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Baldwin students involved in 'Hairspray' production gain wide range of exoerience

| Wednesday, April 3, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Several students involved in Baldwin High School's production of “Hairspray” are taking charge of vocal rehearsals, blocking, props, sound and lighting for the show.

This hands-on experience working behind the scenes in theater production is, for some, a chance to better understand how a show comes together. For others, it's the first step in pursuing careers in the industry.

“We've gotten a lot better at that over the years,” said Kris Tranter, the show's director and music teacher at Baldwin High School. “Those are earned positions … Some of them are going into these fields next year.”

Connor Doran, a senior, has a dual role this year — first onstage playing Corny Collins, a television-show host, and then behind the scenes as the student musical director. He leads the vocal rehearsals, hashing out the various harmony parts with the other students.

“It's ridiculously wonderful,” Doran said. “It's the real deal. It's a little scary … But it was like a challenge and I accept.”

Doran, a pianist, organist and percussionist, provides accompaniment in his music classes and extracurricular activities for Tranter. The music teacher approached Doran about elevating his role during for the musical, Tranter said.

“When you have someone that has that much talent and that much modesty … it would be a shame not to do that,” Tranter said. “I just felt like I kind of have to.

“I've let him run the majority of the vocal rehearsals,” Tranter said. “He has a great ear, he cares, the students respect him … I came to respect him.”

The move from ensemble member to stage manager was a natural progression for Elaina DePetro, a junior. She said the hands-on experience behind the scenes is great.

“I love it,” DePetro said. “I would be up here anyway … (the job) is just a bonus.”

DePetro's job entails everything from helping to block the show and calling cues during rehearsals to ordering pizza and making copies, she said. She earned the position by writing an essay about loyalty, commitment and character, and the staff chose her over other applicants.

While DePetro still appears in the ensemble, she also will work backstage during the show, she said. Watching the show come together and all of the work that goes into it is an eye-opening experience.

“I'm a crew member when I'm not in the cast,” she said. “It gives you a chance to explore what it would be like to be in that position.”

John Rullo, student sound operator, and Ryan Scully, student lighting operator, are both seniors who worked on the three previous spring musicals. Ascending into leadership roles were natural for the students, they said.

“I have a passion for it,” said Rullo, who will attend the California University of Pennsylvania in the fall to major in music technology. Rullo said they get to do a lot of collaboration with the staff to create dramatic sound and lighting designs.

Scully started doing on sound freshman year when he worked with actors using microphones. When another crew member for the show got sick, Scully had to do lighting and has since grown to like it.

Scully said he hopes to pursue cinema production at Point Park University in Pittsburgh. The experience he gained behind the scenes of the musical during the last four years will help him understand how creating a film comes together.

“You need to know all aspects of a production,” Scully said.

Laura Van Wert is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5814 or at lvanwert@tribweb.com.

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