Un-Opening Night

As the stage manager for the past two HRG&SP shows, I have seen my fair share of opening nights. From my post at the lightboard, I watch the beaming smiles of the actors as they proudly present their work to an audience for the first time. I listen as the Agassiz Theater rings with applause from the crowd, letting the cast members know that their efforts are seen and appreciated. I think of my peers, both onstage and offstage, who have brought their commitment, expertise, and passion to the project over the many months of preparatory work leading up to opening night. All of the time, energy, and love coalesces and is condensed into those two short hours. I am always grateful for the relative privacy of my position at the back of the balcony level, because it is often quite an emotional experience for me.

I love opening night not only for what it is, but what it represents. As a stage manager, I have the privilege of witnessing the life cycle of a production. From the first note sung in the rehearsal room to the first peal of applause on opening night, I watch the show grow and develop into the production that we ultimately present to our audience. Until the last stock flat is returned to the scenic shop after our closing performance, I am locating actors, sweeping stages, and calling cues. As I believe many do, I feel a sense of parental responsibility to and pride in the show. Opening night is the first chance to share with others what I have seen all along: the extraordinary work of my friends and colleagues in bringing Gilbert and Sullivan’s timeless operettas to life. The evening is a testament to the strength of our community and the talent of its members.

This semester, I was excited to experience opening night as an audience member. I thought that last Friday, I would be sitting in the familiar red velvet seats of the Ag, adding my own cheers to the thunderous applause after the final chord. As a prospective viewer, I am disappointed not to see what I am sure would have been a tremendous production. As a frequent member of HRG&SP production staffs, I am heartbroken. I feel tremendous sympathy for the cast, staff, and orchestra members who will never see their opening night. The weight of the cancellation of Kiss Me, Kate! is felt by the entire community. I find myself thinking often of the production’s wonderful stage manager, who will miss the experience of sitting in the back of the theater, overwhelmed by the force of her gratitude towards the show’s team and her pride in the product that they have created.

During the past few weeks, however, I have witnessed something as powerful as the opening night experience, if not more so. Current students and alumni alike join weekly social events over Zoom, sharing updates from their homes around the world through the videoconferencing platform. Staff members busily recruit for Ruddigore; or, the Witch’s Curse and make all necessary arrangements to hit the ground running in the fall. The Board looks to the future, preparing our group for the many opening nights that lie ahead. Despite frightening and disruptive global circumstances, the strength of the HRG&SP community has not wavered; rather, I find myself in awe of the resilience of this organization and its members. Since returning home, I have drawn comfort and support from my HRG&SP connections more than ever before.

In my recently gained free time, I have been reflecting on why I am always so deeply affected by the first performance of a show. For me, opening night is not special primarily because of the date or the venue. I treasure those moments because they encapsulate the passion and effort of people that I love. While we have lost one of the best opportunities to acknowledge and celebrate our organization and the work of its members, the HRG&SP community stands strong. That knowledge gives me more joy than all of the opening nights combined.

“Opening”; or, The Fire-Curtain Variety Show

Friends, believe me, if you were not here for our Friday show (or rather, lack of show), you missed out on a truly surreal and (in retrospect) kind of funny situation. For the senior board members of HRG&SP, it certainly made for an eventful final opening night! Allegra Caldera ’17 recounts the tale.


Written by Allegra Caldera

Last Friday, well-dressed audience members made their way across Radcliffe Yard for the first night of The Sorcerer. The cast chatted and applied makeup downstairs in the dressing rooms, and orchestra members warmed up with exercises and scales. Little did they know what the old (dare I say haunted?) Agassiz Theater had in store… DISASTER. Kind of. Disaster turned inspiration? Disast-piration?

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Did Gilbert and Sullivan Wear Silk Stockings?

Happy Ides of March! Yesterday, Brad A. Latilla-Campbell ’16 notified me of yet another G&S reference he’d found in The West Wing. Clearly, Aaron Sorkin is a fellow Savoyard. Coincidentally, our blog post this week also features a Gilbert & Sullivan cultural reference, albeit of a … vastly different medium.


