by Julia Zimmerman
As a stage manager, you need to be prepared for any problem that gets thrown your way, and in a theater that could be anything from an actor bruising their leg while dancing to someone getting locked in a bathroom (both of which have happened during Legally Blonde). Because of this, you need a Mary Poppins-esque bag filled with anything and everything under the sun so you are ready for the next crazy crisis. Here’s what’s in mine:
The SM copy of the script is essentially the bible of the show. It has all of the blocking written down, every scene change sketched out, every light and sound cue, and every single line change. Without this binder, the show couldn’t run.
If the script is the Legally Blonde bible, then my laptop is like that bible app that people sometimes have on their phone. During rehearsals I used my computer to access everything in my Google drive, including but not limited to: rehearsal reports, contact sheets, conflict calendars, the props list, the shift plot, and so much more.
A seemingly infinite amount of pencils
Seriously. I don’t know how many pencils are in this bag, but I know that the day I run out of pencils is the day the world ends. As a stage manager you always have to be prepared, and most of the time that boils down to handing an actor a pencil when they need to write down their blocking.
An absurd amount of keys
I think I have four keys on my key chain just for different places in Swirnow right now. It’s to the point where you can always hear me coming because my keys jingle, which actually gives me a weird sense of authority. Only important people have way too many keys, right?
Water or Tea
With a rehearsal schedule as busy as this one, it’s important to have something to drink, preferably with caffeine. As we say, only variations on water are allowed in the theater (AKA water and tea, which is really just leaf water).
Cell phone charger
This is just a good life tip, but always be sure to have a cell phone charger around. If you don’t need it, someone will and they will love you forever if you let them borrow it. As the stage manager people need to constantly be able to contact you and if your phone is dead, that’s pretty hard. We also record all music rehearsals and tape big dance numbers for the actors to review later. Basically, if you have a dead phone it’s really hard to stage manage a show.
Is that some loose spike tape?
Sometimes a stage manager has to deal with a million things at once and sometimes that means dropping a spare piece of tape in your bag before running off to go answer the next question and finding it on the bottom of your bag when writing a blog post. My bad, there’s no such thing as a perfect stage manager.
Julia is frustrated because actors keep leaving footprints on her newly mopped floor.
It's opening night!! Make sure you get your tickets and come out this weekend and next weekend to see our show! Everyone has worked so long and so hard to make this show the amazing thing that it is.
Here, actors and members of tech gather around to here notes from the director.
In the photo above, our actors gather around our fantastic pit orchestra to warm up their voices and review some music before a rehearsal.
Dance captains Mehdi El Hebil (in yellow) and Samantha Albstein (at the front of the line) review some choreography during rehearsal.
Assistant Lighting Designer Monika Borkovic (left) and Technical Director Isabel Randazzo (right) pose with two prop saxophones during a rare moment of peace backstage.
And finally, a photo of our fabulous and talented director, Quae Simpson!
ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF IAN STARK
by Brenda Quesada (Costumes Crew)
You would think that working in the costumes department is a very relaxing and rewarding experience. And it totally is!
It is so relaxing stripping clothes off another person in milliseconds and putting on a more complicated set of clothes in less time than that. It’s like dressing up a giant baby – but with more struggling.
It is very rewarding to run around backstage as your pants are falling down due to the constant squatting required to put pants or skirts or shorts on for an actor. Pretty sure the cast appreciates my cheetah print underwear. You would not believe how much squatting I’ve done. My pants are going to rip one of these days… if they don’t fall down first.
But honestly, I could not ask for a better, more relaxing or rewarding way to experience Legally Blonde than the costumes department. The costumes department work as a crutch for the actors – literally. We support them in a big way.
Backstage is where the essence of all things that make us human collide. We collide constantly.
I have also gotten to know the run crew very well. Holding clothes in our arms, shirts and pants prepped to be put on, we sometimes forget the run crew exits the stage, and we are often standing in the wings, exactly where they need to be. We are quickly herded into a corner, just like penguins, and we waddle around the tables and the giant staircase to a better position where we’re not in the way.
