By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Stagecraft Class - Students Build For Macbeth
Sawing, hammering and painting with gusto, students of Riverbank High's stagecraft class are building the set for the drama department's performance of Macbeth.

The towers, turrets, platforms and gateways of wood and sheetrock rising within the Black Box Theater closely follow the patterns of a miniature model of cardboard and Styrofoam fashioned by class member Kaitlyn Hair.

Stagecraft teacher Al Scoles is the building construction instructor for the Regional Occupational Program that is financed by the federal government and prepares students for a job in the building trades and home construction. He started the stagecraft class as a sideline in cooperation with English and drama teacher Stacey Blevins and teaches it for one period a day.

Twenty-five students are in the class. They happen to be all boys, except for Hair, but that is unusual; the class is generally split about equally boys and girls, said Scoles.

For the first couple of weeks, he was concentrating on teaching the safe use of tools, especially the electrically driven saws. But students are now more adept and moving on to cutting and connecting lengths of timber. Soon there will be a lot of painting to be done, he said, to reproduce the rock, brick and flagstones of an ancient castle.

This is far from the first effort of its kind in the class. It's been going some five years and students have fashioned stage sets for plays ranging from Willy Wonka, Alice in Wonderland and The Crucible to Dracula, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Into the Woods and various productions of Shakespeare.

Students built sets for several seasons of Shakespeare in the Park (Jacob Myers Park) at Riverbank High in the yard behind the former auto shop (now converted to a theater), building them in sections, so they could haul the bits down to the picturesque park and reassemble them.

For at least one season of The Tempest, they constructed a "raked" stage like those built in 15th Century Elizabethan England. Such stages slanted toward the audience.

"That way spectators had better sight lines. They could see the onstage action better, although it made it more difficult for the actors to move around without losing their balance," Scoles commented.

For the last two years the class has also built a Haunted House for Halloween in the Black Box Theater, he noted, and Macbeth with its murder and mayhem is a very suitable play for Halloween.

While his main job is to teach the trades of houses construction, Scoles has an affection for amateur theater.

"I did some acting besides set work for community theater in Patterson, Gustine and Newman," he said. "My niece teaches drama at Patterson High School and I've performed onstage in the Patterson Repertory Theater."

Scoles also has a nephew who performs for Disney Europe located in Paris.

RHS drama students plan to present a version of Macbeth adapted by Blevins on Oct. 29 and 30 and Nov. 4 and 5 at the school. Admission will cost $5.

Blevins has noted that acting is a precarious occupation at which it is very difficult to make a living. But the current wealth of movie and television productions is creating many jobs and steady employment for behind the scenes contributors like stage designers and set builders.