Backstage at YAMO

We all know what dancers look like. Clad in costume, jazz shoes or tights, there’s no mistaking them.

The same cannot be said for the 2015 YAMO Croo.

“We have so many different people,” remarked Liz Michael, YAMO’s scenic designer. “It’s very strange. Like, every type of person.”

Perhaps the largest of YAMO’s seven companies, the “Croo” – they don’t go by ‘crew’ – ranges from lighting the Upstairs Theatre to building an enormous set with an orchestral balcony, and even rigging a giant bucket of greek yogurt to the ceiling. In short, said Michael, “we keep it together.”

When considering the reason for her stage crew’s diversity, Fiona Hessert, this year’s student technical director, reflected that it’s “a universal thing.”

“No matter what you like to do, there is something that pertains to that,” Hessert said.

And that’s no surprise – there is a lot for Croo to accomplish. Starting in the late weeks of August, the group constructs an entirely new set for the show. With over twenty sketches, scenes and songs, lighting plots and microphone configurations must come out running smoothly by opening night. It’s not always easy, Hessert said, “to understand what goes into it.” She noted that the actors and other members of the show sometimes have trouble appreciating the level of work that Croo puts in.

“They think that it isn’t hard, what we do. They don’t get that what we do can be difficult,” Michael said.

However, Croo clearly doesn’t go entirely unappreciated. Incoming freshmen and other students interested in the stage crew experience often make YAMO their first stop. Because of this, the face of the crew changes drastically from year to year. The influx of new members frequently makes up for the exit of the previous class of seniors.

“So many seniors graduated,” Michael said remorsefully.

“So many seniors,” Hessert added. “They’re gone. They’re all gone.”

The lengthy process aside, Croo’s end results are present everywhere in the show. “It’s really fun to watch an entire thing completely come together,” said Hessert.

Closer to the set, Michael reflects that the result is often surprising. “During construction, you’re so close to the set that you don’t really notice progress being made, and then one day you walk in, and it’s so cool.”
As the Croo’s leaders, Michael and Hessert learned that the process of putting the show together doesn’t end on opening night. During the interview, Hessert brought up the fact that YAMO’s writers had tweaked the script and modified some of the crew’s instructions.

“They changed it? No, you’re kidding,” responded Michael.

“They changed the beginning scene.”

“Oh, my god. Do they know that’s not going to happen?”