It all begins with a love of drama for Brotzman

October 20, 2019 — by Lihi Shoshani

Technical director and McAfee coordinator Benjamin Brotzman’s love for theater was evident after spending years acting and directing plays during his younger years. 

Now, after studying technical directing at Midwestern State University, Brotzman has come to work with Saratoga High’s drama department to coordinate lights and sounds in the theater. He maintains the McAfee Center as well, where he can pursue his passion and pass stories along to younger generations.

“I am most passionate about plays and musicals that tell stories. Whether they be important or fun stories meant to entertain people, they’re needed for human existence,” Brotzman said. “People are generally happier when they have entertainment like storytelling in their lives. I like to be a part of that.”

Before coming to Saratoga in 2017, Brotzman was an adjunct professor teaching Introduction to Theater at Tarrant County College in Fort Worth, Texas. During that time, he directed his favorite production, “Hank Williams: Lost Highway.” The play stood out to him, since he was able to cast actors who didn’t know each other yet managed to form a band in a week with minimal rehearsal practices.

Prior to moving to Texas, he worked at California Theatre Center in 2014 when he met drama teacher Sarah Thermond and started helping out around Saratoga High. 

“For quite a long time, I’ve come and helped with the drama department; I’ve built sets, done lights and sounds for a few years, so I was very familiar with the school and McAfee center,” Brotzman said. “Being offered the position was exciting because I really enjoy being here.”

In 2014 when the school play, “Les Misérables,” lost their sound and design director, Thermond went through the company to hire Brotzman to come in to train the students and to set up lights and sound. This later led to him being hired during 2017.

“He was able to step in seamlessly to figure everything out,” Thermond said. “We knew we would communicate well with each other no matter how much time passed that we were working in different places.”

Once transitioning into the school, Brotzman began to interact more with students.

“When he commits to something, he’ll put in the time and effort to get it done. He’s a really hard working person; I think he models that behavior for the students really well,” Thermond said.

While working at California Theatre Center, Brotzman did not work with youth during theater productions often enough to develop deep connections with them.

“It’s nice to be able to work with students longer. You build kinships and friendships — you’re not coming in fresh and not knowing anybody,” Brotzman said.

In the drama department, he directly interacts with students when building sets and designing lights, overseeing those in charge of tech jobs such as operating the light board, moving scenery for the show or operating the spotlight.

Junior Francesca Fernandes worked with Brotzman during last year’s fall play “Julius Caesar,” when he taught the cast how to realistically fight with swords and fixed the mics and positioning of the actors so they could be properly seen on stage. 

“He genuinely wants to help everyone because he’s a very nice person and especially helpful for the more technical aspects of theater,” Fernandes said. 

Aside from the drama department, Brotzman can usually be found in the McAfee Center, booking and filling out paperwork for outside group rentals and working with clients to turn their artistic visions into realities.

“I am a big believer in art, and I want to help make it come to life as best as we can,” Brotzman said. 

Brotzman also handles technical elements for all concerts and school events like the Benefit Fashion Show and Jazz Cabaret. Currently, he is doing the lighting design for Los Gatos High’s theater production “Ax of Murder.” 

He didn’t always dream of being a technical director; acting was his first passion, and he started focusing on directing plays and musicals before quitting drama for years.

After majoring in business for two years, he transferred to technical theater. Although Brotzman misses directing plays, he has the opportunity to do theater all the time now. 

“I’ve been designing shows for 20 years, never looked back, and I don’t really want to do anything else,” Brotzman said.

He mainly enjoys creating lighting because he feels that “something so subtle can really change the mood of the scene and change people's perception.”

After moving to California to reconnect with family, Brotzman found it difficult to adjust to the new district at first — he hadn’t worked in a school district before and had to navigate the school system to understand how it differed from professional theater — but has now smoothly transitioned to Saratoga High. 

“Anything having to do with working inside a theater is exciting and is the place that I like to be,” Brotzman said.

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