- OnStage Columnist
As we all know there are so many things that go into a production. There is the obvious; blocking, music, lyrics, lines, choreography, costumes, lights and sound. Yet there is so much more that we don’t think about. The people who work tirelessly to make sure the sound and lights work correctly and at the right times. The people who spend endless hours searching for props from the correct era. I mean, it’s not easy to find that radio circa 1933. Then, after searching forever only to come up empty handed, they decide that they might just be crafty enough to make one. Or how about those fearless individuals that know how to operate power tools and build the set from the ground up. It takes some amazing talent (not to mention the time you have to put in) in order to build that spiral staircase on wheels, those trees that move and fall over, the house that is flown in and the dog house that doubles as a school bus. I don’t think those are things most people are building on a regular basis.
Yet as the rehearsal process goes on and we start to work these things into our characters, blocking, movements and reactions, they are just as much a part of the magic as any other part of the show. I am not sure I can pick any of those people to highlight first, but I must say from experience that a lot of the organization and logistics often fall to the Stage Manager. They need to know when to move all the props and set pieces, along with coordinating the people who will move them. They also need to know when the lights come on, when they go off, what specials are being used, when the sound cues happen and they should have at least a general idea of where all their actors are at all times. That’s not too much to keep track of, right!? Stage Managers tend to make magic happen with the greatest of ease.
Those fearless set builders…well think of all the times you rehearsed going up that spiral staircase, but you mimed it because you didn’t have a staircase yet. Then think about how much fun it was to actually use those stairs the first time. Then when they were painted and all the embellishments were added and you finally felt like the princess you are playing. You should definitely thank that individual standing over in the corner with a hammer.
Props, now those people have to be connected to other groups or extremely crafty. They could spend hours calling people and different groups asking them to borrow a few things. They are often met with a chorus of, “We don’t have anything like that,” “We don’t loan our props,” “I can’t help you but you should contact Jane Smith, she might have something for you.” They keep plugging away at it though because we need a radio circa 1933 or a lava lamp from 1964 or a telephone from 1985…you get the point. Once again though, when we get to use that 1985 telephone for the first time instead of using our thumb and pinky fingers as a phone our characters seem to come alive just a little bit more.
You may ask why I am writing about all these people in a column that is about the rehearsal process, but these people are the ones who bring your character to a new level, they transform your stage into a different place and often a different time. It’s so much fun watching the set from rehearsal to rehearsal. First, it’s a concept, then it’s random wood that doesn’t seem to have a specific shape and then before you know it it’s an enchanted forest or a mid-century mansion or the home of a loving couple. Slowly it’s painted and props show up and set dressing is attached and then *poof* you are transported into a new place.