Mike's Notes: The Soul Corner of the Scene Shop

Posted by Mike Henriques


It’s one of the corners of the school where history is visible, where narrative takes concrete form. It’s behind the thick curtains of the stage, behind a wall with a huge clattering garage door, behind the mystery darkness of the back stage. Penetrate far enough and you step into the scene shop, where the power tools are racked, the trays of screws and lag bolts stack up, the paint brushes and rollers hang over an industrial sink. Pry bars, levels, caulking guns, miter saw, plywood, doorknobs, castors, tape measures, battery chargers, clamps, step ladders surround the visitor. It’s a bright, busy space. It smells of sawdust and paint and dreams. 

Mikes Notes 1

Step into that space and the walls jump out. They are graffiti covered with names, hand prints, flowers, signatures of all who have worked on sets and shows, lighting and costumes: Grace, Yasmine, Ethan, Lilli, Oliver, Nelson, Baxter, Cat. Each name summons up a performance, a set, a world of memories. Cabaret, Man of La Mancha,  Beauty and the Beast, In The Heights, Sweat, Little Shop of Horrors...Usually we turn to yearbooks to summon up these memories, or social media compilations that stream with gauzy music and soft fades from our collections, but nothing compares to being in a palace of memories. No social media platform comes close. No yearbook touches it.


We need to visit these soul corners. We need to stand in them as educators and soak in the why of what we do. We need to be reminded of the students we knew and those we did not really know. As educators we can lock into the silos of routine and immediacy: our classes, our department, our dorm, our team, our advisees. That’s not a terrible thing, but we need to step out and see the whole of the endeavor, and we never see the whole in the narrow confines of the beaten path. The set shop is one of those places where one can see the intertwinings, the why and the how. The broader scope of our mission snaps into focus. How can it not when you see al of these individual and collective journeys.  


It’s also a visible reminder that we build this community, as any community is built - over time. There are the acts of a play, the beats of a scene, but to get to that place where it rolls out on the stage? That takes weeks. Months. It’s messy. It requires creativity, patience, raw materials, planning, and flexibility. It requires differing skills: builders, technology gurus, makeup and costume artists, actors who can lead and follow. So it is with community. Sometimes I like to just stand in the midst of the scene shop to be reminded of all of this, to lean up against a workbench with 2x4’s, sawdust, a paint bucket on one end, a trash can lid (why is that there?) on the other, and just contemplate the whole. To revel in it.


 The scene shop soul corner - it’s both reminder and inspiration.


Mike Henriques P'11, P'15

Proctor Academy Head of School

Read more of Mike's blog posts here.


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