Power Tools and Progress: How I Became a Carpenter

Elle Lucas
Class of: 

Some may call me a theatre nerd...and I think I’d have to agree.

It may have all started when, for my 10th birthday, I got a CD player and my first collection of CDs – my favorites of which were Broadway Kids Sing Broadway, and Broadway Kids: Back on Broadway. I’ll never forget the twang of “Gary, Indiana,” or how much I related to “I Feel Pretty.”

If I haven’t convinced you yet of my nerd-dom, let me try and swing you with a little something else: I wrote my college essay – you know, the one that GETS you into college – about stage lighting. Yeah, about the pretty colors that shine down on the even prettier actors’ faces. In high school, I knew there was something special about switching the faders on the lighting board and controlling the spotlight. You could say there was a certain power about the whole thing. So when that essay convinced the admissions department at St. Lawrence, and I arrived here all spunky and excited, I sought out the theatre. I wanted to be involved. After four years of stage managing, prop organizing, and lighting back home, I knew there was no way I’d go through my college career without feeling the enormously thrilling stress of being part of theatrical production.

That fall, I jumped right in. I showed up to auditions for the play and found my space as assistant stage manager. It rocked. The next semester, I was bumped up to stage manager. I was also enrolled in Stagecraft, and that is where this blog post really begins. Stay with me here, people.

Stagecraft. Stage. Craft. Think: arts and crafts on stage. But bigger. And better. (And trust me, I know arts and crafts. I’m a camp counselor.) It’s a class that teaches you how to build stuff for plays, dance concerts and musicals, and even how to assemble random props you never knew existed. That spring, we built a tree strong enough to support a swing, a steampunk TV set, and we even changed the angle of the stage floor. Never in my life had I held a pneumatic butterfly wrench before, but never had I felt so empowered in a realm that I felt was traditionally dominated by strong, burly men. Why would there be room for a tiny freshman girl in a class that should essentially be called Construction? There was room because all hands were, and will always be, important in the projects that make a production come to life.

When I got an email asking me to be a Technical Assistant for University Theatre during the summer after my first year, I jumped at the chance to be the one helping other students learn the pride and joy of carrying a wrench on your belt loop. (Again, nerd.) On the first day of lab when students came in to work on the day’s assignments, I was nervous that I would forget which tool was the Wonder Bar and which was the Cat’s Paw (yes, these are real names) in front of students who were older than me, and usually male athletes. I probably stumbled over the calculations for sawing down 2x4s to the proper length, and there’s a fair chance I admitted my fear of tape measures in the process.

But now as a senior, I’ve been working in the scene shop backstage for long enough that not only am I comfortable pushing planks of wood through a table saw, but I can do it with my eyes shut. JUST KIDDING! I’ve never done that. Don’t you ever do that, either. It’s very, very unsafe.

The point is, working in the scene shop has given me confidence in ways I never thought I’d obtain from being in college. I couldn’t have guessed that one day I would dream of building my own house because I learned such carpentry skills here at St. Lawrence. There’s no way I would have expected that I’d walk across the stage in May knowing exactly how that stage was put together and how much hard work it took. I’m proud to be a theatre nerd – and I’ve got my own wrench to prove it.