The Home of HRG&SP

The Harvard-Radcliffe Gilbert & Sullivan Players are proud to be the largest independent student-run theatrical organization at Harvard College. Each year, we produce two operettas from the grand canon of Victorian duo William Schwenck Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan.

Our spring production, Iolanthe; or, The Peer and the Peri, has just concluded. Thank you for coming! We look forward to seeing you next semester for Ruddigore; or, The Witch’s Curse. A full listing of show dates and times is available on our Happening Now page.

Please email hrgsp@hcs.harvard.edu with any questions about ordering tickets for this season’s show.

Any new announcements will be posted right below this!

Director’s Notes

I’m pleased to introduce this week’s blog author, C. E. Chiemeka Ezie ’15, who was the director of this spring’s production of Iolanthe.


Written by Chiemeka Ezie

As the school year draws closer to a close, I wanted to take some time to reflect upon the experience of working on Iolanthe over the past few months. This has been my fourth semester of involvement with the Harvard-Radcliffe Gilbert & Sullivan Players, and I was very happy to be spending my last semester as an undergraduate in the organization helping to put up my favorite show in Gilbert and Sullivan’s canon. But, rather than subject readers to my further musings and pontifications on the merits of the show – there was plenty of that in the Iolanthe program – I just wanted to share some reflections on the experience of this show.

Iolanthe was not the first time I have had the opportunity to stage direct a production for Gilbert and Sullivan. My first directing effort was Spring 2013’s lofty Utopia, Limited. Since that show, I have gained additional experiences as a performer and a director that (I hope) have somewhat improved my effectiveness in the role of a director. Still, as this semester began and casting week approached, I found experiencing familiar anxieties. It’s not uncommon for actors who audition for plenty of shows on campus in the fall semester to decide to take a break from theatre in the spring to focus on other pursuits. Furthermore, as much as I love Iolanthe, there is no denying that among today’s audiences and performers it doesn’t seem to have as much fame and recognition as the likes of The Mikado, The Pirates of Penzance, or HMS Pinafore, that triumvirate of well-known Gilbert and Sullivan operettas we sometimes refer to as “The Big Three.” So, what if not enough people auditioned for our production? What if we simply didn’t have enough performers to be able to do the show? This probably crosses the mind of many a director of shows on campus at some point or another, and in most shows things turn out just fine. And yet, every semester this fear seems all too real.

Happily, by the end of the casting period my worries were totally assuaged. We managed to assemble a remarkably talented group of musicians and actors in the process of mounting this production. Their energy, creativity, and dedication to the show made my job as director unceasingly pleasant, and they duly received hearty applause at the conclusion of each performance. However, the incredible staff that worked tirelessly behind the scenes to keep the show on track also deserve recognition. We had a small volunteer army of designers and technicians with us this semester, and I can’t thank them enough for their efforts. I’d particularly like to mention Sam Wu, the music director, who diligently and fastidiously helped the cast and orchestra, all while balancing his work on the show with his responsibilities to the various other musical ensembles on campus. I don’t know how he does it, but he does, and I learned quite a lot from watching him work.

Speaking of Sam, who first joined this organization this semester working on Iolanthe, something that I found particularly gratifying about this show was the number of first-time cast members, staffer members, and musicians who ended up becoming involved. Being a part of the Gilbert & Sullivan community on this campus has been a consistent highlight of my undergraduate experience, so I am always very happy to see that community expanding and gaining new members. It is my hope that some of them can find a home-away-from-home in HRG&SP, as I and many others have.

Another Wonderful Victorian Ball

Written by Rebecca Rosen

Victorian Ball is my favorite event on the HRG&SP social calendar. It combines the glamour of a white-tie event with the nostalgia and fun of a reunion; that one night constitutes perhaps the largest gathering of current HRG&SP members, alumni, and patrons all year, and it all happens in the Horner Room behind the stage. This semester we held our 10th annual Victorian Ball, and everyone had a blast!

The first Victorian Ball was held in the fall of 2006 as part of our 50th anniversary celebration. Since then, we’ve had lots of fun every year with a grand ball full of delicious food and stellar decorations courtesy of our wonderful caterer, Cindy. This year, she transformed the Horner Room into a magical forest, covering every surface with fabric, flowers, statues, and greenery. It was so wonderful to see the room that for as long as our organization has been in the Agassiz has spent much of our residency covered either in dropcloths and half-finished set pieces or cast members napping or doing homework during the show now transformed into a beautiful ballroom. It’s easy to forget the beauty of the space our organization has the privilege to occupy for several weeks every semester, and Victorian Ball always seems to renew both love for HRG&SP and for the Agassiz itself.

