Interview With SING Stage Crew Manager Maisha Ikra

By: Cyan Williams

  It’s been almost exactly a month since SING ended but it has still been bustling on everybody’s mind. I met with Maisha, Tech senior, to speak with her about her sing experience this year. Being it the seniors last year at Tech, this SING was very special to many of of us.

Cyan: SING was a great time filled with fun, energy and entertainment. Now that SING is over and SSV has won it is all anyone can talk about. As stage crew manager I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions.

Maisha: Of course, Cyan, SING has been a big part of my life the last few months as it has been for everyone involved.

Cyan: Great, so let us begin. How did you feel when you found out you were given the position of stage crew manager?

Maisha: Funny story, I actually started crying when I heard the news. But they were definitely happy tears. I tried out for manager for JSV2016 but I didn’t get the position which really upset me (but don’t get me wrong, I was stressed out about school as is, so not being manager that year was pretty fun). But overall junior year was just really tough for me. After a sports accident, I struggled physically, academically, socially, and emotionally. I just didn’t feel like myself anymore; I had no sincere ambition or passion for anything really. But after a year of hardships, hearing such great news kinda melted away all those stresses. For the first time in awhile, I felt sincerely happy and excited for the future. And that’s a feeling I’ll always cherish.

Cyan: What were your expectations if you had any upon becoming stage crew manager? (Expectations for the work/responsibility/the show

Maisha: All I really knew were some basics like sketching the sets, building props, and assigning jobs for the show. The main thing I learned was that there’s also a lot (and I mean A LOT) of communication that needs to take place. Communicating with my co-managers and crew members was a given, but I didn’t realize how many other SING leaders I’d have to interact with. The managers always had to report our crew needs and progress to the house manager and Mr. Ferrigno. Ms. Roe and our liaison also talked to us a lot regarding t-shirts and playbills and anything else regarding money and distribution. During “Hell Week” Ms. Brown was always there alongside the directors giving us notes on how to improve our scene changes and overall crew impressions. And since the beginning, our directors were always open to discussion regarding props, paint colors, scene changes, etc. What was funny was that I also found myself talking with the ensemble, choreographers, and band directors, asking for their opinion regarding how certain props/sets looked on stage in attempts to understand how the audience perceived them. It was a hassle at times, but I was also quite excited to be in coalition with so many talented groups.

Cyan: How was it working alongside your other three co managers Bibi, Tamar and Kimberly?

Maisha: OH MY GOD I LOVE MY CO-MANAGERS TO DEATH. They’re a really unique bunch with their own strengths and ideas. Bibi really knows stage crew like its the back of her hand. She puts so much effort and energy to make sure everything goes perfectly, even if that means overstressing sometimes. But her acute attention really kept me on my toes and pushed me to make sure our crew presented its best self. Tamar is kinda like a quiet storm. If you tell him to build one prop, he’ll have two and some new prop ideas done by the end of the day. He’s very efficient and dedicated, not to mention he’s great at relieving stress (especially my stress). Without him, stage crew probably wouldn’t have excelled its standards. Last, but certainly not least, is Kimberly. This was my first time working with her so I was very nervous and awkward at first. But once I started opening up, she slowly unraveled her creativity and intellect as well. This girl draws like it’s nobody’s business. I gave her so many rough sketches and she erased some lines and drew some shapes and BAM we had sets and signs. It was almost magical to see how much she could uncover from a simple sketch. (At this time I also want to shout-out Jack Batson, our House Manager, who always lent a helping hand and provided us with his wisdom and terrible humor).

Cyan: What made you want to become stage crew manager?

Maisha: I’ve done stage crew since 6th grade when I accidently enrolled in the drama program. I fell in love with technical theatre since then, and was even known throughout middle school as “that stage crew kid” (I was even manager at one point believe it or not). But I didn’t really plan on trying out for manager at first. I thought I didn’t posses the skills or experience needed. But during my sophomore year at spring musical, the crew managers suggested I try out for the position because stage crew was clearly something I “did well and really enjoyed doing”. Drawing the set seemed fun and I had a great group of support from my friends, so I didn’t see any harm in trying out. After not getting the position junior year, I was a bit more hesitant in interviewing again. Part of me thought it was pointless and that “I had ultimately failed”, but by the end of spring musical I realized that stage crew was something I really love to do and that my insecurities shouldn’t get in the way of my potential opportunities.

Cyan: What was your first SING show and first impression of SING?

Maisha:Like many of my peers, I joined SING my freshmen year. That year we worked with the seniors to produce the miracle that is “Circus Twerkus.” But I actually did cast instead of crew that year. By the time I got to high school, the idea of being something other than “that stage crew kid” really excited me, and I went with high hopes to the auditions. Eventually reality hit and I realized that getting a lead is actually really hard, and that being part of ensemble is way harder. That year I learned that singing and acting from an ensemble perspective is more complicated than it appears and that I really can’t dance for the life of me. Dancing for SING became something that really pushed me to new physical and emotional levels. But from that stressful experience I learned the true value and dedication of each section of theatre. The energy that radiated from everyone and their passions was phenomenal and pushed me to keep doing SING throughout high school.

Cyan: What was your proudest moment as stage crew manager?

