Backstage at ‘Mame’

More than 80 OWU students are part of an exciting musical, opening November 5

Cast members for Ohio Wesleyan’s production of Mame include (standing) Laurel Elliott ’11 of Phoenix, Arizona; Andrew Rossi ’13 of Euclid, Ohio; Joe Lugosh ’13 of Round Pond, Maine; Anne Flowers ’12 of Choteau, Montana; Brian Brockman ’13 of Chagrin Falls, Ohio; Charlie Waldo ’13 of Allison Park, Pennsylvania (front left); and Emily Yaksic ’11 of Marion, Ohio (seated). (Photo courtesy of OWU’s Department of Theatre & Dance)

As the show ends and the audience applauds, the curtain goes down.  But what happens backstage before the curtain goes up?

All the crews involved in a show have many responsibilities before, during, and after any Ohio Wesleyan theatre performance, and this year’s production of Mame requires extra effort by everyone involved because it is a musical.

“Putting on a musical is different than putting on a play,” says Carie Clark ’11, assistant stage manager for Mame. “The musical is a co-production between the theatre and dance department and the music department. It takes all three aspects to put on a production such as this.” Clark explains that others also have been part of this talented team.

“We had a guest choreographer, Tim Veach, a guest scenic designer, Rob Johnson, and guest paint specialist, Laura Prengaman. We also will have an orchestra accompany the production.

Backstage is where the organization of the show takes place. Auditions started August 27 and the actors and crew have been rehearsing nearly every day since.

“When we started, we ran scenes from the show, arranged by who was in the scenes. As the process went on, we began to have two-a-day rehearsals, one for singing and one for acting and dancing,” says Clark.

The stage management crew handles everything that takes place “behind the scenes.”  During rehearsal, their job is to keep it running smoothly, maintain clear communication between the designers, the other crews, the director and the actors. Crew members keep track of changes to the schedule, attendance, any changes that need to be made, and take line notes for the actors when they make mistakes with their lines.  The stage manager sends out rehearsal reports to the designers and crew heads to let them know what happened during rehearsal and of any changes that will need to occur. Scene rehearsals usually last between one to three hours, depending on the scenes being rehearsed.

The stage management team consists of the stage manager, two assistant stage managers and the assistant to the director. They assist the director in running the show from backstage and coordinate all technical aspects. Other crews include those focused on publicity, lights and sound, construction, costumes, props, and back stage.

This past weekend, the tech crew spent hours in the theatre perfecting the sound, light cues, and scenes.

“On Saturday, the crew arrived at 11:30 a.m. and didn’t leave until around 7 p.m.,” says Clark “On Sunday the crew arrived at 11:30 and the cast at noon, and we didn’t leave till after 6 p.m. As the week goes on, rehearsals will take less time as we get more efficient at running everything smoothly.”

It takes the support and hard work of everyone involved to make a show like Mame successful, according to Professor Elane Denny-Todd, director of Mame.

“Everyone on every crew and every actor is important and needed and we must all work together as a team in order for the production to work. Everyone has the same goal and everyone gives 100 percent, all of the time.” Denny-Todd adds that productions such as Mame also involve students from a number of academic disciplines.

“This is a musical in which 80 students from a variety of performance backgrounds are participating,” she says. “ These are not just theatre, dance, and music students, but students from many different majors that have an interest in theatre and chose to either audition or participate in the production process. This is part of what makes shows like Mame so exciting—it brings together people from the entire campus,” says Denny-Todd.

Mame is playing on the Main Stage of the Chappelear Drama Center, November 5, 6, and 12 at 8 p.m. and November 7 and 14 at 2 p.m.  Tickets are $10 for general admission and free to OWU students.

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