This year, we had a huge group of alumni come to the ball, and it was wonderful getting to know them! Most of the alumni who came this year were HRG&SP company members from the last 15 years, but we had a few alumni come back who had been a part of our organization even earlier (the earliest alumni I spoke with at the Ball were involved in the 1975 production of The Gondoliers; if you were involved in earlier years and came to the ball, we’d love to know!). There was plenty of dancing and lots of chocolate mousse, and it seems like everyone had a great time getting dressed up in their fanciest attire and partying with HRG&SP old and new. Thank you to everyone who came to the ball and made it a success; I know I can’t wait to come back for Victorian Ball next year!

(Photos below courtesy of Guan Chen unless otherwise noted)

The spread (before the doors opened)

The spread (before the doors opened)

Bradford A. Latilla-Campbell prepares himself for ticketless ball-goers

Stellar conversation!

The wonderful musicians who performed for much of the ball

Cast & staff enjoying delicious snacks

Some of the alumni who came back for the Ball

More alumni!

HRG&SP old & new

No Victorian Ball would be complete without a picture of our fabulous and fabulously-dressed paint crew!

This was supposed to be a serious photo.

This photo was taken well into the evening.

President Laura A. Peterson addresses the revelers while Bradford A. Latilla-Campbell surveys the crowd

The traditional "Board Plus" photo

Lots of HRG&SP alumni! (Photo courtesy of Joey Goodknight)

From the Costumer’s Dungeon

This week’s blog post (on schedule!) is brought to you by costumer and sass-master Anne A. Power ’16. You may have seen her womanning the box office at shows. She writes about mayhems and mishaps encountered through the process.

Again, it has been so lovely to see all of you at the show. We hope to see you today at Victorian Ball!


Written by Anne Power

HRG&SP’s spring production of Iolanthe has been the third HRG&SP show that Cassie Lowell and I have costumed together. One might think that at this point we might have worked a system that would make the process smoother, less stressful, and less daunting. One would be right, but also so very wrong.

From a more general aspect, the costuming process for HRG&SP always remains the same. At the beginning of the semester there is a trip to our Narnia-like storage container, where we get to muck about in hoop skirts, dress up in princess dresses, and, of course, pull useful items for the show. Then there are periodic meetings with the directors and producers, who let us know their plans and visions. To accomplish this vision, we combine the items from our storage run with those pulled from the ART’s extensive stock, supplemented by items ordered especially for the show.

While this schedule is more or less idiot-proof (believe me, we’ve tried), it is not fate-proof. Every production has its big and little (but actually big) challenges that must be addressed. For instance, one of the primary struggles in costuming Iolanthe was the size of the choruses. In addition, because of the nature of the show, each chorus had to have its own uniform, meaning that Cassie and I had to scramble to fabricate eight matching lord’s costumes and seven fairy costumes that fit and flattered. What’s more, all of these costumes had to hold up to eight shows of sweating actors with fiddly hands and propensity to eat in costume.

By spending the better part of a week in the Ag and blowing through our budget, Cassie and I managed to rig together costumes that put the fun in functional. We are especially proud of the lords’ capes, which came to us as gross Amazon purchases and left, with the help of faux fur and black sharpie, as ermine fit for a king. For the fairies, we took white leotards and skirts and paired them with bluish-grey sashes, shoulder draping, and a small bustle for a look that was ethereal but still a touch Victorian.

Now in their second weekend of use, the costumes have yet to disintegrate and we can breathe a sigh of relief. That sigh of relief can’t be too long, however, because we have to get back to the Ag so that we can help fairies tie sashes, lords find their crowns, and make sure the Lord Chancellor’s wig isn’t completely blocking his face.

A Magical Opening

Friends, we have just opened the show this past weekend. It’s been a whirlwind process, and it was so lovely to see so many of you there. We hope to see more of you this coming weekend, especially at Victorian Ball!

I’m excited to introduce this week’s blog poster, Brad A. Latilla-Campbell ’16, who has been one of my dedicated co-producers (shoutout to the other, Emma R. Adler ’16). Apologies for the late post; things were rather chaotic through opening weekend.


Written by Brad Latilla-Campbell

There is nothing quite like Opening Night – the moment when months of hard work, hours of building, rehearsing, painting and singing are finally put on show to friends, family and the public. The nervous energy that crackles like electricity in your stomach and the slightly cold sweat that always makes you worry about your freshly applied make-up cannot be found anywhere else.

I am most used to being on the other side of the curtain, on the stage itself, as the visible face of a team effort. This time, however, I sat in anticipation with the rest of the opening night audience, wondering what spectacle would be presented to us when the curtains finally did open and the lights came up. This experience was totally different: a kind of nervousness that could not be calmed until the curtain came down at the end of the show. The idea of the experience not being in my hands at all was at once both terrifying and the week’s greatest relief.

