by SHANNON GLEBA, Staff Writer
The Manhattan College Players are entering the final stages in preparation for Urinetown, their spring mainstage musical, and the technical crew is hard at work in ensuring that the show will run smoothly during performances on April 11, 12 and 14.
Since the start of November, the club has been working on the musical, from conceptual discussions to auditions, casting and rehearsals. Overall, the show is almost completely student-run, with the exception of four postgraduate members of the team.
Junior Alexander Kelly is a Production Manager, Stage Designer and Stage Manager for Urinetown and has been able to strengthen his skills in performing arts since joining the group at the start of his freshman year.
As Production Manager, Kelly’s responsibilities are integral to helping the show become the best it can be.
“In Players specifically, I am the production manager, which requires me to manage shows and make sure that things from the technical perspective are getting done. So, managing schedules, managing our outside designers that come in, helping with the rehearsal schedule and when we bring in wood orders or paint orders, helping with that stuff,” said Kelly.
In addition, Kelly is in his third year as a Stage Manager for Players and he has been able to hone the necessary skills for the job.
Kelly said, “I am also stage managing the show, there is a lot of overlap with Production Manager. Stage Manager is more along the lines of being in rehearsal, taking blocking notes and making sure the actors know their lines, stuff like that. When it comes to the show, it is actually running the show. What a Stage Manager does is called ‘calling a show’ and they are telling people, ‘Okay, this cue needs to go now’ for lights, sound or if they need to help people backstage getting things on and off.”
Likewise, as Stage Designer, Kelly is able to use the knowledge he has learned in his civil engineering courses and apply it to both stage managing and creating the set.
“These jobs are very much about organization, and especially Stage Manager is about organization and being on top of your stuff and those skills you apply to civil engineering because if you are not organized and not on top our your stuff, you are going to get behind and you don’t want to do that.”
“In terms of set design, I tend to approach that with basically the mentality of ‘Can we build it?’ And in my civil engineering background, we take a lot of structural analysis classes and various fun things that kind of help me to say, ‘Okay we can do this because it is going to be able to carry the weight of this person or it can stand up on its own.’”
In order to effectively manage the shows, Kelly works with many other members of the crew including Urinetown’s producer. This year, junior Kathryn Ronan is Players’ producer and has been hard at work producing Urinetown, as well as the club’s other shows.
As the producer, which is equivalent to the club’s president, Ronan wears many different hats when organizing the show consisting of 19 cast members and around 20 technical crew members.
“I help make rehearsal schedules for blocking, choreography and music. So, it involves a lot of coordination between the actors and the different members of the production team, I run rehearsals, keep blocking notes. Then, during the shows I am going to be backstage facilitating the set changes,” said Ronan.
As a physics major, Ronan appreciates the fact that at MC she is able to be both part of a scientific major as well as the performing arts.
“It is definitely weird thinking about how my major is completely science and I am doing theater, but I really like the balance that is gives me because my academics are really difficult, then I can come to rehearsal and just focus on that for a few hours. It’s a nice break,” said Ronan.
In the upcoming days, Players will be entering what is called “tech week,” a time for the crew to iron out any issues with lighting, set and any other technical components of the show. During tech week, Ronan will be working backstage.
“I am going to be backstage and my jobs for that are making sure all of the set pieces go out on time and making sure the actors are where they are supposed to be at each time, and just organizing things back there,” said Ronan.
Kelly gave an extensive rundown of what tech week will look like for Players.
“Tech week always tends to be a stressful thing. But, it generally starts the Friday before or the Thursday before. So, we start using all of our rehearsal spaces at that point, we have the Black Box and Smith Auditorium. We will be kind of in and out of Smith Auditorium throughout that day kind of based on whether or not we are putting up the lights for that show or finishing that up, and kind of getting that and the sound stuff ready. So, we have mics and all that jazz.
Then, [the cast] will be rehearsing upstairs, so I do not actually know where I will be that day because a lot’s going on.”