Thanks to costumes, I have gotten some much needed exercise. Chasing actors down with forgotten jackets, squatting constantly to pull up pants and put on shoes, stretching to pull shirts or dresses over an actor’s head – just a few of the fabulous exercises involved in my costume changing routine.
I’m so happy and lucky to have gotten so close to everyone in costumes and the cast (too close, some might say). I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.
by Shelby Sprigg, head of Hair and Makeup
Come to terms with this. You will be wearing makeup in the near future. Yes, guys wear makeup too. Really let that sink in for a minute.
1. Buy foundation. This isn't as hard as you think, I promise. Don't just go to a store and pick up a random bottle - I promise you, that won't work. Either a) take a friend to help match your skin tone, or b) look in a mirror to find another part of your body with the same tone as your face (usually, this is the side or underside of the hand or wrist, but not always).
2. Find a mirror and look at your face for a minute. Look closely. Acknowledge that you will be wearing makeup very, very soon. Maybe take a picture for posterity sake. Maybe write a eulogy. Do whatever you want to commemorate this moment, because hereafter, you will no longer be a makeup virgin.
3. Apply foundation. Make sure it's even, and don't layer it on like paint. You aren't covering your face in concrete. Just blend it into your skin, until your face looks even and flawless.
4. Now for the fun part. You kind of look like a piece of paper, because your face has no shading or color difference. So let's add those, why don't we?
5. Bronzer goes on first. This magic powder should be a little darker than your foundation, and should be applied carefully. So here's what you do: Get a little bit of bronzer onto your makeup brush. You're only using a little, so tap it against your wrist to dislodge excess powder. Make a fishy face in the mirror, and lightly trace those weird indents in your cheeks with the brush. Also add bronzer to your jawline. Trust me, it makes you look thin and angular, and your face will thank you. Run it from all the way behind one ear, along the underside of your chin, to the other ear. Blend the shadows into the foundation, so they don't just look like lines on your face. Now touch on your temples, and maybe the sides of your nose.
6. Blush is... optional. If you're going to use it, use it carefully. Because, seriously, if you screw this part up, you'll look like a clown. Just put a little on your cheeks, if you want. If you have naturally pink-ish skin, you really don't need to do this every time.
7. Add some highlights, if you want! This is a lighter powder that just makes parts of your face pop. Put it on the tops of your cheekbones, maybe on your forehead, maybe the tip of your nose. Who knows? Wherever the hell you want.
8. EYELINER TIME! (Or guyliner, if you like). Important notes here: If you're pale, blonde, or not really that confident, use brown. If you have dark hair or skin, go with black. Use a pencil, until you're more confident, and hold off on waterproof or smudge-proof eyeliners. Trust me, you'll probably have to try a few times before you get it right.
9. Mascara!! Yes, guys can wear it too! Don't do anything weird with your eyes; just look straight forward. And curl the mascara wand along your eyelashes. Some people say to hold the wand steady and blink to apply mascara, but I don't like this method, because your eyelashes will hit the tops of your eyelids when you open them again, and you'll inevitably get smears.
10. Lipstick or lip gloss is a nice finishing touch.
Congrats! You're beautiful!
by Esther Rodriguez
Menorah? Check. Five hundred mini pink heart stickers? Check. Thirteen banners painted in varying shades of pink? Check. What the props department takes care of during the breadth of a show is often slightly odd but always completely necessary for the show to come off successfully. As I like to say, if actors have something to hold in every scene then I’ve done my job.
Terrifyingly, this show - this glorious show with the largest number of props I’ve ever had to see in a Google Doc - was my first time taking on the mantle of head of the department. When I first made the list of props in the show, I went through all seven stages of grief in the first twenty minutes of reading the script, denial down to acceptance, before bucking up and rushing to get my first Amazon order ready. And I’ve been in a rush since, scrambling to tackle item after item before the madness of tech week begins. I can only thank the patience of my two assistants Allie and Annie for putting up with my neurosis and working their hardest. And special thanks to producer Raidizon for the picture below, one of the many things that makes working in the props department 100% worth every bit of stress.
by Claudia Wang
Ninety-six condoms. I bought. Ninety. Six. Condoms. Trojans. Unlubricated. To protect the mic packs from actor sweat. In high school we also hated sticky packs, but this was just going too far. Do you KNOW how hard it is to squeeze a condom over those things? They're not exactly the size the makers had in mind. And the look that CVS lady gave me! I'll never be able to show my face around there again.
