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Unsung Heroes - Sophie, Production Assistance

Sophie Wood, Production Assistant

What backstage roles have you performed?

I’ve really only started working backstage recently. At CLT I’ve been the spotlight operator, the production assistant and most recently an assistant stage manager. Outside of CLT though, I have written and directed a children’s show and intern/student directed for two different theater groups.

What kind of work do these roles entail?

Being the spotlight operator, you have to go in on tech days and write down different lighting cues, and of course when the show comes, you have to be there to spot the correct people. Production assistant is a little more work. Basically, I was there to take care of anything the production team needed me to. I would go in and learn choreography if a cast member was out, I would help with set, cleaning the theater, prompting actors when they called for line, and just be there for the entire team. Assistant stage manager is a role I’ve just come to learn. For Sister Act, I started out as production assistant but was promoted to assistant stage manager. As assistant stage manager, I have been able to see the entire process. I’ve done everything the same as a production assistant, but now I’m the right-hand man to the stage manager, Sarah Wing, and I follow what she tells me to do. If she needs me to move set, I will, she’s the real star of backstage.

How long have you been involved with CLT?

I have been involved in CLT since 2008 when the Summer Youth Program put on Seussical Jr. I’ll never forget the first time I walked in the building, it was scary to me because of how young I was, but somehow, it also felt like I was home.

What's your life like outside of the theater?

My life outside of the theater is pretty hectic actually. I am currently taking four AP courses at my high school, so when I’m not at the theater I’m doing homework. I’m involved in many school clubs including the ELHS Drama Association, National Honors Society, The Olympia Snowe Women’s Leadership Institution, ELHS’ a Capella group, Fermata Nowhere, and Tri-M Honors Music Society, to name a few. I take a tap class, and vocal lessons, I really want to pursue theater in some aspect, so outside of the theater, my life is theater. I’m very busy, but honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What's one of the most challenging situations you have had to deal with in a backstage role and how did you handle it?

I think one of the most challenging situations I have had to deal with backstage happened during Shrek. One show night, the bulb in the spotlight burst and we had to figure out a way to light the characters we needed to, and there was still an entire act left. I texted our director, Chris Hodgkins, and told him about the situation. For the next ten minutes we were running around the theater looking for an extension chord so I could use the spotlight on the perch instead of the one that had just burst in the office. Mitch Thomas helped us and we got the spot working again. The next day we called in Richard Martin to help with the spotlight in the office. We had a sticky situation, but as they say, the show must go on!

You also act onstage quite frequently, what's your dream role?

I have many dream roles actually, I think it all depends on age. My dream role for my age right now is Kim in Miss. Saigon. I love the story of that musical and the emotion it puts forward. Later in life, I would love to play Mary Poppins in Mary Poppins because it’s my all time favorite movie, I absolutely adore Julie Andrews and Dick van Dyke. I think every show I do, I could think of a dream role from it, but those are really my top two as of right now, they’ll probably change as time goes on.

What has been your favorite show to work on backstage and why?

My favorite show to work backstage on was Sister Act. I love working on this show because I can go backstage and all of the actors will be laughing and singing. I’m also so glad I get to work with Adam Blais. He’s a really talented director, and he knows what he wants, he has visions of what his show will be and he tells you how to execute so that his visions come true. I love that the work is never done with him; there’s always room for improvement, and I love his enthusiasm, you can really tell that he wants to see you succeed. I also adore working with Brandon Chaloux, and Sarah Wing. Those two people are always a blast to work with. Brandon knows how to be fun and silly while also getting the job done, so it never feels like work, and Sarah is a joy. She has such authority and a real get the job done kind of attitude. She’s a wonderful person and I love being there to help her. All three of them have really helped me to grow and see the meaning of motivation in the theater, sometimes you have to “Raise Your Voice” and really start getting involved.

How has being a part of the CLT community affected your life?

Being a part of the CLT community has affected my life in so many ways. I first came to CLT because of a flyer my mom saw for a youth camp. I was so shy and scared, but CLT has helped me to blossom and grow, and to stand up for myself. The people at CLT have become family to me, I always smile when I see any of them, and going to the theater makes my day. When I have a problem, I can go to the theater and leave my problems at the door. Many of my mentors in life I met through CLT: Vincent Ratsavong, Derrick Lacasse, Jake Boyce, Brandon Chaloux, Sarah Wing, Kay Warren, and so many more, and I can not thank them enough for everything they have given me. They have given me love, support and encouragement, all of them have helped me through rough times. CLT isn’t about the building or the shows we put on, it’s about the people, the people who become a family who will always make sure you feel safe and loved.

What are some of your favorite "behind the scenes" moments at CLT?

Some of my favorite “behind the scenes” moments at CLT have happened during the shows. People don’t know, but when the actors go on stage to do mic-checks, they each pick a song to sing from or not from the show. I love listening to all of the choices and laughing with them or cheering about what song they’ve chosen that night. Many favorite moments come from the Youth/Teen Camps. One was when I was in summer camp a few years back, and we all had to leave our cell phones in a bucket during camp. While we were learning music with Derrick Lacasse, Vincent Ratsavong and Jake Boyce took selfies on all of our phones in the bucket and when we came back from music we all had a huge laugh. My all time favorite though is probably playing toilet paper princess in camp. We were split into two teams and given a roll of toilet paper. From that we had to make a princess and her sidekick an outfit, then Vincent, Derrick and Jake would ask us questions like a pageant and vote who won; it was an improv game to strengthen our skills, but boy was it fun.

Why do you think that community theater is an asset to our communities?

I think community theater is an asset to our communities much like sports are. Both are forms of entertainment, but also so much more. Theater is about expression, a thought provoking experience and an escape from the real world. Theater is something I strongly believe in. I believe that it’s an outlet for people, actors and spectators alike to see fantasy, and reality. For just two hours, you can get away and laugh, cry, or smile. You can feel for characters, you can see their pain, joy and love. I think community theater is an asset because it shows emotion, it deals with problems, and it allows for a good time. Community theater helped me find who I am, and it does that for so many people. It’s an amazing experience and it’s a privilege to have something as wonderful as CLT in L/A, Maine.