Tech Week


Matthew Nguyen

Rehearsals with the orchestra take place in the schools music room, preparing for the upcoming musical “Amélie.” Ms. Swift directs the 14 musician orchestra alongside the cast.

So much work, time and people are behind the *hopefully* seamless performances that you see when you watch a show!

This is seen particularly in the week leading up to the show, known as “Tech (Technical) Week.” With Cathedral’s next musical “Amélie,” right around the corner, opening Wednesday the 8th at the Poway Center for Performing Arts (PCPA), tech week is in full swing.

Tech week started Monday January, 30th, and after rehearsal till five, the actors and actresses met with the live orchestra for the first full vocal run through, also known as a sitzprobe.

For “Amélie,” the orchestra is made up of a total of 14 Cathedral students, alumni, and professionals, all directed under our very own music teacher, Ms. Jessica Swift.

Ms. Swift remarks that prior to meeting for the first run through together, she tries “to listen and study up, but [they] really just have the one rehearsal as an orchestra before [they] come together with the cast.”

While that is an impressive feat, not everything is smooth sailing, and Ms. Swift remarks that her “biggest challenge every show is always just getting to know what’s going to be happening on stage and getting the music to flow correctly with the lines.” This is further perpetuated by the lack of a stage until PCPA, however they are making it work, and it is quickly coming together in time for opening night.

Moving from show recordings to a live orchestra completely changes the songs for the better, and senior Sofia Martinez expresses, “Songs are going really well, I’m really excited for all of them, they all make me really happy.”

A lot of moments are sure to stand out after watching and listening to the show, however one Ms. Swift highlights is that, “the music itself is just really pretty, we’ve actually got a harp as part of our ensemble, which is a little more unusual.”

With a limited orchestra, a harp is a surprising instrument that adds a really beautiful and unique sound. Playing the harp, with 17 years of experience, is Cathedral alumni, Sophie Camden, who began with instruments early on in her life. It didn’t take her long to find her love of harp; “I played the piano starting from second grade and then around middle school I just started seeing harps around, mothers day brunch, afternoon tea, and so I was twelve years old and thought it was the coolest most beautiful instrument.”

After Camden decided to pursue playing the harp she found that, “Luckily I have supportive parents who thought that wasn’t terribly crazy, so I started on a little harp and in high school graduated to a big harp, then I went to college and I have a bachelors and masters degree in harp, and here I am today;” back at her old school, playing for “Amélie!”

Rehearsal continues as normal right after school, and then with the orchestra from six to nine. And for all of the freshmen, it is their first musical with Cathedral’s drama program.

This talented cast features seven freshmen, one of whom is Gabriel Quezada. He shares, “I’ve been doing theater my whole life, but this is my first high school show, and I’ve loved the experience so far and the environment.” Ms. Wilson is incredibly dedicated to helping all her new students hone in on their talent and grow through her programs and shows.

Simultaneously, during rehearsal the set is being built backstage in the theater, referred to as the shop. Here not only are all costumes and props stored, any set pieces are built. Recent notable sets built include the entire two story “Footloose” set, as well as the twelve foot columns in “Anastasia,” and many prior sets dating back before the pandemic.

Without spoiling the “Amélie” set, the shop is quickly filling with new set pieces!

It’s really rewarding to see sets built, and Emma Laframboise ‘24, in her second year, and third show of tech shares “my favorite part of tech week is when we bring everything together onto the stage and into the theater, and once that’s done it feels so satisfying. It’s all ready and together, and you can breathe for a moment before going into the shows.”

Our newest techie, Anna Rawlins ‘24 shares “I’ve wanted to do it since freshman year, but freshman year was on zoom so I couldn’t do it and then sophomore year just got so busy, so this year I made time for it.”

Tech has such a fun environment, and as summed up by Laframboise, “I really like that we always have fun, even when it’s stressful, it’s still fun.”

Stage manager Alyssa Rusnak ‘25 encourages, “Students can participate in many aspects of drama tech. If you want to run our social media or work backstage, there’s a place for everyone here. We have all kinds of opportunities that include costuming, hair and make-up, props, set construction, sound and lighting design, and social media.”

As the show draws nearer, props and costumes take priority. Friday’s rehearsal features the first full cast costume walk through.

Costumes set the tone for a performance, before the actual performance even begins. When asked about the importance and impact of costuming William Scarvie ‘24 shares that “I think it defines my character a lot. I try to act as someone who would wear those clothes. One of my characters is called Dufayel, an older man, who’s got a big robe, he’s a fragile man though, he has a degenerative bone disease, and it does affect how I play my character. It’s nice to feel the weight of the clothing, and how they affect my movements.”

Furthering this, Scarvie has “Another one of my characters, who I won’t say much about, [however] I play a real life person, who may or may not have just done his farewell tour, in the show, and my acting for that man is based on his real life actions but the costume definitely helps me get into character.” Such extravagant and specific costuming not only helps the audience, but also to help the actors give their best performances.

As everything starts to come together, everyone can start to see how music, sets, lights, sound, and blocking will play out at PCPA.

From a music standpoint Ms. Swift is so excited to “be at the Poway Center for Performing Arts,” she can’t wait to conduct the orchestra behind “our first musical at a theater with a real pit.”

This time around, with the first play of the year, “Lost Girl” at PCPA under our belt, the cast and crew is better suited to make the most out of PCPA’s professional theater.

Adding onto that, Aiden Schatz ‘23 shares that after doing tech last year, “I went to go see [“Lost Girl”], and wish I had been able to do tech, it looked really cool backstage [at PCPA], so I am really excited about that.”

Another exciting aspect of tech week is adding lights to the show. Sophomore, Lilly O’Shaughnessy, works on lighting during the show, and she loves how not only does it “add mood to the stage, I get to see the show from a different perspective, and add things to the show that couldn’t be added from backstage.”

When comparing “Amélie” and “Cinderella’s” orchestra, Ms. Swift explains that, “[‘Amélie’s’ orchestra is] smaller than, say, ‘Cinderella,’ which will be a bit more robust. Part of that is because the orchestration is pretty small for pit ensembles while the more traditional shows, like ‘Cinderella’ that were written a long time ago were in the era where they would write for full orchestra.” This only adds to the excitement to see “Cinderella,” with how good “Amélie” sounds as is, well summed up by Rawlins who is “so excited to just see it open, and all happen.”

Mark your calendars and grab a friend because “Amélie” is going to be another great Cathedral musical, opening February 8th, and closing February 9th at PCPA. In order to make the most of free CCHS student tickets (with their student ID), arrive early for general admission seating.

From Martinez and the whole cast and crew, “Come see Amélie, it’s going to be so good!”