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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
The HRG&SP board of directors is very excited to announce that starting with this spring semester, we will be blogging every Saturday. We’ll be posting with updates from the show, or with more details about the production process for those curious about what goes on behind the scenes of an HRG&SP production.
Written by Kat Zhou
We’re kicking off our Saturday posts with the announcement of the cast list for the spring production of Iolanthe; or, The Peer and the Peri. On Friday, we held our first rehearsal, and much fun was had all around. We are looking forward to seeing where we are in less than two month’s time! We hope to see many of you at our shows.
Without further ado, I would like to announce the cast list for the show!
Aaron Slipper, ’18
Charlie Caplan, ’15
Joey Goodknight, ‘G4
Trevor Byrne, ’17
Rahul Kulka, G1Laura Peterson, ’16
Kim Onah, ’15
Julia Belanoff, ’18
Nina Srivastava, ’18
Alice Newkirk, ’17
Camille Crossot, ’16