Behind the Spotlight: Nina Rifkin


Maansi Suri

This is one of 16 profiles in our 2019 “Musang Insider” series. Click here to read the rest of the series.

When I interviewed Mason junior Nina Rifkin in the library, I thought it would be hard because I was interviewing her about theater, which was something I don’t know much about. It turns out that wasn’t as hard as I thought, especially because Nina works behind the scenes, so not much about theater was needed. And in the course of our one-hour conversation, I learned how infectious the creative bug can be.

Nina has been working behind the scenes on the stage crew of theater productions since before she got to high school, and she intends to keep doing it afterward.

“I just wanna work in the industry,” she said. “I don’t know exactly what yet, but something in that industry.”

While she was working on the spring play, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime,” Nina learned that there was no spotlight in the show, which meant she didn’t have a job. She joined a group of other crew members, who needed to make a bed as a prop. They fixed up the bed frame (which was missing a piece), found a mattress, and made a shelf to go underneath the bed. If you were around Nina during this time, you know that she couldn’t stop talking about what an ordeal it was, and if you mentioned you were going to see the show around her, she would make sure you would “appreciate the bed.”

For the first night of the play, everything went according to plan, and the bed was rolled out on time. However, on the second night, senior Hansin Arvind, the actor for whom the bed needed to be made for,  had to pantomime taking props out from underneath the bed, because the wheels fell out when another cast member tried to pick up the bed to roll it over some wires. That wasn’t the last of their problems.

On the last night of the show, Nina and other members had to noisily hammer parts of the frame back into place.  “I thought ‘Everyone could hear us screwing [it in] and hammering it,’” I started laughing. “But it turns out only my brother could hear it from the theater room. Nobody else could hear it, and more importantly, no one in the house.”  

A lot of Nina’s life revolves around the theater, depending on the time of year. When it is during the productions of one of the shows, she is all hands on deck. Nina’s entry into theater can be traced to the first show she ever saw on Broadway: “Mary Poppins.” [sentence of context and/or quote]

But she really got excited to work on stage crew after seeing the middle school production of “Quack Jr.” when she was in fifth grade. In sixth grade, she decided she would work on the crew. At the middle school, Nina took pictures, filmed the shows, and worked on the light board.

At GM, her role is primarily as one of the spotlight operators, but she says that calling her the spotlight operator only is incorrect. “No job on stage crew is siloed like that. We all do a little bit of everything.”

When she is working the spotlight, or doing anything else theater related, she is at home. “It feels like I know what I’m doing with my life. I enjoy it and feel grateful that I have found my niche at such a young age.”

Nina has been in band since she was in middle school, and she still plays today. She is in the percussion and would litter her stories about theater with extremely absurd ones about band.