“Then, on Saturday we will be doing what’s called ‘dry tech’ and dry tech is basically a way for all of the tech people to get their stuff done in terms of light cues and sound cues, and kind of having people stand their in place for what they need to do. Meanwhile, the actors will be having one of their sitzprobe. And sitzprobe is when the pit and actors sing and perform together for one of the first times and knock out those kinks. Sunday, we will run a cue to cue which is just going from cue to cue and making sure everything is working and that night we will have a run of the show.”
Junior English and philosophy double major Gabrielle Kasper, Players’ assistant director also shares similar sentiments about the stress of tech week, but also enjoys the excitement of the musical coming together.
“Tech week is crazy for everyone. It is like a fun type of crazy though, because the air is buzzing with excitement, anticipation and a lot of nerves. I try to prepare myself for anything that might happen and just keep a positive attitude overall. I usually end up taking a copious amount of notes for our director to give to actors as we put the finishing touches on the show. I also just try to lend a helping hand wherever I can, I might end up running to Rite-Aid to get an ace bandage if someone sprains their ankle or needs cough drops. My goal in tech week is to just make sure the actors are in the best shape possible for the show, and sometimes that also just means reminding someone that they are doing an awesome job and that their hard work is appreciated,” said Kasper.
As Assistant Director, Kasper’s job spans many different aspects of the show and this is the fourth MainStage show she will be assistant directing.
Kasper said, “As the Assistant Director, I have various responsibilities such as taking notes for the director, standing in for actors who couldn’t attend the rehearsal that day, helping give creative advice to the director, etc.”
As of now, the club in a great position and is in the final push to finish putting the show together.
Kelly said, “Now in the process, the set is pretty much done, build-wise we are doing a lot of scenic elements, like signs and painting, detail work is the best way to describe it. In rehearsal, we are running the show, knocking out the kinks and making sure everyone knows their lines and things like that.”
Ronan also agrees that Players is on the right track towards their performances come the start of April.
“We are in really good shape right now, we are already doing full runs of each act before spring break which is really good for us. It has been really nice seeing how it is all coming together and I am really excited to see it all pay off in April,” said Ronan.
All in all, despite all of the time and work the students in Players put into their shows, the payoff is far greater than they could imagine. Kelly, Ronan and Kasper all appreciate the close relationships the cast and crew are able to form throughout the months of hard work.
“It is a fantastic community that continues to grow each year, especially this year we have a great freshman class, they are awesome and do a lot of cool stuff,” said Kelly.
Ronan shared Kelly’s sentiments
“I have met some of my best friends through Players and I just love being there,” said Ronan.
Kasper in particular has found the stressful environment of tech week to be conducive to formulating bonds among the cast and crew.
“I have always found that there is a special kind of bond that develops between people when they come together to put on a show. The hours are long, we often start rehearsals late and sometimes we don’t end until midnight, and it is hard work, but in the end, it is always worth it. Everyone involved in Players productions devotes every drop of energy and passion that they have into create the best show possible and it is truly just an amazing thing to be a part of,” said Kasper.
Players invites the MC community to come out and see their production of Urinetown, and hopes the audience enjoys the show.
“I am really excited for people to see the cast, I think they have been working super hard and all of them are doing a lot of great stuff with their characters and whatnot. And I think it is a really fun show, a really fun story, it takes these archetypes of characters and puts them in non-archetypal situations and really puts the story on its head, essentially,” said Kelly
“I am really excited to see the audience’s reactions to this show. Urinetown isn’t the most well-known show and I think that people will be really surprised by what they see in this show. Urinetown is absolutely hilarious, and I can’t wait for the actors to hear the audience’s inevitable laughter.”
Editor’s Note: The News Editor of The Quadrangle, Gabriella DePinho, more commonly known as “Gabs,” is a member of stage crew and dance captain for Manhattan College’s production of Urinetown.