by Zachary Thornburg on February 27th, 2015

When I think about musicals, Shrek isn’t exactly the first show to come to mind.  Having only seen the movie, I had trouble picturing a giant dragon chasing a talking donkey, while breathing fire on stage. To be honest, a lot of people including myself were skeptical and didn’t know what to expect. But, week by week as we put together an entire new stage and set, I became more and more intrigued by the show. Around that time, I started listening to the soundtrack of the Broadway version of the show and it didn’t take long for my view of the show to make a full 180. The next week, I got to hear the choir rehearse for the first time, and I had to do a double take because it sounded so similar to the Broadway recording. Needless to say, I couldn't wait to see the show come alive on our stage.
            Rehearsal week was insane. We were building scenery and hanging backdrops all the way up until the day before opening night. One can only imagine how those rehearsals looked the first few nights. Calling cues for a show was an unfamiliar experience for me so the first couple rehearsals were a bit slow at times. Towards the beginning, the crew was all rather timid and uncoordinated with one another, not to mention the orchestra wasn’t there for the first few days. As the week went on, we saw more and more of the costumes, scenery, props, and backdrops. Everyone began to look more confident and comfortable in their roles as the week progressed and by time we got to Wednesday, the night before the opening performance, the show had really started to take form. The choir sounded great and the entire crew had their jobs mastered. However, even with a strong rehearsal under my belt, going to bed that night wasn’t easy. I continuously ran through the show in my head, stressing over the most minute details.
            Despite that, anyone who showed up to the opening performance can vouch for me when I say, it was spectacular. After a full day of practicing and listening to the music, I felt ready for the show. Opening night was a blur, but it was an amazing experience that I will never forget. The feeling I got from calling a live show in front of over a thousand people was inexplicable. It didn’t stop there, every night just got better and better, to the point that we had a nearly perfect show. Now, all those show nights were very late nights, but it didn’t matter because showing up to school the next day and hearing all the great things people were saying about the show made all the difference.
            Even now, people are still walking the halls humming to the tune of all the great songs from Shrek. I can say with complete confidence that Shrek was my favorite show and possibly the best show to ever come to the Westlake Community Performing Arts Center.  That being said, I can’t wait to see what the choir chooses for next year. It will be a tough one to beat!

by Lilly Walsh on January 23rd, 2015

Teambuilding Night
    “Go, go go!”  The excited screams filled the stage as kids raced to the middle of the circle, carrying watches set to strange times and shoes tied together, whatever was required to fulfill the unusual demands of the scavenger hunt. 
Last week was the 17th annual TEC Teambuilding Night.  For those of you who don’t know, it’s a 12-hour long lock-in in the PAC and gym, filled with fun activities for all of us to enjoy.  Any TEC member who has participated in a production within the past year is welcome to attend the event, and we usually get about fifty members.  It originally started as a chance for the teachers to see how the TEC students would get along when outside of school before taking them on the first spring trip. Now, it has grown into so much more.
As an officer this year, I’ve been a part of the group that worked for the past several weeks to pull this event off.  Finally seeing it come together and be the huge success that we’d hoped for was very satisfying.
The evening began at 7 pm with our yearly TEC photo, which will be in the 2015 Zenith program, school yearbook, and fall football program.  Afterwards there were icebreakers and a whole lot of barbecue.  Throughout the evening we passed out door prizes, courtesy of the generous Westlake community, and watched videos filmed and edited by TEC students.  One of the best parts of the night was when we split into smaller groups to work with the kind and talented professionals of the Andy Furman Group, whom we have been lucky enough to have join us for the past eight years, to complete different teambuilding activities that they provide. Over the years there have been some odd and challenging games, but they're always very entertaining and they teach us important lessons about becoming a stronger team.  Now that I’m older, it’s fun to take a step back during these times to allow younger members to become the leaders and share their ideas.  There were some new activities this year, including a game outside the school at 1am, which definitely got some stares from the people in cars passing by.  Andy Furman’s team left at about 2 am, and then we were up to our own devices.  The officers worked hard to come up with games to keep people interested for the following five hours: Ultimate Frisbee, football, crab soccer, video games, and twister, just to name a few.  Sometimes people go to bed at this time, but most people want to take on the challenge of staying awake all night. At 6:30 we packed up, and by 7 am we were out the door, happy but utterly exhausted.
Teambuilding Night is a special event for members of TEC.  It’s a chance for everyone to come together to celebrate the year we’ve started, and it allows us to get to know each other on an out-of-school basis, making us a stronger team to finish out the year.  Even more importantly, Teambuilding Night is when we, the older members, get to meet and watch the younger students.  It is our first glimpse into the future of TEC.  When we all leave high school in the next year or so, it’s this year’s freshmen and sophomores who will step up and take our places as the leaders of TEC.  The shy freshmen who were nervous to share their ideas this year might very well have a spot as on officer on the leadership team of 2017.  We get to see who is already showing a love for TEC, and we begin to do what previous students did for us, helping them to grow in their confidence and leadership, so that when we are gone, TEC won’t just be as good as it was when we were here, it will be better. 

