Lights, Action: Sam Klemic


Sam sits in his position as light director at the light board. Here, Sam spends hours after school perfecting the light displays. (Photo Courtesy of Jim Klemic)

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

Mason theater is renowned for its impeccable performances, its talented cast, and its amazing singers, yet what is lesser known is the work that the stage crew puts in to make the theater department what it is.

One of the principal members of Mason stage crew is sophomore Sam Klemic, the light director, part of stage crew since freshman year.

“Ben Salak, the light designer before me, recommended I join it and it clicked. I had fun with it and I learned a lot.”

The job of a light director is more than moving the spotlights, though. Sam works diligently, and just as hard as the cast, during the buildup to the show.

“I figure out how to angle the lighting and set that up for the needs of the show. Then I work with Mr. Northrip to set up what each scene is going to look like, and then I can pre-record that into the light board.”

The light board, as Sam had to explain to me, is the large computer in the middle of the auditorium that controls all the lights. For me, it is just that thing with all the complicated buttons. For Sam, it’s his home during the weeks leading up to the plays.

“[I’m working on the play] usually after school every day. When we’re actually running through the rehearsals, I have to be there for the whole rehearsals and then sometimes after.”

After Sam explained the extent of his job, I was taken aback by the time and effort needed to run the show. Sam says that is a typical reaction.

“[People don’t realize] just the amount of work that goes into it. Obviously, the cast does a huge amount of work preparing for their roles and practicing and memorizing everything, but the crew also does a tremendous amount of work, setting everything up. They are there basically from when they announce what the play is to the strike day when we clean everything up.”

Four students pose on stage.
Sam poses on stage with other members of stage crew while working on Chicago this past fall. From left to right: Callie Russell, Nina Rifkin, AnaKarin Iturralde, and Sam. Photo courtesy of Jamie Sample.

Yet the most surprising part of what Sam told me? What he does while the play is underway.

“My job in the show, if I do my job right – I just press one button.”

Sam has worked behind the scenes on all theater productions for the past two years, including Spamalot, Metamorphosis, Chicago, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. Besides school productions, Sam has also worked as a light director for private companies who rent out the Mason auditorium.

“Usually they’ll have me there to run tech for them. Either the private company will pay you or you’ll put your hours into the city and then they’ll pay you. Considering that we’re students, we’re pretty low priority for the pay for the city, so it’s a little better when the private companies pay you.”

Before joining stage crew, Sam had always been technologically-minded.

“When I was younger I did a lot of computer science stuff, so basic coding. That applies to it [lighting].”

In fact, you could say Sam’s passion for computer science and engineering is in his blood.

“My dad has a bachelor’s in physics and my mom has a doctorate in biochemical research or biophysics.”

Sam often uses his engineering skills at home and builds his own projects.

“I like to tinker in my garage. For my MYP project, I made my bike an electric bike. I’m currently working on a 3D printer.”

Students holding bike
Sam poses with his MYP project, his bike which he converted into an electric bike. In addition to school projects like this, Sam likes to build other projects out of his garage. Photo courtesy of Jim Klemic.

Outside of stage crew, Sam is an avid fencer.

I [fence] at a private club. I go there once a week and practice with the team.”

Like his interest in computer science, his passion for fencing came from his parents.

“I’ve been fencing since sixth grade. My dad fenced in college so he taught me the basics.”

Yet, Sam says he struggles to fence often due to his commitments to the theater department.

“There are competitions that I go to, but I usually don’t have time with stage crew.”

Despite his tight schedule, Sam finds time every year to compete in the Capital Clash, a competition in National Harbor, as well as any other competitions he can enter.

I asked the obligatory question: “Do you win any?

“No,” he says with a laugh. I’m not that good.”

“So why fencing? Why not basketball or soccer?”

“I don’t really like team sports that much. Fencing was something I could individually work on but then be part of a group where I could improve.”

Sounds about right, considering the nature of his work on stage crew.

When asked if he has ever thought of being on the stage instead of behind it, Sam responded with another answer that sounded about right.

“Oh no. I’m not a big fan of attention. I prefer being in the back.”

Although he might not be keen to attention, Sam deserves it  – for the countless hours of work he’s invested, for the effort he’s spent, and for his enormous contribution as light director, becoming an integral piece in the Mason theater department.