Voice of the Week: Henry Wilen

Kate Marinkovich, Author

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This week The Paly Voice sat down with senior Henry Wilen, to talk about theater tech, biking across America and orange Crocs.This week The Paly Voice sat down with senior Henry Wilen, to talk about theater tech, biking across America and orange Crocs.

Senior Henry Wilen poses for a photo outside his second home, the Haymarket theater. Photo by Kate Marinkovich.

“Voice of the Week” is a weekly segment of  The Paly Voice intended to highlight a range of interesting students on campus. Each week we sit down with a new student (or student group) and talk about their lives. 

This week The Paly Voice sat down with senior Henry Wilen to talk about theater technology, biking across America and orange Crocs.

The Paly Voice: What would you consider your defining character trait, or activity?

Henry Wilen: [Chuckling] Probably technical theater.

TPV: Bingo.

HW: Wow, what a shock!

TPV: Can you elaborate on that?

HW: Sure. Elaborate on technical theater. … How many hours do we have? That was a joke. Alright, why do I like technical theater? I really enjoy theater, it’s kind of a manipulative thing when it boils down to it. I don’t consider myself a manipulative person but what I do is manipulate a space so that people develop certain emotions when I want them to. Theater is like that. It’s kind of weird and creepy if you think about it, but it’s fun.

PV: You participated on stage in the past, why not anymore?

HW: I have. I prefer the backstage. Performing is extremely stressful and there’s a lot of little detail stuff that happens to actors that I don’t enjoy as much. I don’t get to watch the show.

PV: When did you make the switch?

HW: I’ve always been doing tech. I generally participated in musicals, I am generally a better singer and dancer than I am an actor. I enjoy participating in musicals, but that’s it for my acting.

PV: When did you start working in tech?

HW: Eighth grade.

PV: And its just been uphill ever since?

HW: It was just kind of fun until about March of my freshman year. I went to the California State Thespian festival in Ontario, Calif., and met some people who were actual lighting professionals and was like “Wow, you people can do this, huh?” And ever since, I’ve been doing it.

PV: What part of tech?

HW: I mostly do lighting. Right now for Paly I’m the student technical director, which means that at least on paper I’m responsible for all of the tech. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m doing it all, but I’m making sure everything gets done and everybody is on schedule and there’s enough labor to go around. But personally, I tend to specialize in lighting.

PV: What about your work outside of Paly?

HW: I work at a bunch of different companies around the Bay Area. On and off, theater is the sort of thing where it can be a lot more difficult to find a full-time position. It’s more on-demand labor. I work as an over-hire electrician for TheatreWorks, Palo Alto Players and Lyric Theatre of San Jose. Do you want me to list all these? There are a few others, The Pear Avenue Theatre and West Bay Opera.

PV: What’s your favorite play that you’ve designed lighting for?

HW: Favorite show that I’ve designed lighting for… they’re all like my children. If I could choose one?

PV: Favorite child?

HW: That is so inappropriate. I’m going to have to go with … wow this is hard! I’m going to have to go with Twelfth Night, which is the last thing I designed, which would make sense because I hope I’ve been improving. It was a pretty show.

PV: What are your plans for next year?

HW: Next year I am planning to take a gap year. I actually just got into college today!

PV: Congratulations!

HW: I’m hoping they’ll let me defer, and if they do I’m going to keep working at the same places and I’m planning on biking across America.

PV: You’re going to have to elaborate on that.

HW: A couple years ago I was just sitting in my room and thought, “What if I got on my bike and rode across the country?” Well, why not? Since then then I’ve worked on planning this trip and thinking about the logistics of this. I’m planning on going with my older brother but he’s graduating college so if he gets a job or something drastic like that that means he can’t take four months away from his life to be in the middle of nowhere, and I might have to go alone.

PV: What’s your personal philosophy?

HW: I’m still processing.

PV: How about this, do you always wear black?

HW: No, [it’s] tech week. Definitely a good percentage of my wardrobe is black, because that’s just what happens.

PV: Do you still own orange Crocs?

HW: I have them! They’re my go-to shoes for early, early mornings.

PV: What’s your favorite color?

HW: Okay, are we doing this? So, if we’re talking pigments I do like green. That’s kind of consistently been one of favorite colors, but a darker green. Like a forest green.

PV: A Paly green?

HW: No, not quite a Paly green. Love you Paly, but not quite. If we’re talking light, in the Roscoe swatch book there’s a color I really like R347, Belladonna Rose. It’s sort of a sultry purple, it’s just a really pretty color.

PV: Okay, personal philosophy?

HW: We’re back again. Personal philosophy is don’t stress and don’t take everything too seriously. Do what you like, make it work for you.

PV: If you could say one thing to the Voice audience what would it be?

HW: This is a lot of pressure, I’m feeling it. Life goes on. Roll with it.

If you know a student who you think should be interviewed, please leave a comment below.