This past Sunday was the showing for the Freshman First Pieces Concert. A showing is when all of the choreographers, dancers, production manager and artistic director sit down together and watch the pieces for the first time. My fellow choreographers and I were experiencing every emotion under the sun: nervousness, excitement, fear, and pride. We were about to exhibit our first of hopefully many works of our Muhlenberg careers! Finally all of us gathered in the Dance Studio Theatre, which functions as both an everyday studio and a performance venue for the smaller, more intimate showcases.
My favorite part about showings is getting the opportunity to see my fellow dancers outside of class. As much as we push ourselves to dance bigger and better every day, there is always an added spark when people are dancing for an audience. It was wonderful to see my friends move in ways that I had never seen them move before. After the last piece had finished, my fellow choreographer Emily turned to me and said, “Wow, this is going to be a good show!”
After the pieces had been shown, all of the choreographers were given individual feedback from our artistic director, as well as three senior MDA board members. This year, the artistic director of Freshman First Pieces is Megan Flynn, the newest addition to the faculty here. I actually had Megan as a ballet teacher for Dance Technique and Performance last semester, and it is exciting to be taking this journey of firsts together. Each freshman choreographer was assigned a senior mentor who has taken advanced dance composition and serves on the Muhlenberg Dance Association board, and at the showing they had some really valuable things to say. A piece of advice that really stuck out to me was when Ally Berger, one of the senior mentors, said, “You have a lot of vocabulary, but is it in the same dictionary?” Thinking about movement this way really blew my mind.
This past weekend was also the Senior Showcase, a venue for graduating students to perform originally choreographed solos. The performances were daring and emotional; we certainly have big shoes to fill.
History, Prejudice, and Theatre in The Library -- by Jillian
Hi everyone! My name is Jillian, and I will be blogging about Muhlenberg’s annual production of The Library. The Library is a production featuring Muhlenberg students that is presented by the Institute of Jewish-Christian Understanding. It performs as part of the annual Youth and Prejudice Conference, where middle school students from all over the Lehigh Valley and surrounding areas come to Muhlenberg to see the show and attend talkback and discussion sessions about bullying and prejudice. The show tells the story of a girl named Rachel, who is a middle school student growing up in Nazi Germany during the 1930s, and how her life changed due to the laws and regulations that the new political party was putting into effect. It focuses mostly on social persecution from her peers, but also follows her family life and how her role changes in the community. In this year’s production, I am playing Rachel!
The Youth and Prejudice Conference is on April 9th and 10th this year, so that is when the middle school students will attend the show at Muhlenberg. It is held in the Empie Theatre, which is the largest theatre we have on campus. However, there is one big change this year. So many schools wanted to be involved that we are actually taking The Library on the road to an additional middle school the week after the conference so that more people can see it. This is sure to be a unique experience and I am really looking forward to the opportunity!
Right now, we have had a few rehearsals and are in the process of blocking the show. We only have about a week and a half until our first showing for some facilitators and faculty, so we are all working hard to get off book and get the show on its feet! I can’t wait to keep you all updated on what comes next and to post some pictures from our rehearsal process.
Tonight is my first rehearsal with my senior choreographic mentor, Annie. This semester, I am choreographing my first-ever piece at Muhlenberg, as part of the first-ever Freshman First Pieces concert. That’s a lot of firsts. So let me explain: In the past, Muhlenberg has produced an Informal Dance Concert every semester, along with Moving Stories, which occurs in the fall, and Master Choreographers and Dance Emerge, which both occur in the spring. The Informal Concert is for new choreographers, who are just getting their feet wet, and may or may not have formal dance composition training. Mainly, it is a forum for underclassmen to showcase their work. This spring, however, over thirty students submitted choreographic proposals, a much higher number than expected. So, in order to let everyone’s artistic visions come to life, a new concert idea was conceived. Welcome Freshmen First Pieces! So, since I am a freshman, my piece will be performed at this concert, which will be recurring every spring semester, around the same time as Informal.
This process has been new and exciting, and completely different from anything I did in high school. In the past, I have choreographed pieces that I have danced in, but now that is not the case. It is crazy to think that, at the end of this process, my name will appear as a choreographer in the program, and not as a performer. My rehearsal is in a few hours, and I could not be more excited for Annie to see it! We just picked out tentative costumes last week, and tonight will be the first time I will see the dancers move in them. I am very excited to receive feedback, because our first showing is next week, and the concert is only a month away!
Muhlenberg Dancers are headed to the Kennedy Center!
HUGE CONGRATULATIONS to choreographer CHARLOTTE BOYE-CHRISTENSEN and to dancers ALLISON BERGER ‘14, KATE DOUGHERTY ‘14, GWYNNE JONES ‘15, KRYSTA PARKER ‘16, and ANNABEL WILLIAMS ‘14.
