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Theirs Are the Silent Voices of the Theater

Spencer Frawley and Colin Bailey Are A Huge Part of the SMHS Drama and Dance Departments While Serving In Relative Anonymity

They are a substantial part of San Marino High School’s most entertaining events, but you will only know their names if something, heaven forbid, goes wrong. Encamped high above and far in back of the school’s Neher Auditorium, senior Spencer Frawley and sophomore Colin Bailey are just two young men who are barely noticed on your way out the door. But their contributions are seemingly endless, and crucial to the success of the Drama, Dance and Arts departments.

Spencer – the lighting guy – is putting the finishing touches on a four-year career as the school’s techie – the only member of the senior class who has gone the distance in the program.

Colin – the sound guy – will, too, at least in Spencer’s estimation. Separated by about 20 feet, headphones and a mic, the two look like football coaches discussing strategy. But in many ways, theirs is more crucial and requires quicker thinking. Though the room is loud and dark, Spencer and Colin carry on a calm, constant dialogue, reminding one another of upcoming challenges and offering compliments for navigating difficult patches in the production. Colin is located in the back row of the 1,200-seat auditorium, Spencer in a perch that requires two dark, difficult ladder climbs to reach.

Together, they have “teched” more than 30 events this year alone. Preparation for this weekend’s Dancetra performance has required more than 50 hours for each. This year’s musical, ‘Little Shop of Horrors,’ took twice that much work. And that doesn’t count the actual shows.

“Anything that happens in the auditorium, I will be there,” Colin said.

“Yeah,” Spencer agreed. “We work a lot of events that aren’t even on a calendar. If there is an assembly, we are working. A thing for seniors. You name it.”

Dancetra includes 32 separate acts and a total combination of more than 400 lighting cues. Spencer and Colin painstakingly slog through each of the production’s songs to coordinate the lighting system with the sound board. Dance Director Bonnie Hanson and the performers will request specific lighting effects that are worked into the production. Throughout the show, Spencer and Colin maintain voice contact with technical assistants located backstage to assure smooth transitions from number to number.

The musical, well, that is an entirely different set of challenges. While Spencer was busy providing custom lighting, Colin was responsible for balancing and monitoring 17 different wireless lavalier microphones that were attached to the different characters during ‘Little Shop.’

“Sometimes, their mic packs were on the back of their pants and if they perspired, I’d have to tell the backstage to change the battery or clean them off,” said Colin. “It is a constant effort to make sure things are working.”

And if things don’t work? Blame the ghosts.

Seriously. The boys think the place is haunted.

Each refers to the ghost in a male form and claim “he” is responsible for some bizarre occurrences in Neher. An onstage LED light began going through strange cycles and changing colors…but it wasn’t plugged in.

“People backed away,” understated Spencer.

“Cues just disappeared into the ether,” Colin countered. “We figure someone is having fun in the afterlife and we are just here.”

Spencer claims the ghost seems to have different attitudes towards different people, but diplomatically declined to explain further.

“I have a good relationship with him,” he states matter-of-factly.

“He doesn’t mess around with me,” Colin said. “The sound board is too sophisticated. But I have seen things happen.”

The technical personality profile is often in conflict with that of a performer, but Spencer and Colin have enough creative – not to mention physical – distance from the stage that there is rarely a concern.

“It’s a great life lesson,” said Colin.

Spencer is heading to the University of Hawaii, Hilo in the fall and plans to stay involved in “techie stuff” for side jobs and to stay connected to the craft. He credits his father, Jim Frawley, former San Marino Fire Chief who now has the same post in Santa Cruz, for encouraging him to get involved backstage. Spencer has enjoyed it so thoroughly that he has made his senior project to learn how to weld after being exposed to the art during the lead-up to ‘Little Shop.’

Similarly, Colin has followed in the footsteps of his father, Steve.

“I’ve had an interest in tech all my life,” he said. “My dad is a building official and he taught me how to build anything. I know all about wiring, carpentry. When I was picking classes at the middle school, I thought this was a perfect fit.”

The boys are enrolled in a Stage Management class that meets during 4th period every day and is taught by Drama Department Director Blake Williams.

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