Janae Pease

Senior Janae Pease first participated in theater performing in middle school musicals. Her friends often got lead roles, but her stage fright kept her in the background. To stay connected with friends, Pease enrolled in technical theater freshman year. Starting as a set crew member, Pease is now a prop designer and stage manager.

Pease’s first experience with prop design was in the 2020 production of Matilda, and it would be her only experience for a while. “Sophomore year we were online so I didn’t do anything,” Pease said. “Matilda and The Little Prince were my introduction to really thinking about what I want to do.”

FUHS Theater director Michael Despars praised Janae’s dedication. “Janae is the only prop designer I’ve ever had who has them ready for rehearsals,” Despars said. “She puts a lot of time and energy into that, and it definitely shows.”

Pease was motivated to become technical director her junior year, taking on the position passed down by her friend and former stage manager, Savannah Worrell (class of 2022). Pease credits Worrell with her introduction to stage management.

(Left to right) David Block (class of 2022), Savanna Worrell (class of 2022), senior Janae Pease, and junior Micah Plick at the 2022 theater banquet. (Photo courtesy of Janae Pease)

“I didn’t think that I would be a good stage manager, let alone a good leader,” Pease said. “But I was able to take what I learned from Savannah, incorporate it into my process, and make it my own.”

As stage manager, Pease heavily relies on her communication and problem-solving skills. She organizes the backstage area, teaches actors about the props, and troubleshoots when problems arise. During rehearsals, Pease marks every movement that actors and set pieces make in her own master script.

Pease’s communication skills have also helped her connect with others in theater. “With theater, you get a lot of new people coming in,” Pease said. “It’s really helpful to learn about those people. When you see them around the quad it’s a recognizable face, not only for me, but for them, too.”

Pease doesn’t just organize the props on the stage. She organizes people as well. “I manage the actors when Despars can’t,” Pease said. “I’m there for the cast to have someone to go to, someone they can ask questions when they feel comfortable.”

Baby Janae taking a bath. (Photo courtesy of Janae Pease)

Despars also commended Pease for being effective yet kind as a stage manager. “In the professional world, the stage manager is running the show,” Depsars said. “Janae finds a really good balance between getting the job done, being compassionate, and knowing how to talk to people.”

Bright Star was the first musical Pease called cues for, meaning she times lights and sounds to go off at the right moment. Not only did she pay extra attention to timing, but she also dealt with the adjustment to the newly refurbished Fullerton Auditorium. The fly system– a rigging in which set pieces are brought down from the ceiling– added extra safety concerns.

Even while directing traffic behind the scenes, Pease also designs props. Her use of real food for props means more work for her, but results in a more convincing experience.

“It’s difficult because I have to think about actors’ allergies and how to clean up on stage,” Pease said. “It’s a lot of work to make it look as real as possible.”

The award-winning chocolate cake for Matilda. Real food creates effects that fake food fails to achieve. (Photo courtesy of Janae Pease)

Pease’s personal favorite prop is Bruce Bogtrotter’s chocolate cake in Matilda, which has earned her many accolades in theater competitions. Other food props of hers include sandwiches and potatoes in The Skin of Our Teeth and “alcoholic” juice cocktails in Bright Star.

Pease pays close attention to detail when designing props. “The bookshelves for Bright Star have books with the dated 2006,” Pease said. “No one will see them, but I will know. All it takes is one judge or Cappies member to say ‘that doesn’t actually exist in this time period.’”

Stage management has encouraged growth in Pease’s personality. “Before, I was really introverted,” Pease said. “I didn’t wanna speak up. I just went with everything even if I didn’t agree with it. Now, I’m definitely more willing to step up.”

Recently, Pease won a scholarship for stage management and qualified for nationals in prop design at the 2023 California State Thespian Festival. For her work in Bright Star, she received one Cappies nomination and two JRAY nominations.

Pease will be attending Fullerton College and majoring in technical theater. She hopes to work in professional film for prop design and stage management.

“I started out with being an actor and working with my friends,” Pease said. “Now I get to work behind the scenes and help create characters that are memorable to the audience.”