...Oh, whatever. At least my Snap Story got a kick out of it.
Hi! I'm Claudia, the show's mic operator. I sit in the little booth we built smack in the middle of the audience, so anyone caught texting during the show WILL get something thrown at them. I'm watching you...
Most people think that actors manage their own mics, but it couldn't be further from the truth. As the mic board operator, I do all the muting, adjusting, and equalizing in the show. I assign mics based on scene placement and tell the actors who to share packs with. We're splitting ten mics among seventeen singing roles for this show, so "tight shift" doesn't even begin to cover it. Some of the mic switches have to be so fast that we have someone helping actors change in the wings.
It's a lot to keep track of. I raise and lower volumes all the time during the show, depending on how loud the actor is. Elle's actually a pretty quiet singer, while Emmett projects so much he probably doesn't even need the mic. Callahan's bass input goes way down because of how deep his voice is, and the Delta Nus' treble levels stay at a constant low so their squealing doesn't blow out the speakers.
Mics that get too close to each other cause feedback. Mics on dancing roles get taped down. Mics on costume changes have all buttons locked, and mics that stay with one person the whole show (Elle) get their own special settings.
It's a lot of fun. I even get a headset! So when you do come to the show, say hi to the weird techie in the booth behind you. I'll might be too stressed to hear you, but if I do look up, I'll be sure to wave back!
by Laura Nugent (Lighting Designer)
If you told me on March 26, 2015, a year ago today, that I would be the lighting designer for the Barnstormers, less than a week from opening night for Legally Blonde, I would have laughed because I hadn’t gotten into Hopkins yet. If you told me the next day, March 27, I might have believed the Barnstormers part because I was admitted that afternoon, but still would have laughed about the lighting design part.
I laughed in February too when I was asked to lighting design for Legally Blonde, because I had literally no idea how to lighting design. Today I would still laugh (maybe because I don’t know how to change a light bulbs).
Now, I may not know how to change a light bulb, but I DO know some things about gels and photometric charts and gobos, and I’ve got lots of fun special effects in store for you next week. I don’t want to give all of it away, but here’s a list of five awesome things to look out for during the show:
1. SPOTLIGHTS! Man, does this show have a lot of spotlights. Sometimes they’re even exciting colors, like….
2. PINK! Specifically, Skeleton Exotic Sangria. If you’re wondering about the name of that fabulous shade of pink that *so frequently* lights up the stage, it’s called Skeleton Exotic Sangria. (Disclaimer: color may or may not have been chosen for its name.) Lots of other lovely colors make special appearances as….
3. FUNKY DISCO LIGHTS! Some for funk, some for disco. All reflected for extra funkiness and disco-y-ness by our delightfully shiny stage, and only made better by….
4. WHOLE WALLS OF COLOR! Also known as the cyc, this is a massive white sheet at the back wall of the theater onto which I can project all of the colors, and other fun things too, including quite possibly….
5. A FIREWORKS DISPLAY! Nothing like celebratory indoor fireworks to make this production shine.
Special shout outs to Monika and Esther, the best and sunniest design assistant and board op a lighting designer could ask for!
Don’t miss Legally Blonde, it’ll be the most lit production ever!
by Inés Botto
1. You basically get to play dress up for 20+ people, all of whom have at least three costumes.
And it’s actually the best because you get to design costumes that people would probably never even dream of wearing (because, let’s face it - no one in real life would wear that much pink).
2. You become unofficial permanent residents of the Swirnow Theater dressing rooms.
Because it’s more convenient to do homework or take a quick break from costuming by watching an episode of House of Cards and eating goldfish in the dressing room than leaving the theater to do so, only to have to return later and start working on everything again.
3. You get to play the “this cashier must think I’m crazy” game.
Because you end up buying weird combinations of things, such as spray paint, a fake rolex, white, furry slipper boots, and ten sets of orange scrubs,* and there’s no way any sane person would have a need for all of those weirdly niche items all at one time.