by Lisa Meyer on January 1st, 2015

​                                                                The Nutcracker Spectacular

    After eighteen weeks filled with football, TEC 101, Battle of the Bands and many more events, the Westlake Technical Entertainment Crew closed out the fall semester with the 10th annual production of The Nutcracker Spectacular. NCS features music from Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker played by the Westlake Symphonic Orchestra, as well as dancers from Westlake's local dance studio, Alisa's Dance Academy. The performance consists of a shortened version of the original ballet topped off with a Trans-Siberian Orchestra-style finale complete with pyrotechnic effects by ProFx. After ten years, this show has become an annual tradition for many families in the Westlake community.
    NCS is unique because it is entirely produced by the Technical Entertainment Crew. Because of this, the TEC officers, myself included, spend months leading up to the performance securing sponsorships, hanging posters, and sending out flyers and postcards. While those months were certainly stressful, I felt like I was involved in something important. Something beyond grades and school.
     So when I was told months later that I was selected to be head of the stage crew for the production, I was ecstatic. It was the first time I had held such an important role in a major production and despite harboring some doubts, I was really excited.
    Being on the stage crew is one of the more dangerous positions in a production. NCS is very scenery-intensive with over twenty pieces of scenery, many of which require several people to move. With so much heavy scenery being moved, drops and curtains flying in and out, and the pitch blackness of the scene changes, there is potential for injury. In order for a scene change to be fast and safe, the crew must be efficient, and in order for a crew to be efficient they need good leadership and teamwork.
    Over the course of the production, I learned a lot about leadership and about my crew, many of whom had never worked a production. After spending six hours a day after school with them, I got to know each and every one of the twelve members on my crew. Their personalities, their likes and dislikes, which classes they do well (and not so well) in, even which crew members they work best with.
    That's probably my favorite part of major productions; getting to meet new members and seeing them open up over the course of the show. It's incredible how much students change after just one week, going from nervous and uncertain to calm and confident. I'm really looking forward to seeing how they grow as crew members over the next few years.
    The overall quality of the performance was very high, and may have actually surpassed that of last year, not an easy thing to accomplish. Despite the struggles of having a new orchestra director and an abnormally young crew, everyone from the dancers to the musicians to the crew really stepped up this year and created something truly amazing. NCS has always felt like an opportunity to give back to the community for all of the support they have shown us, so I hope the families that came enjoyed watching the show as much as I enjoyed putting it on.
    As NCS wound down with the final performance, I found myself rather sad to see it go. As stressful and time-consuming as it can be, Nutcracker week is still one of my favorite times of the year. It's a great experience and, above everything, it's fun. Having said that, I can't wait to see what events and productions the spring semester will bring.

by Carter Gehm on December 8th, 2014

Recently the varsity football season came to an end, and with it came the end of the 2014 Video Crew season. Video Crew is a project that a group of passionate Westlake TEC members has been working on for over a decade. It has evolved greatly over time, but the general idea has always been that a crew of around 24 comes together for every varsity football game, be it home or away, and records a professional broadcast to air on television.
I personally have had the unique opportunity of being one of the few people to have been a member of the  video crew since my freshman year, something that very few students have the opportunity to do. This year, my third year on video crew, I feel that we had some catching up to do at the beginning of the season with the ten new members who joined us this year. It’s strange having teach someone else all that you've learned, and that was an adjustment I think all of the older members were having to deal with. We struggled a bit with a newer crew but everyone stepped up, worked hard, and managed to improve immensely over the past four months. It amazes me how much better we are now compared to back in August when we started our training, especially since we had to overcome the challenge of a very new group. Since I held the position of broadcast director, I was able to observe just about every crew member in their positions and really see how much each and every one of them has improved. Based on our success this year, I can’t wait to see how well we do next year.
One thing that makes our broadcast so high quality is the specialization we practice. Just like the football team, we have one or two positions that we learn as much as we can about and then pass on that knowledge to the younger members before we leave. Personally, I think that this was a rebuilding year. That was what this year was all about: passing on all that knowledge you had gathered over the years and teaching it to newer members. Its great if you know how to work a camera really well, but it doesn’t help the program if you graduate without ever teaching anyone how to be as good, or even better, than you are. With out the constant training of newer members, we would be unable to maintain the high quality of work that we pride ourselves in so much. Next year is going to be absolutely amazing because of all the hard work that everyone put in this year.
        As far as the actual season goes, we did an excellent job. As I am looking back through our footage while editing the highlight video from this season, I see no shortage of good shots. I’m really impressed with everyone and  I think our camera operators did an excellent job of capturing plays and color shots. There hasn’t been a play yet that we didn’t capture with at least two cameras. It’s exciting to see that we no longer have an issue there, when it has been a problem in past seasons. 
        This year, the football team got a new coaching staff and the transition hasn’t gone without its bumps in the road. With the previous coaching staff we were encouraged to get shots of both the players on and off the sideline, as well as shots of the coaching staff. This year was another story. Coach Dodge is different than past coaches in that he doesn’t want us distracting the players what so ever. This means that we have had to back up from the players and film them only from far away. I see where he is coming from, but I hope we can improve our relationship to the point where there is a mutual trust between us, and he knows that we can safely film his players without causing distraction to the team. The close up shots of players' faces look great and it will be a shame if we can’t get them anymore. Hopefully we can mend that relationship and continue to broadcast excellent football, but for now we will just have to see how we can adapt to these new circumstances.
​All things considered, we had a great season and I look forward to seeing what next year has in store for us!