Maisha: I think any crew manager that deals with painting can admit that completing the main fly is the proudest moment. I remember seeing my crew manager’s reaction to the same event from SSV2015 and thinking that perhaps she was being too dramatic. But I soon discovered how great that moment is. I was really cold that afternoon since my hands, clothes, and hair were covered in dried paint, but seeing that fly filled me with warmth. I took the biggest sigh of relief and almost fell off the stage since I was so mesmerized by the miracle that stood before me. (For those unfamiliar with crew, the main fly is perhaps the biggest project to tackle). I originally sketched the main fly on a small scrap of paper one July night at 2am. But here I was, November 2nd at 4pm, looking up at the fruit of everyone’s labor. It’s one thing to paint a scene on your own and frame it, but it’s really breathtaking to not only, see a scene painted by so many talented crew kids, but realize that everyone’s efforts are gonna be publically displayed. It’s almost like when Cinderella makes her own dress only to be dazzled by a new dress made with the help of her Fairy Godmother. It’s really corny and cliche but I still can’t get over how great that moment was.

Cyan: How are you feeling about the results of the show and how did you feel during the shows?

Maisha: Before each show I’d worry (much as all the leaders do) and run to every crew kid and ask “what’s your job and when do you do it?” After a while they all got really annoyed, so I started to step back a bit and let them succeed on their own. It was a very interesting perspective because typically I’m waiting by my post backstage, reviewing solely my cue over and over, and making sure the scene was safe before I did my job. But this year backstage there was only so much I could worry about all at once. I wasn’t completely stress-free, but I grew a trust with my fellow crew members, knowing that they didn’t need me to consistently grill them in order to do a good job. They all developed a sense of responsibility and backstage editique and I couldn’t be more proud. Seeing the scores was a bit of a shock, but in a good way! No matter what the score, I still can’t express how extremely proud I am of the crew. I always talk about how stage crew are the magicians of the show because they create all these awesome effects; well this year’s crew was really able to bring out their inner magicians and work together wonderfully to put on an awesome performance. Therefore, I must congratulate the crew for a phenomenal job (y’all made your managers INSANELY PROUD).

Cyan: What advice would you give to students aspiring to become stage crew manager one day?

Maisha: First off, congrats for actually getting past those doubts and going after a really prestigious role. As I said before, sometimes we let our insecurities block us from going after opportunities we really like but are too scared to face. So being able to realize what you want and make an effort to go after it, is really wonderful. To become a crew manager you really need to show passion, creativity, and initiative. This doesn’t mean just drawing cool scenes or showing up everyday to build props. Rather you should have a desire to interact with others, even people you’re not too familiar with, and work hard to create something almost awe-inspiring. Crew manager (and any SING position really) is A LOT of commitment. SING is student-run and only occurs for a few months, thus, it’s crucial that leaders can possess an undivided attention to it. This doesn’t mean quitting everything for SING, but there does come a time where you’ll have to prioritize and make tough decisions regarding how your time is spent (I’ll openly admit I struggled a lot with this). But if SING taught me anything, it’s that you’re definitely never alone. Communication is really a major key in all this! You have to not only be able to explain your strengths and ideas, but also your issues and doubts (Ms. Brown is always an essential help here). Speaking of Ms. Brown, when you go to interview with her, take a deep breath and relax. The interview process is very chill and Ms. Brown works hard to make sure everyone is comfortable and able to be fully vocal. Remember to be honest, ask questions, and have fun!

(Here I’d kinda like to address anyone who tries out and gets rejected because hey I’ve been there). If you get rejected, make sure to hold you head high and keep a good attitude (it’s hard, I’d know because I was pretty bad at this). You might cry or scream or feel lost which is all normal in hindsight, but make sure you don’t lose your integrity. And whatever you do, DO NOT QUIT SING. If you don’t want to do stage crew, that’s completely okay! Go do band or cast or studio or tech crew. Join whatever section you want as long as you are sincerely happy and excited to practice everyday. SING comes with so many fun memories and great companions so it’s really a big loss to give that up.

Cyan: If you weren’t manager what part of SING do you think you would be apart of?

Maisha: To be honest, I’d still be in stage crew. I just love being in crew so much it’s insane. I love watching paint dry and mixing paint literally gives me life (sometimes I think I need therapy but then I remember I just need theatre). Unless you’re asking what I’d do if I wasn’t in crew…In that case, I must admit Tech Crew has always fascinated me. They work with so many cool gadgets and much like stage crew they’re part of the behind-the-scenes magic. In addition they get to help both shows which is really exciting!

Cyan: How do you think the responsibility of stage crew manager has affected you and how you will accomplish things in the future?

Maisha: What a heavy question, oh boy. Perhaps the most important skills I’ve learned are communication and commitment. SING is unique to solely NYC, which goes to show just how crazy the production is. Sure, you can work in a drama program outside of Tech or even Spring Musical, and get your fix of technical theatre there, but there’s nothing quite like working together to actually create a show. Many playwrights and artistic designers won’t ever see their visions onstage, but here we are, a group of teenagers in a small school in Staten Island, spending hours to produce a show that we’ll get to perform publically, not once, but three times. It’s not just about presenting a musical, it’s like creating a baby (insanely weird comparison, but bear with me). For roughly 3 months, students of all personalities, talents, and walks of life, pour all their time, effort, and energy into presenting their best selves. So to be able to witness such passion in person is really quite spectacular. Being manager (and just generally in SING) has taught that sometimes you can’t do everything, and that’s okay because you’re definitely not alone on that ground. And it’s the fact that you’re not alone that really makes the whole experience worthwhile; there are so many people you can open up to regarding such issues (or any for that matter) and by doing so, everyone can accomplish far more than if they were to do so independently. It has really affected me in that I’ve become more responsible for my actions, good and bad, and am more willing to seek the aid of those working alongside me in order to achieve something quite magical.img_7552

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