A behind the scenes look at this year’s play, Shakespeare in Love

What goes on behind the scenes of a play at Mead High School?


Angel Villalobos

Nov. 10, 2022, opening night of Shakespeare in Love.

This year’s fall play, Shakespeare in Love, was thoroughly enjoyable. But most viewers, while they may enjoy watching the play, likely know little about the work that goes into it, or what the theater department really does. 

Crew member Emma Wanecheck (‘23), who has experienced both the audience and crew perspective said, “When I’m sitting [in the audience], I think ‘this is cool’, but when you’re actually a part of it you realize, oh my god, this is absolutely amazing. You get to see all the work you’ve done be enjoyed by others.”

To the average viewer, the play is this big, serious production. And it is in part, while performers are on stage. But when you take a closer look at the cast and crew backstage, you find that this is just a group of students having fun. 

Cast member Tyler Porter (‘23) said, “The energy’s incredible. There’s no other feeling like it.” 

Porter (‘23) continued, explaining the pre-show experience: “We did our before performance rituals, then we all got in our places. It was silent backstage, but the energy was just going. And it was electric, let me tell you.” 

Even looking in on a few nights of a months-long process, it’s clear how close this group is, much of which is built on years of many traditions. Some include eating ice cream on a cold winter night, the hokey pokey pre-show, and classic diction exercises; but one of the most notable traditions is the compliment circle. It seems to be a favorite among participants, going in a circle giving and receiving compliments before the show. 

Jacob Lynn (‘23), playing Will Shakespeare, said, “I love the traditions the most, even more than the performing… it’s just a lot of fun.”

Of course, what the audience actually sees is the performance. We know little about the work that tech puts in, but they are just as important as the people on stage. 

While Lynn (‘23) was a lead in this year’s play, he was also a member of the crew. Knowing both sides of the production, he said, “I think when you’re an actor, you always think it’s very easy on the technical side, until you see it. There’s a lot of work put into tech, more than most people think.”

According to assistant stage manager and crew lead Kate Willis (‘25), it takes about four to six weeks to build the set itself, but there’s so much more to the process. “Our first step is just finding inspiration… then we start planning, sketching, and figuring out what we actually want it to look like. Then we get our materials, we draw out blueprints, and we start building right away… Our inspiration this year was the Rose Theater. We looked at a theater from that era and designed our set from that.”

Regardless of each person’s role in the production, you could spend 5 minutes with this group of people and see how close they all are. Willis (‘25) said, “It’s definitely tight knit. Everyone knows everyone, everyone is friends.” 

Wanacheck (‘23) said, “We all just accept that, yeah, we’re a little bit weird, we’re a little bit crazy. But we use it in performance and we just enjoy ourselves. We welcome everyone to theater.”

To most of the cast and crew, the people in the production are just as important as the show itself. Porter (‘23) said the highlight of his opening night was when “Two underclassmen came up to me. They were just trying [the play] out, doing it for the credit. And right before the show began, they said right to my face, ‘we’re gonna do the play next semester, and we’re doing it next year because of you’… That teared me up, I realized I really had an impact on these people”

So, next time you’re sitting in the audience of a play, don’t forget that the people up there are just that — people. While some people love writing or sports or music, some people love the world of theater. As spectators, it’s easy to overlook how much work goes into having a passion like that.