Inside YPAS Design and Production


YPAS students prepare hair and makeup for “Elf: The Musical.” Photo by Leo Tobbe.

Leo Tobbe

Long before audiences enjoy a stage performance, crew members are preparing for their arrival. Students majoring in Design and Production, otherwise known as Technical Theatre, at the Youth Performing Arts School (YPAS) take courses in stagecraft, costume design, stage lighting, stage sound, props, costume history, design concepts, arts media and stage drafting.

In addition to preparing them for post-secondary arts education and careers, this highly specialized training enables YPAS to produce stage productions with elaborate set design, special effects, and intricate costumes that bring performances to life. 

Department Chair Amy Berry estimates Technical Theatre students spend over 400 hours working on design and production outside of school for the full school year.

“We have an after school class that is mandatory from 2:30 to 5:30 every day. So, our students don’t participate in sports. If they have jobs it’s just on the weekends. Manual is obviously very rigorous, so they also have to squeeze in their homework. Without the Design and Production students giving up their 2:30 to 5:30 we wouldn’t have a production,” Berry said.

For large productions, months of planning and preparation are required to create set pieces, costumes, lighting and sound that supports the musicians, actors and dancers. For YPAS’s recent production of “Elf: The Musical,” students began designing the set and costumes five months before audiences filled the theatre. Set construction began in September and crew members spent most Saturday afternoons in October and November creating the cohesive look seen on opening night. 

As Assistant Stage Manager for “Elf: The Musical,” theatre major Parker Williams experienced first hand the behind the scenes work of the Production and Design crew. “It is definitely interesting to see all aspects of theatre, not just what happens on stage,” Williams (10, YPAS) said.

Audience members also took note of the detailed sets. “I was impressed by how seamlessly the set transitioned for each scene. It couldn’t have been easy to create elf costumes and make it snow in the theatre,” said Carol Wagner after attending the December 3 performance. 

Work for the Production and Design crew is year round. “Our next show is the dance concert which will happen in February. Today we started our first ‘production meeting’ with the designers so we’ll find out what that has planned for us,” Department Chair Berry said.