Behind the scenes of ARC’s theater production, “Blues for Mister Charlie”


Cheyenne Drury

Sound and light workers at the rehearsal for the theatre production Blues for Mr. Charlie, Kathy Burleson professor in the theatre arts department standing up and an American River student sitting down taking cues from Burleson.

Cheyenne Drury and Cheyenne Drury

When putting together a theatrical production there are many jobs that go into making the performance besides the actors, such as light technicians, costume designers, audio and camera staff.

American River theater’s first play of the semester, “Blues for Mister. Charlie” – a piece dealing with issues of race and Christianity, dedicated to the death of Emmet Till and everyone who suffered during the civil rights movement, was put together by director Sam Williams.

The stage manager for the play, Patrick O’reilly, manages all technical positions.

“My position right now calls for me to be a jack-of-all-trades,” said O’Reilly.

O’Reilly communicates to all the technical staff during the play, calling out scenes and affirming responses from staff members.

Various stage production positions in theatre include fly captain, staff members who move all the scenic elements up and down, a board operator who works with lighting such as adjusting stage lighting throughout the play, and a sound operator who works with the sound systems controlling microphone levels and all aspects of sound.

Director, Sam Williams, elaborated on O’Reilly’s position.

“He’s like the brains of it, and I’m directing it. He records and communicates it all. Calling light cues and sound cues and being aware of how many scenes there are,” said Williams.

There are many other crew members that worked to put the production together, such as designer Kirt Shearer who took music and integrated it into the program.

In the play there are gunshots for the opening scene that were provided by Shearer.

Sound operator, Delbert Newcombe, a recording major in the Commercial Music Program, also contributes to the play’s overall production.

“I do all the on-the-fly mixes during the show and I set which microphones are muted and which ones aren’t and it’s cool because I really like working with musicals,” said Delbert.

Said Williams of other students who assist with various production tasks, “Students volunteer to do makeup for all the theatre productions and many times they might not even be a part of the play but want to get involved.”

Faculty members contribute to the plays put on by the theatre department as well.

Gail Russel, a professor in the theatre program, is the costume designer for all of the plays on campus.

Tracy Shearer, a vocal professor, is the vocal director for “Blues for Mister Charlie” and is currently working with the cast on spirituals that Williams decided to include.

As far as funding the plays, according to Williams most of the money made is used to pay royalties while the rest is made to pay for future shows.  “most of the money goes toward paying royalties and we try to use money we make from the musical to pay for other shows,” said Williams.

Added Williams, “We are always trying to recycle props and materials as well.”

According to Williams, every show starts with the staff members and ends with the audience.

“My favorite part is sitting out in the audience and watching the crowd’s reaction to the show because they are the ones who finish the play,” elaborated Williams.