Sidwell Introduces New Technical Theater Class

This semester, Sidwell introduced a new tech theater class taught by Rebecca Pfeil. Pfeil, a newly hired teacher, substituted for the class last year as part of an internship for her graduate degree.

Prior to joining Sidwell, Pfeil acquired years of experience in theater productions. Since starting tech theater at her local youth theater when she was 14, she has worked at many theaters as a stage manager, as well as in wardrobe and other tech positions. She also spent five years as Production Manager at a non-profit youth theater company. During this time, Pfeil produced 33 productions, including some world premieres and touring productions.

The reason I was drawn to tech is because I love theater, and I love knowing how things work.

— Rebecca Pfeil

This year’s class is slightly different from other years. In the past, both introduction and advanced classes were offered. However, this year, the class is a hybrid of new and returning students, offering a shared learning experience.

Assistant Upper School Principal for Academic Affairs Robert Gross explained that theater tech work is collaborative, and the advanced students can help teach newer students and share their experiences.

Next year, however, the school hopes to reintroduce the individual Introduction and Advanced Theater Tech classes.

Pfeil welcomes all students, as there are no prerequisites to join either the Intro to Tech Theater class or to be on a crew for a show. Aside from attending class, there are some outside time commitments for Intro to Tech Theater students, as they must be involved in one smaller technical theater role in a production, mostly during production week and performances.

Completing the Intro to Tech Theater course is a requirement for joining the Advanced Technical Theater, unless a student has permission from a teacher. Advanced students must assume larger roles in the productions, such as being a stage manager who oversees and takes charge of many aspects of a performance.

Advanced Tech students also have greater outside-of-class requirements, although time commitments vary based on what the student is working on. For example, stage managers or assistant stage managers will be needed earlier on in the rehearsal schedule. Students need to attend rehearsals at least once a week, as well as during production week. Most productions generally have an eight-to-nine week rehearsal schedule with four rehearsals per week.

The productions offer tech students lots of opportunities.

“Tech encompasses many aspects including, set, costumes, props, rigging, lights, sound, stage management and more depending on the show,” Pfeil said.

For Sidwell’s upcoming production, “Urinetown,” students are building a platform for the set. Most of the set is being built at an off-campus scene shop. The school has a partnership with Encore Stage in Arlington, where the spring musical crew is working on the set. No prior experience is necessary, since the needed skills will be taught in class and in the shop.

“The most challenging and sometimes most exciting part is that each show is different,” Pfeil said, referencing the different designs and technical aspects. Live shows pose a particular challenge, but Pfeil encourages her students to adapt quickly and in a creative manner to continue the show and keep the audience unaware of any challenges.

Many are excited for the Tech Theater class and all the different aspects it entails. Pfeil mentioned that having a vast knowledge of tech theater is important and can help people find what they are most interested in. The class also teaches students to learn about the work it takes behind the scenes for a show to go on.

“The reason I was drawn to tech is because I love theater, and I love knowing how things work,” Pfeil said. “Some people may be drawn to tech because they like theater but do not want to act. If anyone is interested, they should try it out,” she added.