High School Students Go Behind the Scenes with Backstage Intensive Program

Students from William Chrisman High School are introduced
to audio design with a behind the scenes tour from
Audio Production Supervisor Palmer Jankens.
Photo by Sarah Milosevich.

Journey behind the curtain and witness the magic that goes into executing a live performance. Through the Backstage Intensive program, an Open Doors Spotlight on Youth initiative that is supported by a grant from Cerner Charitable Foundation, the Center bridges the gap between the arts and youth in communities throughout Kansas City. Now available virtually in addition to its traditional in-person format, Backstage Intensive educates students about the various careers open to them in the performing arts and non-profit industry. From arts administration to technical theater, the Backstage Intensive program shines a light on the real-world career opportunities at the Kauffman Center and other performing arts venues.

Now, students can engage with the program via the virtual portal launched in January 2021. With this portal, the Kauffman Center continued engaging students despite physical distance and widened accessibility for the program to reach more students. The virtual Backstage Intensive website portal contains four video demonstrations, each about 20 minutes in length, that explore various production elements and roles. Watch an expert demonstrate the art of sound engineering and lighting design through virtual video tours, which give students an up-close look at the technical elements of live theater. Learn how the scenic crews rig and fly scenery and hear staff explain the glamour—and challenges—of managing a complex theater production. Each video has several accompanying resources to further enhance and enrich the experience including vocabulary practice, discussion questions, classroom activities and more.

The virtual Backstage Intensive portal (pictured above) allows classrooms to explore all the videos and resources at their own pace, tailoring the experience to their students.

“Kauffman Center’s virtual Backstage Intensive was an invaluable resource to my Stagecraft classroom,” said a theater teacher at Lee’s Summit North High School whose students participated virtually in 2021. “The lessons and activities provided fit seamlessly into class. Students new to the area of lighting, audio and rigging gained useful information that they were able to put into practice. My experienced students learned new information about a different space and were able to start developing new ideas for our performance space. I intend on being involved in the Intensive in future years.”

Educators at William Chrisman High School, Olathe West High School, Lee’s Summit North High School, Raytown South High School and Grandview High School all opted to utilize the virtual Backstage Intensive program in their classrooms during the spring semester. The program has reached 48 students throughout the metro thus far in 2021.

In a video demonstration, Production Services Manager Eric Miller demonstrates the capabilities of different types of lighting instruments.

“The kids enjoyed the videos and they said they learned a lot from them,” said a theater teacher at Olathe West High School. “They didn’t feel like the work was overwhelming or super difficult – just right. I loved getting a chance for them to see backstage and learn from other theatre technicians!”

Additionally, the in-person Backstage Intensive program brings students to the Kauffman Center for a two-day experience. First, participating schools are introduced to the Center through a front-of-house experience where they attend a school matinee. On a second visit, students return to explore all the behind-the-scenes roles that exist within the venue and the technologies used by each. Students may go on a backstage tour, participate in technical theater demonstrations or engage in arts administration discussions with staff members.

Students dive into the staging aspect of technical theatre as
Theater Operations Manager Sara Beatty oversees their work.
Photo by Sarah Milosevich.

“I learned a lot about Kauffman [Center] history, jobs and jobs in theater in general,” an in-person student participant from Van Horn High School said. “I recommend this program to those who want to learn more about theatre and careers beyond acting.”

Theater is so much more than what the audience can see and, through the Backstage Intensive program, local high school students can be introduced to the many careers that are needed to execute a flawless performance. To learn more information about both the in-person and virtual Backstage Intensive programs, visit kauffmancenter.org/education or email opendoors@kauffmancenter.org.

Follow the Kauffman Center on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to get details about upcoming performances and behind-the-scenes access.

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