'Matchmaker' finds students getting a hand backstage from pros

April 15, 1994|By Jody Roesler | Jody Roesler,Special to The Sun

Walt Glinowiechi was directing the chaos yesterday as his student stagehands put the finishing touches on the scenery for the Chesapeake High School Drama Club's presentation of "The Matchmaker," which opened last night.

He walked across stage, barking out orders as the stagehands set the lights, checked microphones and taped down cables for the final dress rehearsal. He sent one student scurrying to his van for a cordless drill.

Others hung pictures on the set that Mr. Glinowiechi and other members of the International Alliance of Theater Stage Employees Local 19 had helped them build.

Mr. Glinowiechi, whose step-daughter is in the production, volunteered to help and recruited other professionals to teach the students how to build the false walls called "flats," set up and run sound equipment and lights, set and change scenery, and fix electrical equipment.

The professional crew has worked at the Morris Mechanic Theater, the Lyric Opera House and at rock and country concerts in Baltimore.

"We would set up and teach them, but they will operate the stuff," said Mr. Glinowiechi.

When he started five weeks ago, some of that "stuff" wasn't operational at all.

"People didn't know what they were doing, and dropped some lights and broke the lenses," said Ron Harmon, one of the professionals Mr. Glinowiechi recruited.

"We spent the first couple of weeks fixing lights," said Jon McDonald, 14, who is running the sound board.

Mr. Glinowiechi also didn't know the size of the production when he volunteered.

"It was one of those deals where you stick your foot in your mouth," he said. "I didn't know what I had gotten myself into."

The show has more props than "Les Miserables," he said. "And everything had to be re-created on flats -- all interior scenes."

He taught the stagehands the proper way, with a cue sheet at stage left and color-coded tape on the stage.

"We decided if you're going to do it, do it right and teach the kids how to do it right," said Mr. Glinowiechi. He said it should take 20 stagehands about 8 minutes to shuffle props and flats, line them up with the tape marks on the stage, then go back to their other jobs.

Carrie Jones, 15, the special effects technician, is a self-described "claustrophobic pyro" who will sit in a wooden box for the first act, generating smoke and creating sounds.

"The first 10 minutes will be tough, but everything else is OK. I'll ring doorbells and stuff," she said.

Mike Queuedo, 16, the head lighting technician, will operate the lighting board during the play. Yesterday, he and Lee Papa, 15, the primary lighting assistant, were cutting a 150-foot power cable in half and adding plugs to the ends.

"They've taught us a considerable amount," Mike said of Mr. Glinowiechi and Mr. Harmon. "Especially about professionalism and electrics."

The first thing that Mr. Harmon taught them was safety. They all wear safety harnesses when in the catwalks above the seats and use safety ropes on all equipment, including tools, in the catwalks.

"I taught them how to climb down from the catwalks with the safety harnesses and got them to walk safely up there with no horseplay, which was tough," Mr. Harmon said. "Once I showed them how to do things without getting killed, they did it all."

In previous years, the students put on shows with hardly any props or scenery, said Joe Crespo, the 17-year-old who plays Horace Vandergelder. "This year is much better."

Without Mr. Glinowiechi, Mr. Harmon and the other professionals, the props and sets wouldn't be there. And although the audience can't see them, the stagehands will make it all fit together smoothly.

"All the kids backstage probably won't get credit, but they know the play wouldn't go on without them," said Mr. Harmon.

The play also will run on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Chesapeake High School auditorium. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for children and students.

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