by Conner Beasley on November 10th, 2014

Recently I had the opportunity to interview a former president of the Westlake Technical Entertainment Crew, Dylan Randall.  Dylan was very active in the Technical Theatre program for all four years of his high school career and served as president during his Junior and Senior years. He is currently working towards his doctorate degree in Physical Therapy at Rosalind Franklin University, outside Chicago. Here are the results from our conversation:

What year did you graduate Westlake High School?
“I graduated in 2006.”

How did you get involved with Technical Theatre and the Westlake Technical Entertainment Crew?
“When I was in 8th grade and applying for my high school classes, I wanted to do computer animation as an elective.  I had put technical theatre down as an alternate because I did not completely know what it was. It turned out I got my alternate elective rather than my primary choice, and ended up in the tech theatre class. So it wasn’t even intended. “

How many years were you an officer?
“I was an officer for three of the four years I was involved in Westlake TEC.”

Did you stage manage any major productions and, if so, what was that experience like?
“My sophomore year I stage managed Brigadoon, which was that year’s musical performance. This was my first opportunity to lead a large crew. I remember thinking about the potential to make some really noticeable mistakes. I was waking up in the middle of the night thinking about cues, worried about making mistakes. It really opened my eyes to the fact that I have to trust my crew and know that if I did my part, they would follow through and do theirs. It was really cool seeing all our preparation from rehearsals spring into action on production day. It taught me how to work through issues. During one of our performances, a wireless microphone failed, and we all communicated well and worked together to overcome that difficult situation. Everyone performed their job flawlessly, and the audience didn’t even know anything had gone wrong. “

What are your thoughts about becoming president junior year?
“At first it was a little intimidating knowing that I would have to gain the respect and lead people both younger than me and older than me. I learned that doing so was possible and I proved to myself that I could do it. I liked having a second year to learn from my mistakes and build on it. I had a second shot at it and could improve from what I did the previous year. “

What have you done since you graduated high school?
“Since I graduated high school, I went to Brigham Young University, where I was majoring in Theatre and Film. After my freshman year, I spent two years in Sao Paolo, Brazil with my church being a missionary from 2007 to 2009. After that I returned to BYU and switched majors and began taking Pre-Med classes. The year before I graduated BYU, I got married to Kara Butler, a wonderful girl from BYU. Currently, I’m getting my doctorate at Rosalind Franklin, outside of Chicago. “

Looking back on your four years in the Technical Theatre program, what was your favorite memory?
“Probably my favorite memory looking back was my junior and senior year when I got to lead newer members and teach them everything that I had been taught, then getting to see them step up and succeed.”
How did your four years in Technical Theatre affect your life after high school?
“In TEC, there was something new to be learned every day. It has given me good communication skills, teamwork skills, leadership skills, discipline, the list goes on. Those are skills that you work on your whole life but TEC really gave me the foundation that I never would’ve had.”
What advice would you give students that are currently in TEC?

“My advice to students currently in the technical theatre program would be, remember that it’s not about the equipment. Throughout your life, technology will change and the technical skills you learned won’t necessarily benefit you directly, even though having a good technological base is a good thing. What really matters is the skills that you learned like how to work with other people, leadership skills, communication skills, self-discipline, etc. Those are skills that people will always need no matter how much the world changes. “

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