BY Meghan Vogt
As a thespian, I would like to think that Start’s theatrical performances are seen by community members as impressively wonderful examples of the great achievements that can be reached by just a little cooperation, hard work and dedication. However, this is probably not the view most of our audience members have. This is understandable because live shows are so captivating and entertaining that those watching are completely engulfed in the story plot and characters, truly believing that they exist and, therefore, have no thought of how the production came to be. For those few show-goers who do wish to obtain such knowledge, however, I have written this article.
Each of Start’s plays and musicals is the result of over two months of rehearsal. The cast and crew members stay after school four days a week blocking scenes, building sets, perfecting music and learning choreography. Day in and day out, the young students dedicate their time to perfecting lines and mastering their roles’ personalities. They build chemistry, making the characters more believable and make many mistakes and jokes, which make the hours of work fun and tolerable. Each aspect of the show, from harmonies to prop usage, must be thought out and practiced well before the pieces can be put together. The last week before the performances is the most vigorous because it is during this week that all of those aspects finally come together.
It is called tech week, and it is the week when the actors, set, costumes, props, sound equipment and pit members are thrown together and everyone prepares for the worst. Monday is often a disaster. The students stay in the auditorium until nearly midnight. Many of the dance numbers must be retaught, harmonies need to be reviewed, and the energy throughout the show is usually odd and inconsistent. The cast, crew and production staff are quite stressed and many lose hope, temporarily, of course. But still, the process repeats the following days, each rehearsal going a bit more smoothly and letting out a bit earlier.
Hope is regained on Tuesday. The veterans know that the chaos somehow always ends up working out in the end. Three pages of notes from Monday are usually cut down to just one by Wednesday. Thursday is dress rehearsal. All costumes are worn, makeup is applied and hair is done. This is the day when there are several missed cues, and the pit is left vamping for over a minute because actors misjudged quick changes as not-so-quick changes. Sometimes the improvisation done to cover these missed cues is quite amusing.
Friday is the first show. The student matinee is the first time the cast has a true audience, although the rude and loud behavior of this audience is often discouraging for the first-timers. That night the students have a house full of respectful spectators that actually want the show to be successful. This first evening show is the most exciting.
The next night, Saturday, is the last show. This is the emotional one. The cast, crew and pit members are now running their show for the seventh time straight, and they know what to do. All focus is on having fun backstage, singing along and making memories, and enjoying the last performance of the season. This last show is the moment everyone who helped with the production had been both looking forward to and dreading since auditions were held. They are sad that it’s over, but extremely glad that it happened and had such an impact on everyone involved.
It really is a marvelous concept: the fact that this life-changing experience began with just a script and some open-minded students. And what’s even more miraculous is that it happens every year, twice a year. It’s a crazy and exciting experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world.