Behind the Scenes, and Into the Pool


Photo by Cooper Aitken

Alex Torres (11) sits in the pool as Phaeton, the son of Apollo, played by Joel Robinson (11) as he recounts the story of his life to a therapist in a more modern retelling of his Greek story.

Sandhya Ganesan, Co-Editor-in-Chief

In addition to the intensive preparation actors have to do to successfully execute productions to the caliber of SJHHS Theatre’s previous productions, many hours were put into the set design and costume designing for many productions this year, and “Metamorphoses,” the Actors Repertory’s show, was no exception. 

Stagecraft are classes affiliated with the SJHHS Theatre department, with three levels: Intro to Stagecraft, Stagecraft, and the final level, Theatrical Production. The first level helps students learn about all of the design areas, the middle level allows students to work as crew members for theatrical productions, and the final level gives students the opportunity to design the shows the school puts on. 

The classes work together to help with the production of sets for the shows. On Mondays, individuals gather for production meetings, where designers from every show update individuals involved in production and the director on what they are working on and get approval for their work. This allows designs to be cohesive and sets the tone for the rest of the block periods of the week, devoted to working on their respective areas of responsibility. Designers are required to be present on design tech weeks and devote a lot of time to their productions. In total, tech week sums up to be about 75 hours of time commitment alone. 

My favorite thing about being a technician is feeling like you’re serving something greater than yourself. I love working with my peers but I also love that I can express myself through costume design,

— Taylor Needleman

Technicians are individuals well versed in stagecraft who are responsible for designing sets and most of the visual elements for the  production. This year, they undertook a significant amount of work, designing a complete pool in the blackbox that was an integral element in the production of “Metamorphoses”. 

“Building the pool in the black box was a difficult challenge. Not only were we building a pool, we were building a pool in a classroom. Nothing like this had really been done at San Juan so we were kind of on our own to figure out how to build everything. Also, in addition to building the pool, we also had to build the rest of our set. Which then became an interesting challenge since we were building around a pool,” said senior CJ Verrengia, a set designer for “Metamorphoses”.   

Building around the pool required an incredible amount of care, and proved to be challenging, especially when painting the set. The logistics of building the pool required a lot of collaboration and time from the set designers. 

“I was one of three people who almost always had their hands in the pool along with my co-designer, Jadyn Fox and our tech director, Mr. Pike. Along with my co-designer, I designed the pool and figured out what it would look like to best service the show. We also had to find all the right materials to have our pool hold water as best as possible. I also helped to upkeep the pool by making sure it was being filtered, skimmed, and vacuumed every night,” said Verrengia. 

For Verrengia, building the pool was one of the biggest goals  on her to-do list this year. Being a set designer for “Metamorphoses” was a big deal for Verrengia, and with “Metamorphoses” behind her, she looks forward to being a costume designer for the spring production, “Nine Girls.” Since the production is smaller, Verrengia looks forward to taking her time with each costume and its details. Another individual who shares this excitement is senior Taylor Needleman, who will be working with Verrengia on the costuming for “Nine Girls,” after being in charge of costuming for the latest production, “Metamorphoses”. 

Costume design is also a considerable undertaking, and very crucial to the efficacy of a production, especially in the context of “Metamorphoses,” which required costume designers to be mindful of the pool. “Working specifically with a pool, there was a lot of experimentation with different types of fabric and how to get things home every night so they could be dry for the next rehearsal. The biggest undertaking was probably making the dresses that some of the ensemble members wore. It was very time consuming and we had to restart halfway through to change fabric,” said Needleman. 

Despite the considerable time commitment and challenges set and costume designing can pose to individuals, the work is extremely rewarding. “My favorite thing about being a technician is feeling like you’re serving something greater than yourself. I love working with my peers but I also love that I can express myself through costume design,” said Needleman.