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.
Something else that I found particularly gratifying about this show was seeing the number of first-time cast members, staff 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.