Alex ‘21 is used to problem-solving on the fly working behind the scenes on the Technical Theater (Tech) crew on Governor’s many theatrical productions. One problem he didn’t foresee was how to build a set for actors who were not there in person due to the pandemic. About half of the cast and half of the Tech crew for the fall play, Until the Flood, were remote learners. Students who were on campus physically, like Alex, were only there two days a week, which added to the difficulty of building a set.
“The Tech crew improvised by sending members home with small pieces of the set along with the equipment they would need, such as a jigsaw, so they could help shape the set on the days when they were learning at home,” said Alex. As for how to make the remote actors “appear” onstage, Alex says televisions were used as stand-ins playing recordings of their performances. Challenging as it was, Alex is proud that the crew could put on a successful production when most other theaters were completely shut down.
The upcoming spring play, Two-Thousand and Twentyone, Byfieldian Nights will be Alex’s tenth and final Govs production. He jokes that an accident that resulted in him being in a foot cast for nearly an entire year afforded him bragging rights as the student with the most seasons of theater tech under his belt. “It’s almost surreal. I feel like I’m just going to be coming back next year to keep working on these sets and with these same people. Eventually, my mind is going to catch up with the fact that I’ll be in a totally new space, doing the same thing with completely new people, and that the torch is going to be passed onto the underclass students” says Alex.
At Govs, the Wilkie Center for the Performing Arts and the Tech program are largely student run. Students build the sets, program and run the lights and soundboards, build and paint the sets, create props, stage-manage the deck, and rig all of the equipment. “Few high schools provide their students with this level of responsibility,” says Director of Technical Theater Joe Repczysnki.
For the spring play, Alex is the assistant technical director, or a “Mini Joe,” (referring to Repcyznski). Because Alex has so much experience in Tech, and knows the Wilkie Center so well, he can answer most questions for people. Perhaps Alex’s wide-ranging knowledge of the Tech is a credit to Mr. Repczynski’s policy of having Tech students in a different role each season. This means that Alex has had a different role in Tech for each production he has worked.
“I’ve done so many seasons of Tech — I’ve done almost everything there is to do. This is my last season, and this position gives me the opportunity to take on more of a leadership role in Tech,” says Alex. “I help run the meetings at the start of Tech, getting people set up doing what they need to do, and answering any questions students might have because chances are that I’ve done it already, and I can help them figure it out.”
Repczysnki says, “Over the course of four years, Alex has worked in every one of these areas (set building, lights and soundboards, carpentry, props, stage managing, and rigging) and, as a senior, acts as a mentor and trainer to pass on the skills he's learned.”
“His first show at the Academy was Sister Act, where he performed the role of master carpenter,” Repczynski continues. “His ‘port-a-railing’ (a curved railing that Alex built and screwed to the ground) was particularly notable for its flexibility, humorous design, and, as the name suggests, portability, but his favorite show was Little Shop of Horrors because of the huge moving set, amazing music, and, of course, 10-foot tall plant puppet.”
Alex’s leadership role extends to after-hours as well. One of two Wilkie Proctors, Alex’s job is to “run” the Wilkie Center after the academic day. “We keep it open for people to use all of its facilities such as the practice rooms (each fitted with a piano), a dance studio, a drum room, and a recording studio. We know the building inside and out, and we close it up each night,” says Alex.
Two-Thousand and Twentyone, Byfieldian Nights is an original play written by the four-student cast. The cast came up with the idea of using different legends and myths as the basis of a storyline, but since there were so many to choose from, each cast member selected their own myth or legend and wrote a piece themselves.
Film and 3D Arts Teacher Geoff Brace, also the play’s director, says that he and the cast “stitched together a winding storyline that wrapped everything up with some liberal use of Monty Python humor.” Brace says the Tech crew seemed to have a great deal of fun coming up with all of the sets for the play. He describes the set as being playful and flat as if the cast is a traveling troupe who has to move all the props and sets from town to town as they perform.
When Alex came to Govs in ninth grade, he played soccer for his fall afternoon program. When the time came to choose his winter afternoon activity, he thought Tech a “nice option that didn’t involve sports” as he was not particularly passionate about any winter sports. He recalls that that “nice option turned into a love for theater tech” as he continued to do theater tech after that first season. “It drew me in, and now it’s one of the things I’m most passionate about.”
So passionate, in fact, that Alex plans to major in Technical Theater when he attends University of Massachusetts Amherst this fall. Repczysnki says that Umass Amherst is gaining a hard-working and caring member next year, noting Alex’s approachability, calm demeanor, and ability to supervise his peers are among his greatest strengths.