managing the group. Each year, more was added to the lighting and sound equipment inventories, and students contributed ideas and enthusiasm.
Mr. Jay Criche directed almost all the productions from 1965 until he became English Department Chair. Mr. Jim Usher followed for one year, with Ms. Jan O’Connor following him, until Mr. Criche returned to direct until he retired. The Technical Director/Advisor from 1966 until 2009 was been Mr. David Miller. Mr. Ben Davidson has assumed the role of Theatre Manager and Crew Advisor. Ms. Stephanie Ashmore has assisted in the Technical areas as well. Ms. O’Connor began the Student Directed One Acts, and other productions have been added over the years. Some shows from both theatres were selected for presentation at Theatre Fest. Ms. Karen Kopriva followed Mr. Criche, with Mr. Tim Haskett, Mr. Joe Pulio, Ms. Barbara Papp, Ms. Kelly MacBlane and Mr. Miller directing as well. Ms. Ariel Siewirth became the first Faculty Liason for the APT Talent Show, as that production became more elaborate. Mr. Brad Balonick serves in that capacity currently. At times, there have been added to the calendar Senior productions, a Junior Project, and Student Directed One Act Plays
In 1971, LFHS opened its West Campus to Frosh and Sophomores. The upstairs lecture room and then the first floor “band room” were pressed into service for dramatic productions, and the Studio Theatre concept was born. Ms. Louise Chapman was the Director and Ms. Barbara Papp was the Technical Director. Low ceilings and limited backstage space provided constant design challenges for the crew. At the same time, PALS, the parent theatre support group, was founded to keep the drama program intact in the face of inflation and belt tightening. PALS has since provided much new equipment for all the theatres as well as scholarships and other funding.
When LFHS moved all students back together in the early 1980’s, thre was a tradition of plays for just Frosh/Soph’s and an expectation of smaller venue productions. So what is now the green room was transformed into a theatre, with a control booth, seating risers and the stage at the West end of the space. Ms. Papp became the Director for the shows there. Lighting was done by using long cables plugged into the RMA lighting and run across the basement hall, up to the RMA through floor pockets, and across the hall to the theatre. The system had to be unplugged each night and restored for the rehearsals and performances. This allowed us to use the new Syntax lighting computer installed in the RMA to replace the aging Hub system of manual dimmers.
In the major renovation of 1990, the Studio Theatre was created, based on concepts formed by Mr. Miller, Ms. Papp and the drama and music directors, based on the experiences of the previous incarnations of the smaller venue.
In 1995, the Raymond Moore Auditorium got a new lighting system as well as new rigging and sound. Much of the older equipment was transferred to the Studio Theatre.
The RMA underwent extensive renovation from December 2000 until September 2001. A large committee of teachers, students, Board members and community members assisted throughout the design and build phases.During this time, the musical for 99-00 (Into the Woods) was built at LFHS and moved and performed at Lake Bluff Central Elementary School. This massive undertaking was a culmination of years of experience in doing technical theatre and was most impressive. Since the space was not ready the next year, Carousel was built and performed at Gorton Community Center, as was that year's Talent Show.
The RMA reopened on September 8, 2001 with a Gala evening. In November of 2002, the RMA was given a Design of Award by the Association of Licensed Architects. The renovation added a balcony, expanded control booths and a large stage lift, in addition to new storage space under the seats, which were actually rebuilt from the original seating. At the end of the 2001-2002 school year, the Studio Theatre was renamed the David Miller Theatre in honor of the long-time Technical Advisor.
Each year, the Tech Crew has provided its services for a variety of productions. For several years, the Tech Crew “float” headed the Homecoming parade with lighting and a very loud sound system! We have done screwball comedies to serious, moving dramas; we built multi-set marvels, as well as interesting unit sets. We use fog and pyrotechniques. We have created our own unique props, from the plants in Little Shop of Horrors to the cows in Into the Woods. In 2010, we rebuilt the Talent Show upstage platform and made a large, motorized turntable for Les Miserables. We have expanded the equipment and can provide experiences with most modern technical effects and practices. Active members of the Tech Crew learn a great deal about Technical Theatre and about working in groups for a common goal.
By David Miller
Revised 8 February 2010