Charlotte’s piece “Key” has been selected for the National American College Dance Festival (ACDF) at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. “Key” was presented on the Master Choreographers concert this past February and performed for adjudication this past weekend at the Northeast ACDFA Conference, held at SUNY Brockport.
Only 31 of the 506 adjudicated dance works were selected for performance at the National Festival, June 5-7.This is the fifth time the Muhlenberg College Dance program has been selected for the honor.
This past Friday, the Circus Workshop had its first showing with various faculty members. It was very exciting and satisfying to share the work we had been doing with our professors. The showing ran like a regular rehearsal would, with all the separate groups working on the different pieces of scenes that will eventually be put together when we get to the staging rehearsals.
The aerialists weren’t called until about an hour into the rehearsal, but I decided to come in early and watch the other groups present their work. It was nice to sit back and be a viewer rather than a performer and to get a chance to watch all the different groups’ hard work. The pieces are not entirely polished, which at this stage in the rehearsal process, is totally fine. But everyone is working so hard and it’s really showing. There is so much love being put into this project and as an audience member it is easy to see. Everything about this project is completely new to the college, the creative team, and the performers but everyone is taking in the process and experience with open arms.
I think it’s safe to say that the professors who came out to watch the rehearsal were very pleased with the project. It can sometimes feel like we’re swimming in open water with no land to grab on to, but the approval of the faculty was absolute reassurance that we are swimming in the right direction.
Today marks our FINAL performance! We’ve been very blessed with amazing audiences and a great run. We opened on Thursday night, enjoyed a wonderful evening on Friday with the MTA at our gala (lots of yummy food!), and our Saturday and Sunday shows with family and friends! Thank you to all who supported us throughout this process.
To recap a bit on our Tech Week, we ended up having many run-throughs since we finished lighting and sound quite early. Our first dress rehearsal was on Sunday before we opened, so we were ahead of schedule!
Saying goodbye to this show will be difficult, especially with so many seniors performing in it, but it has been such an honor to work on Molière’s beautiful play. From the cast, we would like to thank Jim Peck, Francine Roussel, Troy Dwyer, our costume, scenic, and lighting designers (the show looked BEAUTIFUL!), and our wonderful crew. You are all amazing! Thank you for all your hard work and dedication. I look forward to writing again for another show in the future! Thanks for reading!
Below is a picture of me, as Julien, in The Learned Ladies:
First Onstage Experience with Learned Ladies -- by Emily
Hi all! It’s Emily again! Today was our first time onstage in the Baker Theatre! I SO wish I could post pictures because the set looks absolutely incredible, but it is supposed to be secret until the show opens. I really hope you are all buying your tickets!! Once again, the show runs Feb. 20-23. (I recommend seats in the back orchestra or balcony. They give you the best view of the entire stage!)
So, we have finally finished staging the play and are now adapting it to the stage. One of the most complicated things an actor has to deal with, in my opinion, is learning all their blocking for the show in rehearsals and then having their first onstage, in which they have to RE-block a ton of stuff. This can be difficult and time-consuming, but in the long run, it will make the show look even more amazing. One of the things we got to do yesterday was rehearse the play with our show shoes on for the first time. This production is so unique and interesting, and it’s uniqueness is most definitely reflected in our shoes. They range from ballroom heels to leather steampunk themed boots to 18th century classic shoes. I cannot wait for dress rehearsals where we get to do the show in our costumes, hair, and makeup. Get ready for some unique and spectacular looks!
We made it through Acts 1 to 3 yesterday, adjusting the blocking and making the transitions. (The show has five acts, which we will perform in two halves: Acts 1-3 in the first half, and Acts 4 and 5 in the second.) Marie DiNorcia, who plays Lépine in the show, is one of the servants in the play who moves most of the furniture during transitions. She also happens to be one of the smallest people in the production. That girl is crazy strong! She is also SO talented and funny as well! It has been such an amazing experience watching all the actors develop and become their characters over the past couple weeks. I’ll write again soon when we get into dress rehearsals. CANNOT WAIT FOR THE SHOW TO OPEN! Thanks for reading!
Hi everyone! I’m super excited to talk about Muhlenberg’s most recent dance performance, Master Choreographers. Although this was my first time performing in Masters, I’ve been told it was one of the best yet. This accomplishment is even more rewarding knowing that this year marked the 20th year of Master Choreographers performances. The show features many guest and faculty artists, as well as a restaging of the world-renowned piece D-Man in the Waters, choreographed by Bill T. Jones. I personally performed in Dorrell Martin’s piece titled “Truth is the Born of Arguments,” and was an understudy of Jeffrey Peterson’s “Peer.” It was an absolutely wonderful experience for me to work for the past few months with such professionals, who brought so much creative energy to the process. Putting the pieces on the Empie stage, however, brought each piece a new level of performance energy and excitement. Lighting, costuming, and staging finally turned the ideas that had been in all of our minds for the past few months into a spectacular reality.
