Behind The Flames: Behind the Scenes of The Fireman’s Flame

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I’ve told you that we’ve started working on drama now, and remembering last year’s Chippos and working on the set. . . well, I’ve been thinking, and dreaming, and remembering, more. . .and I did tell you, did I not, that I would post about the production?

The week of the play is always hectic. Several weeks before are also quite chaotic at our house, what with ‘this needs to be painted, that needs to be built, oh no! so-and-so doesn’t have this piece of their costume, and so-and-so-else still needs shoes, or this hat, or that cloak’.

We get a lot done in those few weeks.

A lot done on the melodrama, at least. Not on much else. The last few weeks, we need all the time we have for set painting, and costume helping, and script finding, and wood hauling, and hand warming, and fire making, and frozen paper-mache thawing, that we have to put school on hold. And pretty much everything else.

And making stand-up painted trees and bushes, that (hopefully) won’t fall over on the hero when he’s hiding behind it.

And it always seems like we’re never going to get this done in time! But we always do.

You know what? My parents amaze me. I want you to know this; I’ve talked about it, and how much they do for us, with this melodrama every year. But if you could see them! Mom paints all the flats, Dad builds a big staircase up to an upper stage level, or a dock and railings for a river scene, or even figures out how to attach two little wings off of the stage. I do what I can, making Chippos, painting chairs, but I can’t build staircases; the boys always helped Dad with that. And I can’t paint a twisted, rocky old graveyard, or crooked buildings. I can paint flats a plain color for Mom to paint over. That’s what I can do. And I can make sure to keep everyone fed. Cooking and Chippoes; that is what I do.

The staircase, and the stoop. The stoop was new last year; the stairs we used the year before. Yep. Dad. Notice the giant stones painted on the flat? Yup. Mom.

So, you see, though we (the actors) ‘have to’ memorise lines, my parents read many, many lines, many scripts, to give us those lines. And though we ‘have to’ sing songs, Mum goes through so many music books to find those pieces of music. And though we ‘have to’ remember our blocking, do you know how much time it takes Dad to figure out blocking? A lot. (And I say ‘have to’, because it’s by choice that we’re in this group. We don’t ‘have to’ be in drama, but we love it.)

And I think that shall be the end of my rant. Though I could easily go on. I just want you to know this: my parents are amazing(Notice I use italics, and bold.)

From 'Life On The Bowery'.
From ‘Life On The Bowery’.

One of the things we need to do before the production is publicity. My brother Andrew designs our t-shirts every year, and we use the same design for the posters. Which my brother Timothy usually designs. And which we always hang up around our town, and bring to practice, so our kids can get posters and flyers to give away and hang up.

Dad's 'The Fireman's Flame' t-shirt. Pic credit: Aaron Kessler.
Dad’s ‘The Fireman’s Flame’ t-shirt. Picture credit: Aaron Kessler.
It’s a good thing I always have a pen, so that we could write ‘Take a flyer!’

This year Mack and I went around our little town hanging up posters. We were very proud of the what we did to the phone booth (yes, we still have a phone booth!), leaving flyers, and hanging up posters, so people could see them from the road.


The week of the play is when we get to move into the High School, where we perform. And that’s when it all seems to really come together.

On Sunday night we get to move the set in; we usually in list some friends (who are also actors, and quite often (though not only) relatives) that live close by to help us, because there is so much to be done. While the guys go back and forth to get set pieces, Mum and I stay in the high school with our paint, touching up the chairs or flats as needed, making sure the prop table is set up, checking in the green room to see if the makeup made it, and occasionally going back with the guys on a trip, to get something left behind, or make sure nothing is.

Once all the flats and stairs and Chippos and newspapers and props, and everything we need to bring today is brought, we start setting it all up.

Uncle Keith and my cousin Kenna set up a window, while Dad moves the other in place.
Let me introduce you to another of my cousins. This is Quinn. He was the hero in the play; Harry Howard.
Quinn and Nathan (Hero and Villain in The Fireman’s Flame) set up one of the doors, aligning it with the brick flats.
Hannah, Kenna and Sarah came to help us!

We set it all up, going scene by scene, bolting the flats into their bases, and placing tape on the floor at the edges of each set for each scene to know where exactly the flats needs to go in each scene, before moving on to the next. Once we’re done outlining each set, we bring the very first scene’s set back onstage for tomorrow.


The next day is our first dress rehearsal. Since this one is with makeup, we have everyone get there about 3:30, and my makeup team get there 15 minutes before.

Mom, Mack and I get there as soon as we can, but have to wait until after school is let out; about 3:00. We have brought more of the stage dressing, newspapers and costumes, and paint to touch up things we didn’t get to the day before. We carry it all in, and bring them to the places the need to be, and then, when my team gets there, I go and set up the makeup with them, while Mom continues her adjustments, and answers questions. Soon after, all the actors start arriving, excited, and ready for makeup.

They bring their costumes into the green room, and go to the stage to see the set, for this is the very first time they will. Once they do, they come back to get their makeup done, and to ooh and ahh over the set, and say how amazing it is, and how ‘It’s even better than last year!’



While we apply makeup, and everyone has makeup slathered on, Quinn avoids it as long as he can. Yet still playing with the makeup.

Makeup takes about an hour and a half to two hours. Then it’s time for supper.

Let me take a moment to say thank you to our wonderful drama families. All during the week at the High School, they bring us supper. Every year we have people ask what they can do, and this is one of the ways they really help us. We don’t have time to make supper, and so they make sure we are well fed. (And I do mean well fed. Thank you all for the such delicious meals you bring! And thank you for making it easier for Mom and Dad.)

I'd like you to meet my main makeup team.
I’d like you to meet my main makeup team. Some of the other actors come and volunteer as well, but these were my main artists last year. Left to right: I’m working on Kenna’s hair, Cattie  is slicking back Adam’s hair, which we will then whiten, and Nathan is giving him facial hair; Delainey is behind them, doing Olivia’s eyeshadow (Olivia is another crucial part of the makeup team). Thanks everyone, you’re the best-I couldn’t have done it without you!
Adam is an old man, thus needing lots of white hair and wrinkles. He’s also one of our last people, and so gets a little more time, and two artist’s attention. Photo credit: Our amazing and dear director, and my dear Mum, Amy Young Miller.

Once we’re all done with makeup it’s time for supper. By this time, Dad is there, straight from work. After supper we all get into our costumes, check our makeup, and Mum runs us through the songs. Then we all go back to the green room and put on lipstick, run over lines, talk quietly, and wait to go onstage.

And as this all happens, as we get our makeup done, and get to practice in the High School for the first time, we are all thinking about how did it go so fast? And how can it be over next week? And are we ready for this? And will the audience like it? Will they like us? And they always seem to. And we always get through, even if we don’t feel ready. And once we get up there, on that stage, and the lights are on us, and there’s an audience, and they’re cheering for the hero, and sighing for the heroine, and booing the villain, and laughing. . . that’s when it all clicks. That’s when the magic really happens.

But as it is, at the end of Monday’s dress rehearsal, we must wait a couple days for the next one, and then. . . then the next night is show night.

We also have the newspaper to read, but wait. . .
. . . wait, we're on the front page!
. . . we’re on the front page!

6 comments on “Behind The Flames: Behind the Scenes of The Fireman’s Flame

  1. What a fun and thorough rundown of what it takes to put a show together, and it is all sprinkled with gratitude and joy, which makes it fun to read. Well done, sweetie!

  2. I have never even seen some of these pictures before! Yaay! I love melodrama season, and all the joy that goes with it. So much fun. Looking forward to helping with the show this year!

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