Of course, one standard curtain speech and a rousing rendition of God Save the Queen later, we were underway – and what a show it was! The capes flashed, the wings flapped and the wands waved; the orchestra was in full force and the crowd was laughing uproariously. The lights and set transported us to a magical forest, and then into the gardens of Westminster; the songs filled the theater with the light-hearted whimsy of the Gilbert & Sullivan spirit, while the music kept us enthralled throughout the night. And as the curtain closed, and I turned my attention to the cheese awaiting me at the reception, I realized happily, as I always do, that this seemingly once in a lifetime feeling will be coming back next semester.

A Techie’s Thoughts

This week’s post comes from Christopher Y.M. Marks ’15, who has been a tech powerhouse in the HRG&SP community, as well as the larger theater community at Harvard.


Written by Chris Marks

Raymond W.S. Ng '17 (Master Carpenter) and Brad A. Latilla-Campbell '16 (Producer) building frames for set pieces.

Raymond W.S. Ng ’17 (Master Carpenter) and Brad A. Latilla-Campbell ’16 (Producer) building frames for set pieces.

As spring break comes to a close and opening night draws near, the final touches are being put onto all of the tech elements for Iolanthe. Construction is nearly finished, the final set pieces are being painted, the last light cues are being programmed, and final alterations and repairs are being made to the costumes. The final product will be the culmination of the work of over thirty undergraduate designers and technicians who have been working for the past several months to bring everything to life.

The tech process starts during the break between semesters, when the stage director begins working with designers to translate the director’s overall vision for the show into practical ideas and concepts. All of the designers need to balance several things when coming up with their plans; the director’s vision for the show, the budget, the features and quirks (oh so many quirks) of Agassiz theater, and more. By a couple of weeks into the semester, the designers create detailed plans that get presented to the entire staff and are approved by the producers, directors, and OFA staff.

Rachel Nafis (assistant painter) puts finishing touches on the archway.

Rachel Nafis (assistant painter) puts finishing touches on the archway.

Then, it is time to turn those plans into reality. This is my favorite part of the process; all of the planning and organization begins to pay off, and we have the chance to do what we do best: create things. Carpenters and painters begin to spend long nights in the Ag woodshop and the Horner Room constructing and painting set pieces (while eating cookies and jamming out to eclectic build and paint playlists). Costumers begin to inhabit the costume shop, sewing and fitting everything from dresses and suits to fairy wings while singing along to Disney soundtracks. Props mistresses start hunting down some props online (leading to some really strange Amazon.com recommendations in the aftermath of the show) and creating others from scratch. Lighting designers hang, cable, and gel light fixtures while spending a lot of quality time on the rolling scaffolding. All of these activities pick up steam in the days after Load In, the day we get to begin putting things on the stage in earnest. This is the time when the broad strokes of the tech elements rapidly take shape and assume substance.

Now, we are at the stage of adding finishing touches to everything. While all of the big things are done, there is a seemingly never-ending list of small finishing touches (or, as I like to call them, fiddly-bits) to accomplish: masking sight lines, paint touch ups, costume fixes, and more. The list always frustrates me; no matter how many items you can check off, there’s always more to do, and it doesn’t seem like any progress is being made… until you reach the moment when you look up and realize, “Oh my goodness, it actually looks FINISHED!” If this moment comes before the day of opening, then that is a bonus.

There is a certain joy to seeing a project come together, watching as piles of lumber, cans of paint, rolls of fabric, and sheets of lighting gel become the fairies’ forest and the streets of London. I’ve been involved with many productions over the years, and no matter the show, the people I’m working with, or the challenges the crew faces, this sense of accomplishment always makes it worthwhile. It always takes a lot of effort, many late nights in the theater, and a truly ridiculous number of emails to make it happen, but at the end of the day we will have transformed the stage into a different universe. And that is ultimately what technical theater is all about: creating a new world on the stage for the cast to inhabit, and giving context to the story that the performers will tell.

A Cellist’s Love of the Orchestra

My apologies for the missing blog posts of the past two weeks! Things have gotten so busy in preparation for our opening, which is just under two weeks away. We are now officially loaded into the Agassiz theater, and are putting the last touches to the set during spring break.

This week’s blog post is written by Allegra C. Caldera, ’17 (director of The Gondoliers and cast member of Patience and Pirates) about being in the orchestra. This semester, we have a lot of board members playing in the orchestra. Matthew J. O’Connor, ’17 will be returning as a bassoonist, and I myself have picked up the oboe. It’s been so exciting to explore different aspects of the show, and I think we’ve put together an amazingly talented group of people for the show.

