Behind the scenes is where technical directors want to be

Editor’s note: This is the second story in a series by Teens & Twenties writer Sabrina Otero about teens and twenty-somethings and their occupations.

By Sabrina Otero
Times-News correspondent

Elizabeth Kornstadt / Photo submitted

“I didn’t so much choose to get involved in live theater as it chose me,” said Elizabeth Kornstadt, the 24- year-old Assistant Technical Director for the Paramount Theater of Burlington. Kornstadt’s world is one conducted primarily behind the scenes, yet her efforts make art come alive on stage.
“I typically put in a minimum of 30 hours designing and executing lighting for a show before it even opens. I attend rehearsals, meet with the director, work over the script, and develop a paper plot, and, I, along with my electrician, use the paper plot to hang and focus the instruments. I also program the show into a computer cue by cue.”
Teens & 20s: What led to your involvement in theater?
Kornstadt: My sister was involved in one little play at this wonderful theater called ‘Neuse Little Theatre’ out in Smithfield and I had so much fun during that rehearsal process. The following season that director held auditions for “The Diary of Anne Frank” and I auditioned and was given the supporting role of Miep Gies. I immediately got involved in another play my sister was in, and this time I wanted to be behind the scenes. I started out as running crew, but I was promoted to the tech booth. Over the course of four years, I learned how to run sound, design and run lights, build and decorate sets, build props, and even had a play I helped write premiere at the Paramount. I became fast friends with the technical director, Lynn Grose, and adopted her as a mentor. When a job position opened up to be her assistant, she contacted me and asked if I’d be interested: “You mean I can get PAID for this?”
Teens & Twenties: How is a job in theater ideal for young people like yourself?
Kornstadt: True, it can be a lot of work, and I do get paid for it most of the time, but it rarely feels like a job. We get to work as a team to create entire worlds to tell these stories live in front of an audience. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?
Teens & Twenties: What tips and training would you recommend to others interested in these positions?
Kornstadt: Volunteer. Nothing beats hands-on experience.
Teens & Twenties: List 10 things people do not know, or get wrong, about your daily duties.
Kornstadt: We are called techies, which is short for stage technicians. We are not ‘roadies’ unless we are on a touring show, and even then that’s like calling a CEO a Janitor.
People often think that techies secretly crave the spotlight. I prefer to design and run the spotlight than be in it.
On show days, we are often there an hour before the actors show up, and up to an hour after they go home.
During Tech Week, we may be there six to eight hours before the actors show up and very well may stay four to six hours after the actors go home.
We often have a matter of three or four days to learn every cue in a script whereas an actor normally has two to three months to learn just their personal cues.
It’s a common belief that techies dislike actors. Not true — without actors, we’d be out of a job.
However, actors without techies are just naked people trying to emote on an empty stage in the dark.
Theater isn’t just a hobby, even if it’s volunteer.
Techies are notoriously camera shy. There is also a motto among us that if you notice our work, we didn’t do our job right.
The No. 1 misconception is that we can’t perform on stage. I started out as an actor, and performed in eight plays, six of which I never even auditioned for but was asked to be in, before I decided I much preferred the technical side.

 Sabrina Noelle Otero is a junior at the Alamance-Burlington Middle College and a Teens & Twenties writer.


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