Written by Ned Sanger

1868-skirt-lengths-girl-ages-harpers-bazar
Harper’s Bazaar c. 1900

Gilbert and Sullivan show their plump faces all over. I ran into them just recently in a rather unexpected place: chapter five of Ulysses. Leopold Bloom, the book’s protagonist and a cuckold, is perambulating around Dublin when he happens to spot a lady across the street. She is about to get into a cab and he knows she will need to lift her dress when she does it, allowing naughty Bloom to catch a glimpse of her silk stockings, or perhaps even a slice of upper-calf if he is lucky. Promptly he sidles into a better vantage point and focuses his attention—“Silk flash rich stockings white. Watch!”—but his efforts are all for naught: at the very moment of the grand reveal, with Bloom just about ready to combust, a tramcar rounds the corner, obstructs his view, obscures the calf, and deprives him of his peeping pleasures. “Paradise and the peri,” he wails, before slogging the rest of the dreary way to church: “Always happens like that.”
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A Tale of Two Blog Posts

This week brings TWO mini blog posts with production updates.

Written by Alex Raun, February 22, 2017

 Last Friday, the lumber came in for the Sorcerer set, and the lighting design has been finalized! With build and lights underway now, be looking out for potential sneak peaks at the set in the coming weeks. Additionally, the Sorcerer cast and staff have been busy at rehearsals! Check out this video from last week’s orchestra rehearsal. While Johnnie conducts, Yuki Koide ‘17 is working on the challenging skill of playing her instrument while spinning in an office chair! Continue reading “A Tale of Two Blog Posts”

A Sorcerific Singthrough!

Written by Peryn Reeves-Darby

Last Saturday, the cast and a few excited staff members all made their way through the slush and the wind to the very first rehearsal of the semester. One by one we filed in. Upperclassman rushed to say “hello” to old friends from past shows, while the nervous freshmen eagerly introduced themselves, excited to make new friends. Continue reading “A Sorcerific Singthrough!”

Mikado 2016 Historical Note & FAQ

Written by Ashley Zhou ’17 and Kat C. Zhou ’17

We distributed this document at the box office during the run of the show. Some of the responses to the FAQ have been revised slightly in order to clarify and enrich my original answers, which were written in haste before opening. 

A Brief Historical Note

The history of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, as with so many beloved Victorian cultural artifacts, is a history of imperialism: Western imperial powers’ thirst for dominance in an economic system they saw as a zero-sum game, the ever-growing urgency to find more trading partners, the dehumanization of non-white peoples as justification for conquest couched in paternalistic rhetoric of civilizing missions and Christianization. Of Commodore Matthew Perry docking gunboats in Tokyo Bay and calling the result of his actions, even to this day, an “opening,” as if to read choice into Japan’s forced entry into Western-controlled systems of trade and to turn away from the violence of that historical moment. Of the political upheaval of the Meiji Restoration, a direct response to this act of U.S. imperialism, and the economic consequences of the new government on Japanese people, many of whom emigrated, in the first large-scale Japanese migration to the U.S., to find opportunities on the West Coast or in Hawai’i, itself under the rule of white settler colonists.

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Mikado Opening

Written by Kat C. Zhou ’17

Beware this is a long post! See section headers to find specific content.

This has been a whirlwind process, one that has even hit national news! I wanted to use this blog post to share some of my thoughts on what the show does, and what it might continue to think about for the future. I hope also to include voices (reactions from both longtime G&S fans and students on campus) besides my own in this post.

I spent time looking through the Crimson archives to see if I could find information on previous HRG&SP production of The Mikado. I believe that there have been 12 production of The Mikado in HRG&SP history, and as far as I can see, this is the first non-yellowface production (loosely categorizing the anime Mikado of 1997 as a form of yellowface), making the fall 2016 production of The Mikado a historically unprecedented one!

It is a paradox (a paradox!) to live in the present, surrounded by reminders of history, knowing that the present is constantly slipping away into the past. What might it mean to forget and to remember? This is a central question that has haunted me throughout the entire production process of The Mikado, and it is a question to continue to grapple with even after we have opened, even years from now.

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