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Bellingham High School graduate excels behind the scenes

Anna Crowley, Bellingham High School senior and sound operator for Bellingham Theatre Guild’s “The Drowsy Chaperone,” prepares the sound booth before a performance on Thursday, June 18, at the guild’s playhouse on H Street.
Anna Crowley, Bellingham High School senior and sound operator for Bellingham Theatre Guild’s “The Drowsy Chaperone,” prepares the sound booth before a performance on Thursday, June 18, at the guild’s playhouse on H Street. The Bellingham Herald

When Anna Crowley joined theater as a sophomore in high school, she wasn’t interested in singing or memorizing lines.

Instead, the Bellingham High School student chose to work behind the scenes. She soon became a stage manager for musicals and, even though she wasn’t performing for an audience, what she’s done outside of the spotlight has made her stand out.

Crowley, who graduates on Friday, June 19, has been able to thrive as a stage manager in large part because she is comfortable in stressful situations. In fact, she prefers those situations.

“It’s a nice escape. It’s not exactly relaxing, but I love it,” Crowley said. “I think it’s the feeling of being able to create something with other people and being able to really see the fruits of your efforts.”

She’s also not afraid to boss people around when necessary. When asked what is the most difficult aspect of stage managing, her first answer doesn’t have anything to do with the soundboard, lights or calling cues. That part is easy for Crowley. The hardest part, she said, is “making sure people don’t mess up.”

During musicals, Crowley was in charge of all of the technical stuff, but she also managed a crew of more than a dozen people, made sure the actors were ready, and helped with designing the sets. All of that work is more complicated than people think, she said.

“If you look at it from the surface, it’s supposed to look easy,” Crowley said. “We’re supposed to make it look simple.”

Aiyana Stephens, Crowley’s friend who is the stage manager at plays other than musicals at Bellingham High School, said there is a unique sense of responsibility that comes with working backstage.

“A lot of people would freak out when something is going wrong, or not realize that something needs to change, and you have to be somebody who sees that something is wrong and can figure out how to fix it,” Stephens said.

Crowley excels at the technical side of stage managing, Stephens said, and that attention to detail may serve Crowley well in her future endeavors.

While Stephens plans to study theater at Pacific Lutheran University, Crowley has other ambitions: After earning a degree at Washington State University in chemical engineering, Crowley wants to go to medical school and become a doctor. She still wants to be part of the theater in college if she has the time.

Crowley rarely had down time during high school. In addition to theater, she also played tennis all four years. Even her summers were occupied by leading youth groups or camps.

Now that high school is ending, she finally has a chance to enjoy what she has achieved before facing a new challenge. That sense of accomplishment, she said, is similar to what she feels at the end of a play that has been particularly stressful.

“It’s not that you bask in the glory of it, but it’s very calm. It’s a very tranquil feeling because you know that everything is good,” Crowley said. “And then, after the show, you have to reset everything and wade your way through the people and go home ... but that part at the end is nice.”

Reach Wilson Criscione at 360-756-2803 or wilson.criscione@bellinghamherald.com.

BHS graduation Friday

Bellingham High School’s graduation ceremony will be at 7 p.m. Friday, June 19, in the Bellingham High School gym.

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