Mary Poppins: The “techies” behind curtain

Laila Samphilipo, Editor-in-Chief of The Prowler

A crucial part of live musical performance actually happens behind the scenes, both before it is performed and during its run. 

CYPA’s “Mary Poppins” is no exception.

Behind the curtain, self-proclaimed “techies,” —also known as crew members— master numerous technical and artistic duties to facilitate the success of this upcoming CYPA production.

“All of your set changes, your lighting and your audio is tech. Even if you don’t see us, it’s a lot of work,” said Emma Crumling, assistant technical stage manager. 

Now a junior, Crumling has previously been involved in seven CYPA productions, but describes “Mary Poppins” as a more technically advanced musical for many reasons.

This production will not only feature a crew-constructed house and numerous painted drops, but “flying” characters.

“The flying is probably going to be the most insane,” Crumling said. 

Lead technical stage manager Cienna Hammond agreed. 

“One of the most crucial aspects of Mary Poppins is getting students to fly,” Hammond said. “[Mary Poppins] now gets to fly in from one side of the stage, swoop down and just kind of float down to the ground.” 

According to Hammond, she believes that having characters fly is one element of the production that sets it apart from the seven other productions that she has participated in.

“The flying is just going to be a whole other aspect of the show. It’ll be like the puppet from our ‘Little Shop of Horrors,’” Hammond said. 

Select crew and cast members will be excused from school on an educational field trip in late February to learn how technical flying works with Flying By Foy, an international theatrical flying service.

When incorporating flying into productions, safety is key. 

“Our Technical Director [Michael Hillegas] is one of the only people who is going to be flying the students because you can’t just put a student’s life in another student’s hands,” Hammond said. 

Both Crumling and Hammond describe their favorite parts of being crew members as seeing the show come together during performances. 

According to Crumling, cast and crew are largely separated until “Tech Week,” a week prior to opening night in which all technical elements of the production are implemented during rehearsal. 

For “Mary Poppins,” this will include the timing of lights, sound and stage elements. 

Seeing the production come to life after tech week through performance is one of the most rewarding parts of being in crew according to many members. 

“It’s just so cool to see the show come together,” Hammond said. “You get to see everything that people are so excited about but you get to see it while knowing all the work that was put into it.”