backstage CMYK

No experience necessary

By Christina Latham

backstage
Jack Baker works backstage creating props and building and painting sets as part of Whatcom Community College’s drama class. Photo by Christina Latham.

Whatcom Community College’s drama class is busy preparing for its winter quarter play, a comedy by playwright Bryan Starchman called “No Signs of Intelligent Life.”

The play is about “aliens coming to earth and they take human form because they are too beautiful for human eyes,” said Sophie Kortlever, 18, a student in Drama 110.

Gerry Large, who has taught the class since 2001, said that the class puts on a play each quarter. Large said he chooses the plays with feedback from the students in the fall and winter quarters, while in spring quarter, the class puts on a one-act play festival where the students write, act, and direct the entire show.

Large said “No Signs of Intelligent Life” is a comedy made up of 10 independent scenes, six of which are directed by the students. Kortlever, who is playing one of the aliens, said, “The aliens are researching the humans and learning about things [such as] Halloween, fixing computers, and camping.”

James Flint, 20, who has been part of Whatcom’s drama class for two years, said students do not need acting skills or prior experience to be a part of the class. “There is something for everyone,” he said, adding that he hopes to continue being on stage for many years to come. Flint said he is playing the only male alien character and called the play a “laughing adventure.”

Kanaday Seward, 20 said he enjoys the chance to “escape into a character,” and that drama is a great way to build confidence.

Flint said that throughout the quarter, students are assigned roles and rehearse or work on props and sets.

If students aren’t interested in acting, backstage help is always needed, said Jack Baker, 28, a student in the class who works backstage.

Mike Perez, 22, is in the class for a third quarter and said that stage crew members play a part in mapping out the stage, deciding what props are going to be needed, building and painting sets, and working with lighting and sound. He said the first quarter he “tried acting, but because of my bad stage fright, I found out I enjoy building [more].”

Perez said he is taking the class because of “the credits, friends, and fun.”

Lydia Tilbury, 16, is the backstage manager for this production. She said she will be in charge of all the activities backstage during the performances and helps build sets.

Using power tools is part of the backstage job but students don’t need previous experience, Tilbury said.

Russ Nelson, 49, is the stage technician for the class. He said he oversees what students are working on backstage during class. He has been part of Whatcom’s drama faculty for the past four years, and said he and Large are there for the students in preparation for the production, but once the play starts the students are “on their own.”

While the drama class itself is funded as other classes are, the productions are funded by the Services and Activities Fee budget, said Kris Baier, the director of Student Life. Baier said that the drama, dance, and music departments were brought together in the Performing Arts Organization this year, and last year’s Student Senate chose to include the organization in the budget to “increase performing arts on campus.”

This means the drama class has partnered with Student Life to fund the extracurricular side of the class that is the quarterly production, Baier said.

Large said these expenses include the cost of the script rights, costumes, sets and props.

While there is currently no drama club, “anytime someone wants to step up and take a leadership role they can do so and I’ll mentor,” Large said.

“No Signs of Intelligent Life” will be performed in Heiner Theater Mar. 13, 14, and 15 at 7:30 p.m. General admission will be $5.


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