State Theatre: A "behind the scenes" look

By: Megan Peterson Email
By: Megan Peterson Email

Every year, more than 100 plays, musicals, and concerts fill the stage at the historic State Theatre in Eau Claire. But what people attending the fun often don't realize is how much time and effort goes into each production.

We're taking a look "behind the scenes" where planning, brainstorming and practicing start months before the stage curtain opens.

Steps are run through, props set just right and songs memorized.

Before last weekend's performance of "White Christmas", members of the Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild made sure everything was ready behind the scenes.

"Local groups actually load in about a week before their performance. So that's when they come in and start building the set, putting all those pieces together, hanging the lights, dropping the curtains into place," Executive Director of the Eau Claire Regional Arts Center Ben Richgruber explained.

Joel and Jess Breed are theatre veterans who have been in productions through the Eau Claire Children's Theatre and the Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild.

"We ended up being cast as the lion and Dorothy, which is cheesy and sick, but that's how we met, so we kind of attribute our love for the theatre and the performing community to us being together," Jess Breed said.

They say it takes many more than the people you see on stage.

"You've got your lighting manager, the stage manager, you've got the props manager, you've got the costumer, the hair and make up person," Jess named off just a few of the people at work behind the scenes.

Plus it takes countless hours of preparation to make a show work.

"Most rehearsals I would say take probably 4 nights a week, sometimes 2.5 hours at a time," Breed said.

All that time spent with cast members leads to the making of a theatre family.

"Everybody is together, working toward one goal, and that's putting on the best performance that we can. You're automatically joined and it ends up being a great time," Joel Breed said.

And that time also leads to lots of laughter and behind the scenes stories to tell.

"I had one recently during "Hairspray" that my wig started falling and I had to run offstage to try and fix it because I had this wig that was probably about two feet high. And then there's always the times that people forget their lines," the Breeds joked together.

The Breeds say it takes dedication, but nothing that isn't comparable to being in sports.

"It's more work than I think people could imagine, but it's never not enjoyable," Jess said.

"For these two, being on stage is an adrenaline rush. It's once the curtain closes again that the "post-show blues", as they say, kick in.

"You've been on a such a high and such a rush and then all of a sudden it's gone and you're just kind of bored," Jess explained.

The Breeds say it's an experience made even more special thanks to a supportive community.

"You know here you really can't turn a corner without seeing something about the children's theatre or the theatre guild or ECRAC (Eau Claire Regional Arts Center) itself or the State Theatre shows that are coming around. It's everywhere," Jess said.

Next Tuesday night, we'll continue our special State Theatre series as we look ahead to it's 85th birthday. Find out how the state has spread the arts to kids all over the Chippewa Valley.

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