Etched in Stone

Jack Kraus

Isabella Mahal

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Fossil Ridge High School students who saw the theater department’s performance of Big Fish last year will remember the flood that swept across the stage, the forest that introduced Edward Bloom to magic when he was a teenager, and, of course, the iconic romantic moment when thousands of daffodils bloomed on stage. What they’re less likely to remember, though, is the students who were sitting in the booth above them, working silently to make sure every visual projection went off without a hitch.

Senior Jack Kraus has been a cast member of every Fossil production since he arrived at the school as a freshman. He acted in West Side Story and has served on sound and set crews. However, for several shows, he’s been on the projections crew, who are responsible for crafting the visuals that give context to the show. Sometimes, their purpose is to make the audience gasp with wonder. Other times, they’re hardly noticed. However, as Kraus explained, the crew knows that they’ve succeeded when, “we make the show look good, and we trick you into making you think it was easy.”

The crew runs their projections through a program called Isadora to bring them to life on stage. During a performance, Kraus described, “It’s dead silent [in the booth.] The stage manager is up there calling cues, saying, ‘Cue blank.’ But if it’s a more relaxed show, and we’ve kinda gotten into the groove of things, we’re more relaxed, and we dance around, because we’re allowed to have fun.”

Johnny Howlett
Kraus has worked on the set crew in the past, and has leant a hand for this production as well, explaining that he, “basically just lifts heavy stuff.”

Kraus believes that this year’s performance, Rent, is important because it touches on so many difficult topics. He cited love and loss, as well as breaking from conformity, adding that, “In this day and age, those are being fought against by more traditionalist people. I think it’s important to have coverage that shows that people aren’t that different, if you just listen to them.” Additionally, the show is coming together well, which adds to Kraus’ confidence. He expressed that, “The actors, especially the main bunch, are so incredibly talented, and it’s amazing to see them interact with the set. We spent so long actually putting it together, and being able to see the work that we’ve done coming to fruition is really cool.”

Speaking to the Fossil community’s attitude toward theater productions, Kraus acknowledged that he doesn’t think people always realize how much work goes into every little detail. Aspects like sound, lights, set, and projections go unnoticed because, “You see it in its finished state. And you’re like, okay, that couldn’t have been too hard. But you don’t realize that they had to create all the sound effects, one by one, and the program shuts down and doesn’t save itself sometimes. For lighting, they have to hang all the lights while hanging off of the catwalk. With set, each of those bricks is hand-painted. And it came, not as bricks, but as this sheet of plastic.” Ultimately, “there’s a lot more to the process that people just don’t see.”

When asked if he had a favorite moment from theater during his time at Fossil, Kraus’ eyes lit up, even as he shook his head ruefully. He told a story from Big Fish, in which, while he was running projections, the computer crashed. “It was so projections-heavy, that was like the most stressful moment. Running that show was the most stressful moment of my life. But it was also so fulfilling, because you get to see all the work you’ve done and all the work your friends have done for the past couple of months come to life, and the audience react. There are just special moments,” he elaborated.

Running that show was the most stressful moment of my life. But it was also so fulfilling, because you get to see all the work you’ve done and all the work your friends have done for the past couple of months come to life, and the audience react.”

— Jack Kraus

Those special moments, in fact, are what make one’s high school experience so valuable, and so memorable. The best advice Kraus could give to any Fossil student is to “Find something that you’re interested in, and just do it. Full send. Get involved in everything that you can.” He acknowledged that, because of his own involvement, he’s made friends and talked to so many people who he never would have gotten to know otherwise. “[School] is just a place for you to become yourself,” he added, “and I think that’s really important.”

As a senior, Kraus is continuously slammed with work. He has a job at Starbucks, is taking five Advanced Placement classes and a college class, and is applying to “too many” colleges. He plays Ultimate Frisbee, is in National Honor Society, and both works on and acts in TV productions. He’s also President of Technical Theater at Fossil, which entails trying to recruit as many new people to the program as possible. However, he doesn’t regret the numerous activities, adding that, “I make myself busy, because that’s how I have fun. Getting involved.”

After high school, Kraus is hoping to major in Psychology – a choice that, while not directly related to theater, found its roots there. The arts have made an extraordinary impact on his life, beginning with a first grade play at a local theater company. Kraus believes that the arts shape how you interact with other people, and that they “can bring light to so many new experiences.” He concluded, simply, with “I love it.”

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Jack Kraus