The 13th Annual Nutcracker Spectacular

Written by: Phoebe Wang

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” —Henry Ford

In December, the Westlake Technical Entertainment Crew and Lexus of Austin puts on the annual Nutcracker Spectacular, a show featuring Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker played by the Westlake Symphonic Orchestra and performances by the dancers at the local dance studio, Alisa’s Dance Academy. For those in Westlake TEC, the Nutcracker Spectacular marks the first of the three major productions that take place in the Westlake Community Performing Arts Center every year, followed by the choir’s musical, and Hyline’s Zenith.

As the first major production of the year, the Nutcracker Spectacular is when the line between the new students currently enrolled in Technical Theatre 1 and the more experienced members of Westlake TEC begin to blur. In order to put on the show for around five thousand five hundred people, everyone works together to find sponsors, design visual effects, and ensure a flawless show. This year, the WCPAC Managing Director, David Poole hired a new technical director, Michael Essad. Mr. Essad has put in countless hours to improve the show by rebuilding the Christmas tree, decorating and revitalizing the set, and supervising backstage areas during each performance. With the help of Mr. Essad, PAC staff, and incredible student leadership, Westlake TEC successfully put on five completely sold out shows.

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Despite the pressure and the work associated with the Nutcracker Spectacular, it remains a favorite among many, including Kyle Hoover (Senior), this year’s Nutcracker stage manager. Kyle says the Nutcracker is his favorite production because “it embodies what TEC is...It’s a huge production with lots of scenery, special effects, and lighting elements. Nutcracker shows what TEC is capable of, and it is very special to get to share the show with the Westlake community”. Even freshmen, whose first production is the Nutcracker, enjoy it. Tate Miller, currently in Technical Theatre 1, says, “I signed up for the Nutcracker because it was the closest upcoming major production and I just really wanted to start off my TEC career with the Nutcracker.” He also adds that “the orchestra is really good, and I like how they’re playing the originals”.

In addition to the Nutcracker in the fall semester, TEC also works to broadcast all of Westlake’s varsity football games on television. This was the first year that TEC broadcasted on KXAN’s sister station, KBVO. The Westlake Television Broadcast Crew, colloquially known as the “Video Crew”, is arguably one of the greatest achievements of the organization. Many are first motivated to be in TEC because of this crew and the technology and opportunities associated with it, such as Luke Beasley (Freshman), and the current Westlake TEC president, Sean Wangnick (Senior). Sean was introduced to the program in seventh grade and “couldn’t wait to be a freshman at Westlake, just so I could be a part of TEC...and it was really all about the technology for me”. Overtime, Sean says that he realized “it becomes less and less about the technology you’re working with but more about the people you’re working with”. Luke, like Sean when he was younger, joined TEC because he “knew of how an amazing of an opportunity it is and how the TEC culture is something no other organization can give you, and I love the performance and the technical side of things”. This is a sentiment shared by many others, who all find TEC and Video Crew to be an amazing experience.

An example was when the Westlake football team played in the 2017 UIL Football State Semi-finals at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. For the first time in history, the Video Crew took the opportunity to broadcast the game live. As the Nutcracker Spectacular performances were taking place at the same time, about 1/3 of the crew had to stay back. This split-up of an essential crew creates a stressful situation that forces everyone to become a lot more focused in order to pull off both productions simultaneously. The last time a football broadcast and a Nutcracker show coincided like this was in 2015. At that time, Kyle Hoover had written that despite the obstacles, “both events went off without a hitch, a feat which really shows the community how professional and dedicated the TEC organization is”. This again can be said about the Westlake TEC today, since both Nutcracker shows and the live broadcast went off without a hitch.

Now that the fall semester is over, everyone begins to look forward to the future productions in the spring and strives to continuously achieve success in everything Westlake TEC will do.

Touring ACL Live

Written by: Audrey Bertin

Our broadcast crew is comprised of twenty-three students, each becoming a highly-trained specialist in a particular field of video. Multiple crews hold control over each section of a broadcast, including field cameras, wide angle, high vantage point cameras, audio (including parabolic, referee, and crowd microphones), graphics, instantaneous replays, highlight packages, camera engineering, and technical directing. A few students even direct the entire broadcast. All this is performed without the help of adults. As a group of students interested in television broadcasting, we are always looking to learn as much as we can from other televised events that differ from a football game.

This August, we were given a tour of the ACL Live studios, and it opened our eyes to another world of high quality live video. We were taken onto the main floor, many of us seeing the stage-and the theater itself for the first time and given the opportunity to see all of the production equipment. We were taught about the many different cameras (including the crane cameras and Mezzanine camera), and were able to ask questions about how they are generally operated and which shots are chosen during live productions. Then, we were brought backstage and toured the production, audio, and video engineering rooms. Much of the equipment felt familiar, though the production was on a much larger scale than our own. It was amazing for us to see just how many moving parts there were and how our jobs filming football transferred to the professional world.

A Small Town With a Big Impact

Written by: Andrew Bertin

Lititz, Pennsylvania is a small town with Amish roots, where you can still smell the farm animals as you drive down its narrow roads. At first glance, there's nothing really special about Lititz, but nestled in this unassuming town are two of the most prominent and widely patronized companies within the field of live entertainment, Clair Global and Tait Towers.

Clair Global specializes in all things audio. They tour with different events and shows, providing a high quality audio setup, as well as audio expertise for those events. TEC was able to go behind the scenes at Clair, with special access to their warehouse, production facilities, and repair shop. As you walk into the building, your first thought is that you simply stepped into an office building. As you keep walking, though, you go through the museum they have setup, with such rarities as a mixing console used for an Elvis show in Madison Square Gardens, or one of the very first analog consoles. Next, you enter their combination warehouse/workshop. As soon as you step in, the enormity of their operation hits you. They're constantly assembling new speaker cabinets and repairing old ones, their CNC machines are cutting pieces of wood for new speaker cabinets, and their electronics shop is repairing and testing the computer hardware for digital consoles and speakers. It's a constant buzz of work and energy. A little later, that sound of work being done dies out as you walk through the doors to Clair's storage room, which is filled to the brim with different types of speaker cabinets. Then, as you complete your journey, you go back to the office, and the change in intensity from earlier makes you feel worn out, almost as though you had just taken a three hour tour.

Let's take a step back. Earlier I mentioned that there were two major companies in Lititz: Clair Global, but also Tait Towers. If you've seen the Cirque du Soleil show "O", or Taylor Swift's "1989" concert tour, or "Adele Live 2016" then you've seen some of the handiwork of Tait Towers. Tait is a production and set design company known for impressive set pieces, amazing stage automation, helpful stage creation components, and yes, their seemingly very popular four wheel dolleys. Their warehouse and production facility is broken up into different sections. One for each of the different steps involved in the design and creation process. Tait Towers is a very impressive company that has created, and will create, many amazing sets and set pieces. We were extremely fortunate to have been given a chance to tour their facilities.

And that's Lititz, a small town with a big impact.