Lights, camera, prep
Student Activities and Event Productions collaborate to produce Coffeehouse
Liberty University’s Coffeehouse showcases the finest talent and musical performances of the student body every semester, all thanks to two departments: Student Activities and Event Productions.
Each semester, Student Activities decides on a theme. This Spring Coffeehouse was The Legends, paying tribute to musical legends that have influenced music for decades, like Elvis Presley and The Beatles.
“In the spring we pick a theme pretty early on and start developing from there,” Director of Student Activities Stephanie Ward said.
Ward leads a team of more than 20 people that work together from the Student Activities side of Coffeehouse.
“This is an ‘all hands on deck’ event, so our entire staff of 20 plus play a role in making Coffeehouse happen,” Ward said.
The weeks leading up to Coffeehouse are spent preparing and planning for the one event.
“From marketing to stage production to tryouts, there’s always something going on behind the scenes to bring students the best for each show,” Ward said.
The other half of planning and preparation comes from the Event Productions department. While Student Activities plans the event, Event Productions is largely in charge of the creative aspects, such as how the stage and lights will look.
“As you watch Coffeehouse, each performance has its own look to it,” Operations Manager of Event Productions David Lenehan said. “It will have its own design.”
According to Lenehan, Coffeehouse is different from the weekly Convocations because of how large an event it is and the type of performances.
“(These are) all music performances,” Lenehan said.
“There (are) giveaways going on, there’s a lot of audience hype, there’s emcees, and it’s just a gigantic production.
This is the biggest student event that we do on campus each semester.”
According to Lenehan, Event Production starts working with Student Activities early in the semester. After reviewing tryouts, the Event Productions team begins building the layout of the stage and planning the lighting needed.
With Coffeehouse being such a large-scale production, the Event Productions team uses the most of the production equipment on campus.
“When we do really large concerts or Coffeehouses, we bring in essentially twice as much as we have for Convocation or other things throughout the year,” Lenehan said.
According to Lenehan, the entire Event Productions team is involved in setting up for Coffeehouse the weekend of the show, which consists of about 18 student workers and 15 full-time employees.
“It’s a huge number of man hours that go into the show, for sure,” Lenehan said.
The Event Productions team spent the day setting up for Coffeehouse after Convocation Friday, April 8.
They ran sound checks with the acts Saturday, April 9, from 11 a.m. up until just before the show at 11:30 p.m.
“It’s a lot of work, and it’s a lot of fun,” Lenehan said.
While Event Productions sets up the technical side of Coffeehouse, Student Activities spends the weekend setting up the decorations.
“I am proud of the Student Activities team and impressed semester after semester with their hard work and dedication,” Ward said. “We love serving the student body in this way.”
After months of planning and preparing for the event, it all comes together on the night of the show.
“My favorite part about Coffeehouse is the moment when the lights go off and the show begins,” Ward said. “Hearing the crowd laugh, sing and cheer easily tops the cake — those are the moments that remind me that what I do matters.”
Sweeney is a feature reporter.