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Volunteers 'make the magic happen' at Kingsport Theatre Guild

Katherine Scoggins • May 3, 2013 at 2:22 PM

It is almost impossible to watch a theatrical performance without volunteers helping to create the "magic." You might never see them, but if there is a lighted stage, a briefcase in hand or a clean area on which to sit or stand, there is a volunteer around somewhere.

The actors (who are also volunteers) get the most attention, while hardly anyone notices the sound tech - until the speakers go out - or the lighting tech - until the stage is plunged into darkness.

The "magic" that is all too often credited to the actors or director is usually the result of a lot of behind-the-scenes work from many individuals.

Who are these hard-working, selfless individuals who sacrifice free time and (often) sleep?

"Parents of cast members, friends of cast members, cast members themselves, plus individuals that enjoy being a part of the action," says RaChelle Cheeks, Executive Director of Kingsport Theatre Guild. "In the last production, "Pinkalicious," I used about 23 volunteers to make costumes, gather props, sell tickets, usher, work lights and sound, stage manage, or help with strike (breaking down the set after the final performance)."

Volunteers also help keep nonprofits running day-to-day.

"I have several wonderful volunteers who work a couple of days in the office, and some who help clean out and organize the costume closets. It’s work that has to be done, but with limited funds, we can’t afford to pay. The Renaissance Center’s maintenance staff is always a huge help and the media are so good to publicize the shows and classes we have."

While a show is in rehearsal, there is a lot of activity going on back stage with costume fittings, searching for (or making) props, building and dressing (decorating) pieces of the set.

The week before the show’s opening is "tech week" when the set is put in place on the stage (usually the first day or two) and platforms or large pieces of furniture moved into place and "spiked" with tape so that everyone will know exactly where each piece is to be positioned for every performance.

In the dressing rooms, costumes are labeled and hung for each actor; prop tables are laid out with the name of each prop written out with the prop beside it. There are small pieces of reflective tape that mark specific points on the stage, and on the edges of the stage, stairs and any platforms, to prevent falls. During Tech Week, the lights are hung, adjusted and focused on the taped areas of the stage. Often Tech rehearsals last into the late-night hours in order to get everything exactly right.

The Stage Manager is responsible for the entrances of all actors, set changes, lighting and sound cues (which are communicated through headset to the light and sound booth), calling actors to the stage, and gathering the cast for curtain calls at the end of the performance. It is an extremely demanding job, especially for large shows, and requires the discipline of a drill sergeant and often split-second timing.

So the next time you attend a performance, take a minute to read the program and note how many volunteers are involved. From the ticket sellers and ushers, to the actors and stage managers, a lot of work rests on these "invisible" shoulders!

If you would like to become involved with KTG, volunteers are always needed and much appreciated.

For more information, check out the KTG website at www.kingsporttheatre.org, or email kingsporttheatreguild@gmail.com or call 423-392-8427.

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