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Curtain Call: Back Stage with Jantzen Bates

Article Sara Karns | Photography Katie Barton

Jantzen Bates is a veteran technician for the theater department at Springfield’s Central High School, but she’s still trying out new areas of life around the stage.

Bates has been the stage manager for the past four years, and this year, her senior year, she is a cast member for the first time.

Her passion for theater started long before her final year in high school.  She began in the seventh grade as a backstage crew member.

Not only did she prove that she was a hard worker, she showed that she had a mature attitude compared with others her age, Gretchen Teague, Central High’s theater teacher says.

Looking back at her time with theater from middle school to now, Bates says, “I am leaps and bounds ahead of where I was back then.”

With time flying by, Teague says she is appreciative of Bates’ work ethic.

“She is my go-to girl,” Teague says. “She [has] definitely grown as a leader … She’s not afraid to look at a concept or an idea that is abstract and make it concrete as far as theater goes.”

In middle school, Bates assisted in the backstage help, doing technical work. When she began high school, Bates became stage manager and hasn’t let go since.

There are many tasks to complete for the end result of a play or musical production. From staging the lights to directing each of the actions, Bates oversaw everything, including assisting in shows within the community.

“Each show takes about … 100 to 200 hours, depending on what the show is,” Bates says.
Because Bates has worked so much with Teague, she has learned different directors will act, well, differently.

“With school productions, there’s a lot more direction from my director because she has a certain style or an aesthetic and I’ve learned how best to deal with that so I know exactly what she’s thinking whenever she says something,” Bates says. “With other directors, you know I’m not as familiar, so I have to relearn what they want and what they need when they ask for specific things.”

Although she grew in her leadership skills, Bates experienced struggle with her fear of disappointing those around her.

Learning time management skills greatly helped her to overcome this area.

“I’m generally overbooked because I’ll do plays as well as school- work,” Bates says, “So, I have to budget my time very well or else I would never sleep.”

Working with a variety of people has helped her learn to deal with conflict among the crew.
Although Bates says she had difficulties in some areas, Teague says she is proud of her student’s level headedness.

“Her biggest strength is she doesn’t get her feathers ruffled,” Teague says. “She’s very determined that every element of the play is the way it is supposed to be.”

Teague says Bates excels in all areas.

“I see it in every element of her life,” Teague says. “She’s not a one-sided girl … [Bates] works really hard to be balanced.”

Bates was behind the scenes until this year. She auditioned for a role in the school’s Sweeney Todd musical and got a part. She’s realizing that acting is much harder.

Bates says. “You feel like you’re giving your all and you realize, ‘Oh, wait, I didn’t do that with enough energy’, or ‘I didn’t hit that how I was supposed to’, or ‘I just completely forgot about that one step.’”

With Bates showing initiative in other areas of theater, Teague is excited to see where Bates will go in her career.
“I can’t wait to see her accept her Tony for whatever, because it’s going to happen,” Teague says.
Now that Bates is a senior, she is looking to her future past graduation and Teague will soon have to get a new stage manager. After being a part of about 20 shows, Bates can now say her favorite ex- perience is stage managing.

“My favorite thing to do is to watch a show on opening night that has been so long in the making and everyone is so nervous … and then the stage opens and the lights go and it starts.”
Bates encourages everyone to experience local live theater.

“Anything can happen in live theater. It’s not like watching a movie where you’re … a passive participant; in live theater, you’re very much an active participant, you’re sitting there, you’re experiencing and absorbing and you know when something goes wrong, you’re there to see it and when something goes right, vice versa.”

By preparing the younger generation, Bates is segueing to her future goals.

“There’s a lot of things in theater that relate to the real world.”