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The Comeback Kids — Scholars Revive Theater Tech Post-Covid

Rosemary Sena and Devin Jenkins-Drumgold joined the Theater Tech Crew at Success Academy High School of the Liberal Arts—Manhattan as freshmen in 2019, starting first as “runners.” The runner role helps scholars discover the aspects they love the most about Theater Tech, which manages the set design, lighting, audio, and behind-the-scenes of performances, so that scholars can ultimately decide on a position to stick with. For Sena and Jenkins-Drumgold, that meant training early on and preparing to one day be a manager in the club — a goal that they both were proud to achieve.

But in the spring of their freshman year, the pandemic began, and in-person plays and musicals at SA HSLA—MA were abruptly halted. While virtual productions took their place, Theater Tech Crew was forced into a hiatus. So when the former group members returned for School Year 2021-2022 and in-person productions resumed, they came with a purpose: revive Theater Tech Crew.

With just six returning members, current co-stage managers Jenkins-Drumgold and Sena worked together to help grow and re-energize the club. Equipped with the knowledge and versatility they’d gained as members of the club, the two, then juniors, worked alongside SA HSLA–MA staff to work to get back to pre-pandemic production.  

“The process was a slow one,” Jenkins-Drumgold said. “I feel like we had a lot to prove — that we were still capable of producing such high-level shows for our school.”

In January 2022, the group had a table at SA HSLA–MA’s winter club carnival, which provides scholars with information about different clubs and extracurricular activities that the school has to offer. Theater Tech Crew received strong interest at the carnival, and — less than a year after the group had briefly been shut down — it was boosted to 18 total members. 

Unlike most clubs at SA high schools, Theater Tech Crew meets multiple times a week, including daily meetings leading up to performances. It’s a significant time commitment but a worthwhile one, Jenkins-Drumgold explained. 

“Before performances, we’re excused from some classes,” he said. “So it’s a lot of making up work, time management, and just knowing how to balance tech and your schoolwork.”

The club offers a variety of roles for scholars, including lighting, stage, and audio managers. When they first start, however, they’re usually assigned the “runner” role, like Sena and Jenkins-Drumgold. The cross-training they receive as runners not only allows them to explore their favorite parts of the club but also allows crew members to swap positions when someone is sick or unable to make a meeting or performance.

Despite the advanced organizational skills that are needed to run a club like Theater Tech Crew, some things are out of the group’s control. During a Root Awakening performance last year, the lights on the stage suddenly went out. The team quickly ran backstage and got the lights back up and running. 

“We had to keep our cool so that the audience would too,” Jenkins-Drumgold said. “Usually, if we’ve prepared beforehand, everything goes pretty smoothly throughout the show.”

The “OG Tech Crew ”, (from left to right) Housseintou Cisseme, Devin Jenkins-Drumgold, Zyair Hall, Rosemary Sena, Elizabeth Gonzalez, and Princess Assogba

 

Despite the lights incident, both managers agree that their favorite memories of the club have come from Root Awakenings because it’s so different from all of the other shows they produce. Sena appreciates getting to learn about her classmates’ different cultures, while Jenkins-Drumgold appreciates the bond he’s created with some of the performers.  

It’s perhaps a perfect representation of what the two hoped Theater Tech Crew would accomplish when they revived it last year. 

Theater Tech Crew received 40 new applicants at SA HSLA–MA’s most recent club carnival in August — three times the number of applications they received last year! This year’s club will officially kick off in September; the first show they’ll help produce is the Fall Coffee House on Thursday, September 22, which will feature a variety of performances including singing, poetry, dancing, and more. 

“Everyone should join clubs!” Sena said. “If you’re connecting with someone over what you are both passionate about, that can grow a friendship that lasts for years. I still have friends from the club who now give me the inside scoop on college life.” 

Jenkins-Drumgold agreed. “Don’t be afraid to join a club or start your own! We just wanted to build community. I think that’s what I think we did.” 

Written by Eric Black September 14, 2022

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