Dills leads New Tech Theater Class


Story by Cleo Strauss, Staff Writer

Phantom of the Opera, Les Mis, Cats, Newsies. Have you ever wondered what’s going on behind the scenes? East’s new technical theater teacher, that’s what!


Mr. Richard Dills has worked on all of these shows and over 800 more. 


This is his first year at East, but he has nine years of experience teaching, eight of those at the tech theater program at Independence High School. Dills went to East Carolina and majored in design and technology with a concentration on set construction. 


He met one of East’s theater teachers,  Ms. Bernadette Macleod, through CMS workshops. He heard that the position was opening here, and was excited. 


“She is phenomenal to work with,” said Dills. “I feel very welcomed here. Everybody’s been great. Students, staff, admin, it’s been awesome.” 


Dills and his class will be making the sets for East’s production of Beauty and The Beast. He hopes to include a multilevel set with a balcony. His class will also be doing the production’s lighting. 


The class was a lot more popular than Dills expected.


 “My classes are almost twice the initial size than we thought it was going to be,” said Dills. “And I’m really happy for that. That shows great promise for the future.”


Dills hopes to support his students by helping them grow a portfolio so they could possibly get a summer theater job or major in technical theater in college.


“Some student in my class today stands a chance of doing this as a profession,” said Dills.  


Dills said he will welcome the help from clubs such as the art club that did a lot of the tech work on Bright Star, the musical produced by East last year, but he hopes that the vast majority of the work comes out of his class


He is excited about the large number of students, but is running into a few obstacles. 


“We didn’t think the small class, space wise, was going to be a big deal this year, as it has been,” said Dills.


The class also has a separate shop to do hands-on work like the set construction. However, the main classroom, a room tucked directly beside the stage, has to fit up to 26 students at a time. 


“It’s so small. Oh my god,” said Sophomore Isabella Stanton, one of Dills’ tech theater students.  


Stanton took beginning theater last year. When the class did a unit about tech theater, she found it very interesting.  


She signed up for the tech theater and is really enjoying the class. Stanton went to every production of Bright Star last year, and generally loves theater. 


“My dad’s a surveyor, both my dad and my grandpa were carpenters, so I know how to do a lot of that stuff,” said Stanton.


Not everyone in the class has lots of experience. 


 “I take people who don’t even know what the names of the tools are…and by the time they leave, they’re in very good shape,” said Dills.


The skills learned in this class can be applied to many different careers outside of tech theater. “There are a lot of skills you’ll learn in my class that will apply to things outside of the theater that you don’t realize. Carpentry, lighting, even costuming.” 


“I have guys that never knew how to sew a button onto their own clothes,” said Dills. “You’ll learn that in this class.” 


See the class’s work in action at Beauty and The Beast later this year.