HomeCampusMcGrath rejuvenates theater tech program

McGrath rejuvenates theater tech program


Remember the elaborate nature of Maraczek’s Parfumerie in “She Loves Me” or the castle from “Spamalot”? Those designs were entirely planned and constructed by the students of Stagecraft past.  

The retirement of longtime teacher Paul McFarlin two years ago left a gap in the Carmel High School course catalogue, and theater manager Jeff McGrath has arranged to fill it with a new Stagecraft course in the 2020-21 school year.

McGrath has structured this class to run as a dual-enrollment course with Monterey Peninsula College as the equivalent to their Production course. Just as McFarlin’s version of the class did, this iteration will grant students all five technology credits required to graduate from CHS, also available in computer-based classes such as AP Computer Science, Newspaper or Digital Music.

“The goal of the class is to provide students with the fundamentals of theater tech,” details McGrath, who previously taught theater tech classes at Hartnell College.

Should they sign up to take Stagecraft, next year’s seniors will quickly see a lot of commonalities between this course and the MPC U.S. History course. The CHS school year will begin a couple of weeks before MPC does, and McGrath has planned for an introductory unit for students to register through the MPC portal and become acquainted with the complex CHS performing arts center building.

As far as college credit goes, successfully completing this course results in gaining three elective credits that are transferable for degrees and further studies. As opposed to the history course piloted this year, Stagecraft will be oriented around job training and helping students pick up skills needed to get hired in a behind-the-scenes occupation.

Grey Spamalot’s set stands to represent the goals of the newly resurrected stagecraft program. Photo by LUKE DePALATIS copy

While the Production course is currently a stand-alone college elective, it may be combined with Theater Design in a couple of years to function as two completely distinct semesters—if the program finds success. To align with the structure of a college course, a future version of Stagecraft may start with one semester of classroom learning and one semester of lab work.

“Theater Design would be more academic because there’s a lecture component,” McGrath says. “It really gets into the more theoretical and fundamental approaches of lights, scenery, sound costumes.”

Over the course of the year, the class could be closely tied to the scheduling of the drama department. Since the class was eliminated in 2018-19, such shows as “The Addams Family” and “The Diary of Anne Frank” required helping hands from CHS and CMS industrial arts teachers Mike Brewer and Matt Ishler. This school year, the tech program has been a supplement to the drama class, which does not provide in-depth experience for tech-focused students.

“So far we’ve done just lights and how to manage them,” says Evan Dean, an interested junior who spends some of his drama periods on the lighting grid with McGrath. “I think [the new class] sounds pretty fun. I’ve always been interested in tech things.”

An interest in the technical side of theater may just help find the students of Stagecraft future.

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