Lights, props, sounds, oh my!

Junior Emma Swiersz spends hundreds of hours behind the scenes of Huntley’s most memorable shows.


Courtesy of Emma Swiersz

Emma Swiersz is hard at work during Tech Crew, making sure to fulfill her responsibilities.

By Abby Panier

When theater comes up in a conversation, usually bright images of fun costumes, talented actors, and booming soundtracks come to mind. But behind the scenes are dozens of Tech Crew members, dedicated to keeping the show up and running.

Among them is junior Emma Swiersz, who in the last two years has recorded over 500 hours of tech service. She is there nearly every day after school, working on cues or with the actors, wherever her help is needed.

The Performing Arts Center does not just house Huntley’s large-scale theater productions, but also PTA variety shows, Orchesis showcases, and all of the music department’s concerts. For each of these, Tech Crew is making the show go ‘round. 

“Truly, acting is such a massive part of a production,” Swiersz said. “But in the same sense, when you think about Broadway shows, the technical aspects are massive. [Tech is] what gives a show that Broadway quality.”

Anyone can join Tech Crew, no experience is required. Members are sorted into different assignments for every show they sign up for, according to their interests. There are lighting designers, audio mixers, video directors, camera operators, set runners, prop managers, and stage managers, who are in charge of it all.

“It is what you make of it, you can sign up for every show or you could sign up for one show,” Swiersz said. “I’m here for kids having fun.”

Swiersz’s favorite assignments are stage management and being a runner, although she enjoys switching around throughout the year.

“I meet so many cool people that I would never have had the opportunity to meet beforehand,” Swiersz said.

For students in activities like Raider Nation News and woodworking, Tech Crew is one of the prime places to hone their skills in a work environment that is similar to one in their chosen field.

“A lot of people make a career out of it,” Swiersz said. “This is a very specific niche and so many people go and do technical theater here. It’s just such a fantastic program.”

The program itself needs all hands on deck when productions are looming, whether Tech Crew is one’s passion or just a fun hobby. The larger-scale theater productions, such as HHS’ spring musical or a middle school show, need dozens of individuals.

For instance, Marlowe Middle School’s “Willy Wonka Jr.” requires 27 members of Tech Crew. In addition to that, around five or six students work in costume, hair, and makeup. Twenty more individuals work in construction and painting.

“There are tons of life skills that you can pull from tech, even if you’re not going into the industry,” Swiersz said.

“Tech, as well as theater, is a place that’s open for anyone to learn so much from,” senior Lucas Sciascia said.

Sciascia met Swiersz their sophomore year in a theater and clicked right away. Some time later, senior Molly Balmes sat next to Swiersz as she worked lighting and they were friends ever since. According to Balmes, they work seven to eight shows together every year.

“You bond really quickly with the people you do tech with because you’re spending so many hours together,” Balmes said. “So I got to know Emma really fast.”

Swiersz is known as an extremely hard worker who cares deeply about Tech Crew and theater. She was recently interviewed and accepted to work on the Tech Crew of a state-level production sponsored by Illinois High School State Theatre Fest. It spanned over several months, sometimes with 12-hour work days on weekends. 

 “She wants to put the best into everything and you can tell,” Sciascia said. “You can tell that she wants everything to go well.”

“Emma is a very determined person,” Balmes said. “She knows what she wants to do and she does it. As a friend, she’s just a really nice person and super funny. I’m really glad that I know her.”

According to Swiersz, the support system in Tech Crew is huge and they are all a big family. They pick each other up and bond through the many hours they spend working to make a show perfect.

“There’s so many great people and adults who you can tell really care about you,” Swiersz said. “It’s just very supportive and inspirational for the future.”