*these were all actually purchased for this show
4. You hold a lot of power.
Because whether an actor’s costume is too tight, really big, or particularly, atrociously ugly is entirely up to you.
5. You become really good at undressing people.
Because of all of those one minute quick changes on the side of the stage in the dark.
6. You’re suddenly in high demand.
Because an actor’s favorite thing to ask is “Is Costumes here?”
7. You get really good at making mistakes look like they were intentional.
Because no one in the audience needs to know that the paint splotch on the graphic tee you were making wasn’t actually supposed to be there in the first place*
*if you’re reading this and will be in the audience, I apologize that I now ruined the illusion of competency that we were going for
8. You get to use snarky memes to answer the question “How’re costumes going?”
Because this pretty much sums it up.
9. You come to love your love-hate relationship with technical theater.
Because as much as you joke about it, you wouldn’t give it up for anything.
by Isabel Randazzo (Set Designer, Technical Director, Assistant to the Lighting Designer, Run Crew)
Once a semester it’s some poor sap’s job to design and build a show. Commanding a group of peers that may or may not be about to chop their own fingers off, keeping everything within the director’s “vision,” and internally screaming while you watch the actors touch the set pieces that have become your babies are all part of the job. This semester it was my job.
I have learned a lot in the past few weeks. I have learned how to use the ridiculously frustrating drafting software from hell known as SketchUp to create the scenery in 3D space. I have learned how to hang a curtain in the wrong place several times before hanging it in the right place. I have also learned that glitter is the devil’s craft supply.
All in all we accomplished quite a lot with this show:
Total set pieces: 16
Total deltas: 1
Total nus: 1
Total Delta Nus: 10 (actors)
Total gallons of paint: 13
Total gallons of paint on my clothes: about 2
Total pieces of glitter found after the fact: too goddamn many
Total number of fingers lost: 0
Total number of times I’ve been ask to change something: ∞
Honestly this was the first show I have ever completely designed on my own. I am so proud of my team who made this process go so smoothly. They have made a huge effort to come play with power tools despite exams, social events, and sleep. I hope everyone has copious high-fives for the team that has helped to bring this show to life.
R-R-R-ROLL CALL: Monika Borkovic, John Del Toro, Larry Langan, Megan Schaub, Vanessa Quinlivan-Repasi - thanks for all your hard work, we have made a beautiful show!
by Michelle Pargament (Brooke Windham)
Coming into Hopkins as a freshman, I was confident I wanted to participate in musical theater. It had been a huge part of my life growing up, with high school afternoons consumed by rehearsals for musicals and show choir alike. During spring of my freshman year, I auditioned for the Barnstormers’ production of Sweeney Todd and was fortunate enough to be cast in the ensemble. I loved the experience and the warmth from the theater community.
My sophomore year rolled around and I joined a dance group on campus. I found myself absorbed by learning new routines and performing publicly at different events on campus. By the time spring came around, I had decided not to audition for the musical. The same happened the following year.
Though I undoubtedly loved my experience with my dance team, I always felt like something was missing. I treasured the performance aspect of my dance group the most, but we only had one main performance each year. I missed the strength of the community I had built by spending time rehearsing with people every day of the week. I missed learning harmonies and dressing room chats, late nights in Swirnow and the music that swirled in my head before I fell asleep each night. I began to wonder if I was spending time doing what I truly enjoyed the most.
I entered my senior fall confident that I would audition for the straight play, The Mousetrap. I was thrilled to be cast as Mrs. Boyle and fell in love with acting all over again. I knew soon after we started rehearsing that I’d want to audition for the spring musical. When The Barnstormers announced that the show was Legally Blonde, I absolutely knew I would audition. I played the role of Chutney when I was in high school and was anxious to try something new. In a huge reversal, I was cast as Brooke in the Barnstormers’ production.
Now, after various ten-hour rehearsals and late nights spent jump-roping in Swirnow, I am confident I made the right decision in auditioning. I should have known that I couldn’t quit musical theater.