Tough Nut to Crack

I do not dance much myself, but the Nutcracker was an extravaganza that compels even the weak knee or less capable dancer to remain engaged, enthralled by every movement of the production. From beginning to end, the program was interwoven with dancers, musicians, sets, multiple costume changes, extraordinary lighting and sound with over two hundred people involved.

My place in all of this you might ask? I was the Stage Manager. First of all, let me say the event ran December 9th and 10th, 2011 with two performances each day. I began working on the production during last May of 2011. As the lead Stage Manager I was responsible for the Technical Entertainment Crew (TEC) communications and instructions. A Stage Manager is also responsible for what is referred to as “calling cues.” As an example, when the orchestra needs to be muted and the lights need to change operation (come up), then it is my job to see that the instructions for every coming and going to that effect happens correctly and specifically on time. An event of this magnitude requires over 300 cues and a well-defined script that has been rehearsed countless times. Independently, I lost track of the number of hours I put into my position; as a crew we rehearsed well over 30 hours. When you are in the trenches with a vision of what needs to happen, you do not think about the amount of time, just the end desired result.

Even though the production started back in May of 2011, it began for me as a Freshman entering the Technical Entertainment Crew. That first year, I was not involved much at all. I evolved as a capable TEC member, but began very timidly; totally lacking any self confidence. Additionally, Ihad to learn to communicate with people that were sometimes quite different from myself. I made new friends in the crew, but primarily built scenery and learned the “lay of the land.” Moving on to my sophomore year, it was completely different. I was placed on multiple crews for major events; including “fly.” This is where scenery is dropped in and out as needed. I was allowed to participate on Nutcracker, Musical, and Zenith. Sophomores are not typically involved in all three events. During my Junior year, again I participated in all three. However, for Nutcracker I was Assistant Stage Manager and I was truly stumped. Basically, I was there to serve as a liaison and address conflicts while calling a few cues at the end. Musical that year presented a new challenge as I served as “house sound.” This leadership role provided me the opportunity to serve all the microphones for the production at varied levels and needs. Zenith allowed me to be the Assistant Technical Director. I was assigned to Mr. Poole and assisted Cooper Ruff, the Stage Manager. Often there were conversations with Mr. Poole where I shared with him my concerns; the lack of confidence in my abilities to embrace challenges he was putting before me. Primarily, he had recommended that my Senior year I serve as Stage Manager for Nutcracker. Ultimately, the entire Junior year yielded leadership roles for every production. This opportunity to share my experiences is in hopes that some other young person will take that first step and get involved. The support in teachable moments is always there for the taking.

So, back to being a Senior! Technical Entertainment Crew at Westlake High School has laid a foundation for a wonderful high school experience. I have learned a craft, developed interpersonal communications skills, acquired leadership abilities and responsibilities, and made wonderful friends while having the time of my life. I am a more confident, competent, accomplished student for having participated in TEC throughout high school.

Involvement in TEC has allowed me to learn how to effectively lead people to a shared goal with
a common vision. If you cannot articulate your desires, your creativity, your objectives you will
never reach success with the key essential elements of any goal. Invest time in individuals,
embrace their unique differences, and treat each person with respect. It was a great ride and a
terrific beginning to the rest of my life.

“People will never care what you want them to know until they know how much you care!”

John C. Maxwell

-Jack Teets