We hope to see all of you at some point during the run of Iolanthe! If you are just as excited as we are, listen to “The Law is the True Embodiment,” a song from the show that features the cello brilliantly.

Love,

Kat C. Zhou, ’17


Written by Allegra Caldera

I didn’t bring my cello up to Harvard freshman year, thinking I would focus on theatre and my classes. But I missed having the ability to play. So this year I made the eight-hour drive up to school with my cello in the back seat. And instead of directing or performing in this spring’s production of Iolanthe, I’ve decided to take on a new role – orchestra member.

Under the gifted direction of Sam Wu (‘17), our orchestra has spent the last month preparing for this spring’s eight performance of Iolanthe. Though our first rehearsals were stalled by snow-day closures (thanks, blizzards Juno and Neptune!) we’ve managed to catch up without much trouble. Sitzprobe was great, because we got to learn how the cast’s voices complement and fill out the instrumental accompaniment on our first or second time playing through each song. (Although I learned that, sadly, as an orchestra member, you miss most of the sung jokes.)

Re-remembering what it’s like to cart around a cello hasn’t been without its misadventures. Last week, I got to our final Sunday rehearsal a few minutes late (I’d been printing show posters). I pulled out my cello quietly – only to realize that the changing weather had gotten to it. All my strings were wildly out of tune. After over 15 minutes of tuning, I’d almost gotten all four strings… when my A string suddenly snapped. Then I realized I didn’t have a spare. Oh well – I’m home for spring break now, and can hop over to Potter’s Violins for a new A. In fact, I’m going to grab an extra full set of strings, just in case!

Meet the Staff of Iolanthe!

Written by Alice Hyde

While the cast is hard at work mastering the music and diving into blocking the show, the staff is gearing up to hammer, paint, and sew the show together. The staff meets each week with the producers of the show to go over what’s happening, and to make sure all the various departments are on the same page. We’ve got an army of designers, assistants, and other technicians working to make sure the show goes off without a hitch.

We’re all very excited to see what they create this semester and to share it with you in a few weeks time!

Without further ado, I present to you our talented and terrific staff:

Senior Staff

Kat C. Zhou
Brad A. Latilla-Campbell
Emma R. Adler
C.E. Chiemeka Ezie
Sam Wu
Ethan Addicott

Position

Producer
Producer
Producer
Stage Director
Music Director
Stage Manager

Lead Designers & Technical Staff

Katie Farineau
Joule Voelz
Jess Rhodes
Alice Hyde
Anne Power
Cassie Lowell
Zoë Burgard

Trevor Mullin
Raymond Ng
Elizabeth Pattyn
Chris Marks

Kathryn McCawley
Hunter York
Allegra Caldera

Ari Korotkin
Lorena Benitez
Jason Li

Position

Set Designer
Lighting Designer
Lighting Designer
Props Mistress
Costume Designer
Costume Designer
Make-up & Hair Designer

Technical Director
Master Carpenter
Head Painter
Technical Advisor

Poster Designer
Publicity Manager
Publicity Manager

Orchestra Manager
Choreographer
Choreographer

Assistants

Meg Knister
Angie Berkowitz

Anatol Klass
Kelly McGee
Allegra Caldera
Kevin Yang
Asia Stewart

Michaela Kane
Alice Berenson
Shane Campayne

Cecilia Laguarda
Susan Li
Barra Peak
Faye Zhang
Rachel Nafis

Lee Hittner-Cunningham
Rebecca Rosen

Position

Assistant Stage Manager
Assistant Stage Manager

Assistant Carpenter
Assistant Carpenter
Assistant Carpenter
Assistant Carpenter
Assistant Carpenter

Assistant Lighting Designer
Assistant Lighting Designer
Assistant Lighting Designer

Assistant Painter
Assistant Painter
Assistant Painter
Assistant Painter
Assistant Painter

Assistant Costumer
Assistant Costumer

A Fairy Queen Welcome

Written by Laura Peterson

Welcome!

We are so excited that the Iolanthe process is underway and that rehearsals are in full swing. I have already met so many new people in just a few short weeks, and it warms my heart to see our community growing. HRG&SP has provided a home for me throughout my entire time at Harvard, and I look forward to sharing my love and joy for Gilbert & Sullivan with the new members of our community.

This semester I am thrilled to be playing the Queen of the Fairies in Iolanthe. The Queen of the Fairies is a great role because I get to interact with so many other characters throughout the course of the show and thus build relationships on and off the stage. Under the direction of our directors Chiemeka Ezie and Sam Wu, the show will be amazing and not one to miss!

Last weekend was our first sing through of the show. The whole cast and board gathered as Sam accompanied us through all of the musical parts of the operetta. Because we were sight-reading, there were lots of missed cues and lots of laughter, and an all-around good time was had.