“Could we meet somewhere near the blackbox?” Aya Long (‘22), asks me. They have a rehearsal to be at right after our interview, so we sit down on a staircase near the theatre classroom and Long tells me a bit about their experience in the BHS drama department.
When most people think of a thespian, they imagine the actor on stage, glowing in the spotlight. However, Aya—who is most certainly a thespian—doesn’t tend to take center stage. The president of the Thespian Board and stage manager for the upcoming BHS musical Little Women, uses her talents backstage, focusing on the technical aspect of theatre. Long has acted before, in a DramaFest one-act, but she has predominantly been a tech.
Long explains how she came to be a leader in the tech department: “[during freshman year] I moved on to doing lights and set work and basically anything I could find. So, when Mrs. Glass left for maternity leave, I was helping out a whole lot in the technical theater class. Ever since then, I’ve kind of just loved it and kept doing it. Every year, every second.”
Long goes on to explain some of the duties of a tech. “As technicians we’re either backstage or up in the booth and we’re handling all of the technical aspects… It’s a lot of talking with audience members too. Saying, ‘Hey, can you not do that, please?’ Same thing with actors. You have to go to actors and be like, ‘Hey, that’s not cool, dude.’ Because none of the other actors are going to do it.”
Actors and techs are both vital to a production’s success, but the two positions vastly contrast each other. Long can confirm this. they explain that “it’s certainly different. Actors tend to be more…” Long struggles to find the right words, “I don’t know how to put this…” They laugh, finally settling on the right metaphor: “They’re like flamingos”.
So how does one tame a flock of flamingos? Long says that one of the most important things to do is keep organized. They also point to their assertiveness as something that has helped them to succeed. “I’m a middle child. So, I grew up talking to my little brother and having my siblings talk to me… But I had to practice being assertive in a friendly way rather than just a mean way.”
Although Long loves having such a large role in the department, they acknowledge that “it is a huge commitment… I just realized I need to prioritize some things more. And it’s okay to let go of some things. And it’s okay to say ‘hey, I can’t make it today. I’ve got some stuff due and I need to just rest for a bit’. You really have to take care of yourself as much as you can.” Long admits, “I’m terrible at that. But, you know, I’m trying”.
Aya whole-heartedly recommends trying out theater to anyone who is interested, but perhaps a little intimidated. They suggest, “talk to Mrs. Glass. There’re small roles, you can be in tech, you can audition. Auditioning doesn’t hurt. It might seem like it hurts, but it’s like ripping off a Band-Aid. You just gotta jump in, even if it’s just a little bit. You can come to work parties; we love having extra hands. Talk to upperclassmen… try something.” Long promises, “you’ll fall in love with it.”
When reflecting on what she’ll take away from her experience in drama, Long’s answer is easy, “I’ll take away the friendships most of all.” She pauses to add, “That sounds so cheesy.” But she maintains that the relationships she’s made through theater were the highlight of the entire experience. “There was so much of a hole in me when I was a freshman, and theater— that’s just such a big part of what I’ve done and what I’ve had fun with. So yeah, I think the people and the friendships are really what I’m going to take away.”
Although Aya isn’t certain where her future will take her, she knows it will include theater in some capacity. “I’m going to try to find a way to keep it in my life, no matter what I do. I’ve got a few different paths I’m looking at, and theater is definitely one of them. It’s just become such a big part of my life”. Long dreams of traveling in the future and learning about different people, and cultures. “I think it would be amazing to see what kinds of theater people do around the world.”
Aya Long’s contribution to the BHS drama department is vital to its success. The shows wouldn’t be the same without her presence at nearly every rehearsal. Her normally calm demeanor becomes commanding in a split second when she needs to get her actors under control. But the actors don’t just listen to their stage manager because of her authoritative tone. They listen because she is someone that they trust, someone they respect, (although they may not listen the first time, everytime). And yet, despite how paramount they may be to a production’s success, those who manage the technical elements of a show are often underappreciated in comparison to their actor counterparts. It is time for technicians—and this tech in particular—to receive the accolades they deserve. Let’s give a round of applause to Aya!
Keep a look out for upcoming events in the Bothell Theater Department by following @bothell_drama on Instagram