The real magic behind Wizard of Oz


Photo provided by Jo Higgins

Martin looks at their script to keep track of when the next que is.

Kennedy Clary, Staff Writer

Every year for the last four years, Lu Martin has been at the center of it all when it comes to theater. Without them, all the actors would be performing on a dirty stage in the dark with no sound. Tech is essential to running a production well, and Martin is the center of the tech program: the stage manager. They call all the cues for all the lights, sound, and fly during all the tech rehearsals and eventually the show. They have been stage-managing all four of their years at RJ Reynolds High School. 

“I started as a stage management shadow in freshman year for Peter and the Starcatcher,” Martin said. “It’s been four years now.” 

Shadowing means that Martin followed a previous stage manager, Charlie Tucker, around to learn how to do the job and eventually began to do the job on their own. They became the full-fledged stage manager during Jesus Christ Superstar in 2021, which was the spring of their sophomore year.

“I was always supposed to take over after Charlie graduated,” Martin said. “I was supposed to do some things on my own during the spring semester freshman year, but Covid shut that down.” 

Martin grew up backstage since their parents were professional dancers. When Martin’s parents would perform they would bring Martin backstage with them. Martin was always fascinated by the tech aspects of the productions they watched as a child.

Martin looks up at the fly crew as they call the next fly que.
(Photo provided by Jo Higgins)

 “It’s like performing without being on stage. If you have stage fright like I do then that’s really nice,” Martin said. “With stage managing I can perform without anyone seeing me.” 

They had always known they wanted to work behind the scenes in productions, which is why they signed up for a tech theater class, but they weren’t initially sure what they wanted to specialize in. About two months after their freshman year started, two of their theater mentors, Nick Zayas and Liz May, recruited them to stage manage. They soon grew to really love stage managing in the auditorium, it’s a stressful job, but they have the right set of skills to get what needs to get done, done. Martin was very clear about their duty as a stage manager. 

“My job is making sure that the director’s vision is put on stage in a way that is safe and organized for everyone involved,” Martin said. “I keep everyone organized and keep the show moving.” 

Martin is the one everyone goes to if there’s a problem on or off stage and they make the calls with the help of the director, tech teacher, and auditorium manager of how to handle the situation. 

“During an Into the Woods tech rehearsal, we had a house set piece fully collapse on stage in the middle of a run,” Martin said. “I had to get Robert up on stage to screw it back together while we kept the run going.” 

One of their other mentors in the theater field, Gretchen Devlin-Hall, the tech teacher at RJR has also noticed how perfect Martin is for their job and how important they are to our tech department and the shows running accordingly.

“Without them the show doesn’t happen,” Devlin-Hall said. “I respect them, and they respect me, they have been a godsend.” 

Devlin-Hall has been working in the tech industry her whole life and has worked with lots of stage managers and has even been a stage manager herself. When asked how Martin compared to previous colleagues, she had nothing but praises. 

“They have done an excellent job, and it’s a big job,” Delvin-Hall said. “It’s not one I would’ve wanted in high school. I stage managed in college and professionally, but it’s not something I could’ve taken on in high school.” 

Devlin-Hall isn’t the only one who has noticed Martin’s capability, every crew member that works under Martin has noticed how good they are at keeping everyone together. Their assistant stage manager, Kat Jones, has worked with them for all four years of their high school career. 

“Especially during shows, I have always thought of Lu as an mother ostrich,” Jones said. “Ready to fight and get the job done, but at the same time responsible for the younger techs.”

Martin keeps everyone together and focused, even people who are in completely different places across the auditorium. The lighting and sound people that are up running their boards in the back of the auditorium are all on headsets listening for Martin as well as each other to know when they need to come in with sound effects or light designs. Kai Hamby has been running the light board for Martin for the last couple shows they have done together. He shed light on how many things Martin is handling at the same time.

“Every blackout or small shift of light is a go from Lu,” Hamby said. “For a musical or play I myself have easily over a hundred cues. We definitely have over one hundred for Wizard.” 

That is over a hundred cues just for lighting, and Martin calls out cues for three other departments during all the shows the production has. For The Wizard of Oz… that’s one hundred cues for lighting and about the same amount for fly, sound, and deck crew for seven shows over the span of three and a half days. It is an insane amount of things to keep track of, but Martin makes it work every time. Martin plans to continue tech in college, as a hobby, and it’s obvious that college is lucky to have them. Everyone in the tech department agrees; they are the real magic behind the productions, and they will be sorely missed next year!