Certified Techs Tour Fox News Studio, Stages


To actors and audiences the world may be a stage, but without light and sound there would be little connection between performer and audience without techies.

Melissa Shepard is in her third year as a techie in the Payson High School drama program.


Drama department techies were impressed with the modernized replica of Shakespeare's famous Globe Theatre. Students who went on the trip were Melissa Shepard, Deanna Oates, Amber Clark, Mac Still, Scott Andrus and Steven Vandermeer. Tech volunteers who attended were Zachary Horsley and Tom Walling. Teacher Kathy Siler and her husband John supervised.

"It can be stressful. Lots can go wrong. An actor can't find his costume; lights break or someone steals your paint for another project. But it gets your adrenaline running," Shepard said.

To be "certified," techs must receive 24 hours of training on how to use, install and operate equipment such as lights, curtains and the auditorium's soundboard.

They make certain the stage is lit for love not money. The school district pays them $20 per day, which often includes morning and late evening hours, for their service.

Recently, eight certified techs (six PHS students and two volunteers) visited stages at Fox News, the Welk's Resort and Globe Theatres. They also checked out stages on the University of California at San Diego campus.

Shepard is considering the tech field as a career.

The tour she enjoyed most was seeing top-of-the line equipment in good working order at Welk's.

Sophomore Deanna Oates has been working behind the scenes on the PHS stage for 18 months.

Building and painting sets are her forte but she is eager to do anything she is asked.

"The university had five amazing theaters and effects shops. I really want to apply there," Oates said.

Mac Still, a senior with a couple of years experience behind the PHS stage and an additional seven helping with sound at his church, said he was impressed with the equipment he saw throughout the trip.

"With the digital Yamaha sound board at UCSD they could add effects, record and equalize the sounds," he said.

Wonderful wonderful

Volunteer Zachary Horsley's imagination was piqued by the challenges of staging on the "intimate" round stage at the Welk Theatre.

"You have to get a ladder and place it where the audience will be seated to light the stage," he said.

When the tech crew rigs lights, a springy mesh grid called "tungsten," is strung between ceiling and audience to catch the expensive bulbs and fragile humans.

The grid in the auditorium at PHS is solid steel.

Unlike the Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix where the round stage moves, the Welk is still, so staging would be tough.

"You would have to make sure the program was presented to everyone without cutting anyone off," Amber Clark said.

Clark is a sophomore, a tech and she acts.

The lighting for the musical Oklahoma amazed her.

"There were so many colors of light that could be reflected off the background to depict cloudy or stormy weather and daytime," she said.

"The house was sturdy enough to climb on," Oates added.

Scott Bakula, a TV actor and Tony Award-winning singer signed autographs for the techies after they watched his performance in "Dancing in the Dark."

Volunteer Tom Walling called to Bakula as he left the building.

"He turned around, and I could tell he was tired, but he took the time to stop and shake hands. What a nice guy," Walling said.

At Fox Studios the techies met with Jackson Sturlin, a production manager for the nighttime news show.

He led them on a tour of the studio with its anchor desk and revolving camera to take it all in.

"Each person in the studio had so much responsibility and worked so tightly they are like a family," Clark said.

As students took their turn at the camera and other equipment they discovered that if one person was not doing the job they were supposed to be, the result could fast be chaos.

Of course, the trip would not have been complete without some beach time where Clark and Oates could have been filmed in a reality show.

While swimming in the waters of La Jolla Cove, the girls were joined by a sea lion, nearly close enough to touch.

"It was kind of scary, but he was so peaceful with his little head bobbing in the water," Clark said.

The next big show for the techies is the PHS musical "Little Shop of Horrors," April 24,25 and 26.

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