Backstage with the NOAC Shows team, where volunteers make magic

AustinAustin Kriznar knows just how magical the shows at the National Order of the Arrow Conference can be.

The Arrowman, now 20, attended NOAC in 2009. It was just his third event as an Arrowman, and he was floored by the magical moments created on the stage there.

“The shows were wild,” he said. “They were the most fun and magical part of NOAC.”

Six years later, Austin is the 2015 NOAC Shows Conference Vice Chief. In other words, he’s the top youth on the NOAC Shows team; his adult adviser is Max Sasseen.

The Shows team has a vital but daunting job. They have to take an abstract conference theme — “It Starts With Us” for 2015 — and convert it into something magical and memorable. They have to captivate a crowd of 15,000, most of them teenagers, for 90 minutes. And they have to do this with an almost exclusively volunteer staff.

The stakes? Extremely high.

“We’re building a brotherhood that nobody else can build,” Austin said. “Moments that can’t take place anywhere else.”

So, yeah. No pressure.

I’ve been to every show, and so far the Shows team has a perfect record: three for three. I snagged a backstage tour earlier today, and I have no doubt that the Friday night closing show will be the best one yet. You can read my recap right here on Bryan on Scouting.

Living and dying with every moment

During the shows, Austin watches with all the stress of a father at his child’s piano recital. He shifts, fidgets, leans forward and leans back. He lives and dies in every moment.

“When lighting cues miss, I freak out,” he said. “But when you see a group of past national officers gather on the stage, that’s absolute magic. When you see 15,000 people play Simon Says, that’s absolute magic.”

Austin needs only to look out at the crowd of tan shirts and red sashes to know the shows are having their intended effect. The crowd remains perfectly silent during thoughtful moments and roars with laughter during the funny parts. They’re eating it up.

But when a 15-year-old Arrowman from Austin’s lodge came up to Austin after the opening night show, that’s when it really hit home.

“He’s shaking and says, ‘I’m so excited for NOAC now.’ That’s awesome,” Austin said. “He’s almost vibrating before my eyes. That’s when we know we’ve done our jobs.”

Just one of the team

Notice he said our jobs. Austin is quick to pile praise on the entire Shows team, a group with a combined “hundreds of years of experience that make this happen.”

“I get way too much credit,” he said. “It’s two-and-a-half years of people who have put their hearts and souls into this.”

As he walked around to show me the many hard-working teams inside the Breslin Center, Austin excitedly introduced each one and explained how important they are to the show’s success. Without each person, he said, the shows would fail.

And success, he said, is critical.

“It’s the last thing that people will remember in the conference,” Austin said. “That’s it. There’s nothing on the schedule after this. This is where we smash it home.”

Behind the scenes

These photos from Robbie Rogers and Jim Brown give you a glimpse of the volunteers behind the magical NOAC shows.

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All my NOAC coverage

See my other NOAC stories collected right here.


Hat tip: Special thanks to Shows team volunteer Marc Circus (who asked not to be thanked, but I’m doing it anyway). He was instrumental in getting me access to all of the NOAC Shows magic this week.

About Bryan Wendell 2882 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.