Marquette Wire

Lack of female stagehands sparks discussion

The theme of Strong Women translates to upcoming panel

Photo by Photo via Facebook

Photo by Photo via Facebook

Alexandra Atsalis

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In the world of theatre, backstage crewmembers are the unsung heroes. They receive neither applause nor the opportunity to take a bow, however, even less acknowledged are female stagehands.

Marquette Theatre Department’s theatre management class is hosting a panel discussion “The Strong Women of Today: A Conversation with Female Stagehands,” this Sunday, Dec. 6 at 7:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. From it, they seek to find the answer to why there are so few female stagehands and learn what it is like for women to work in the predominantly male world of technical theatre production.  Chester Loeffler Bell, artistic assistant professor for digital media and performing arts and the professor for theatre management, said from his experience stagehands are almost always men.

“I’ve been in this business for 20-some years and I only know two women I’ve worked with recently. They’re the only women I see on these calls,” Loeffler Bell said.

He said he does not have one all-encompassing theory on why this may be, but he hopes that the discussion will shed some light onto it.

“Maybe women don’t think about it, they don’t see it as an avenue,” Loeffler Bell said. “The funny thing is here in this department, the majority of people who come work for me are female. So it’s weird.”

One possible reason for the lack of women in this career is the traditionally masculine work that this job requires. A stagehand works backstage or behind the scenes of a production to set up the scenery, lights, sound, props, rigging and other effects, making it a physically demanding job.

With that in mind, Loeffler Bell said that it should be interesting to find out from the panel how women experience work as a stagehand differently than men.

“I think it’s definitely worth discussing,” Loeffler Bell said. “What is it like to be the only woman on a call where there’s these 20 guys and the expectation of carrying a big box or climbing up on this high rack and all that other stuff.”

The panel itself consists of three professional women, Debbie Steidl, Megan Henninger and Laura Herrmann. They are all Milwaukee based stagehands with experience working in theatre, concerts and television across the United States. Adding to the assembly of successful women is Jeannette Bell, former Wisconsin State Assembly representative and former mayor of West Allis, who will be moderating the discussion.

The event makes a relevant addition to the Theatre Department’s theme this year of “Strong Women.”

Katie Korek, one of the coordinators of the event, a student in the theatre management class and a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences is pleased with this connection.

“Having a panel discussion about a very male dominated career field, showing that females are also in it, is a good thing to coincide with what the shows have been about,” Korek said.

Korek hopes that this event will bring more recognition to female stagehands because they are often overlooked.

“It’s a hard job, that’s no secret,” Korek said. “It’s good to recognize how many great people are in this field.”

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