Although I could talk for hours about the amazing work performed onstage, I was most honored and impressed by the loving Muhlenberg Dance Association community during the run of the show. As always, the entire cast came together before every performance for various traditions including pass the squeeze, shakeout, and crew dance. Backstage, however, the togetherness continued with endless hugs and words of encouragement before every piece. The cast of D-Man even received a good luck card and bouquet from Bill T. Jones himself. Through nerves, injuries and sicknesses, the cast banded together and helped each other create the best show we possibly could. Being a part of this ever-supportive family, the MDA, is truly my favorite part of being a dancer here at Muhlenberg. This community ultimately adds to the life of our performances, creating connection behind the pieces we are a part of. As stated so perfectly by choreographer Jeffrey Peterson just minutes before curtain, “The greatest part of this performance is being able to share the stage with each other.”
Below are some more photos from the Master Choreographers photo shoot.
Hi everyone! It’s been a whole semester since I’ve blogged, but I’m very happy to come back to it. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Mary, I’m a sophomore theatre major with a minor in women’s and gender studies, and this semester, I am one of two dramaturgs for Mad Forest, directed by Beth Schachter.
Mad Forest: a Play from Romania was written by British playwright Caryl Churchill as a response to the Romanian Revolution of 1989. During the revolution, the people of Romania overthrew their long-time leader, Nicolae Ceausescu, and executed him and his wife Elena, marking the end of the Socialist Republic of Romania. The play’s three acts chronicle what life was like before, during, and after the revolution. The first and third acts follow the stories of two families, the Vladu and the Antonescu, before and after the communist regime, and how their lives and relationships change, and not necessarily for the better. The second act, known as the December section; tells the experiences of an entirely different set of characters during the revolution itself in Bucharest, Romania’s capital.
Now you’re all caught up on what Mad Forest is all about, I can explain what my job is on the project. A dramaturg can serve a variety of functions, but my job is to help the cast understand the context of play by doing research on everything they would need to know in order to fully inhabit their characters and the world they live in. So for Mad Forest, Josh (the other dramaturg), Dr. Schachter, the two assistant directors (Ariel and Zach), and I have been researching various aspects of the Romanian Revolution. My specific areas of focus are religion in Romania and Elena Ceausescu, the wife of Nicolae. In addition to presenting my research to the cast, I’m helping the actors conduct their own research to assist them in developing their characters.
We started full-time rehearsals this week, beginning with a second read-through on Wednesday. I’ve really enjoyed being a part of the process so far. As I write this, the actors are listening to a presentation by Josh and Ariel about the history of Romania from pre-history right up to the Revolution. I had to give my presentation on Wednesday, and I was extremely nervous, but the cast has been nothing but supportive and interested in what we have to say. After I finished, I answered their questions, and was surprised with how easily I was able to respond. When I’m not presenting, most of my time is spent tracking down sources for actors and looking for answers to questions that come up in rehearsal. I’m learning so much about a period of time and a world that I wasn’t terribly familiar with before, and I do truly enjoy helping a production get on its feet.
That’s all from me for now! Here’s the link to the presentation I gave to the cast, so if you’d like, you can learn a little more about Romania.
I hope everyone had a wonderful break and is excited for the spring semester. Since coming back to school, I have been so excited to go to work every day. Last year when all of my friends had desk jobs and could sit and get their homework done while getting paid, I was a little jealous, but now I am so glad I work in the shop. There is something about working with my peers who also share my love of theatre and dance that is so great. In addition, I feel like the shop has become a little family now because I know almost everyone and have made some great friends there.
I was a student advisor this past fall, and I loved being able to help out a group of freshman transitioning into college. I had hoped to keep in contact with most of them, but with all of us having different schedules, I did not know the likelihood of that. Well, my first day back into the shop, one of my advisees, Rebecca, walked into the shop and I almost screamed with excitement. Little did I know that we would have the same work schedule last semester and match ours up this semester so we could work together. We use our eight hours of work a week to catch up on our lives, and she has become one of my close friends. Since coming back from break, we have worked in the shop together every day, and it really makes the time go by when you are having fun with someone. Today we laid down the marley floor for Master Choreographers on the Empie stage, and since we did it together it felt like it took only five minutes (when really it took about two hours). I can’t wait for this semester to keep working with Rebecca and everyone else to make some amazing sets!
As a group, the aerialists decided to go to the gym once a week to train the muscle groups that are often used in aerial. Yesterday was the first group workout, and we killed it. Being the aerial acrobats and circus artists that we are, we decided to use the gym equipment as acrobatic equipment to practice inversions, skin the cats, and all other sorts of un-orthodox exercises.
I wish I had been just a normal person at the gym watching this acrobatic spectacle taking place in weight room. It must have seemed entirely ridiculous. We definitely got some funny looks from the football players, but it was totally worth it. This was by far the most entertaining and hardest workout I’ve ever had at the gym. I’m finding muscle groups that I didn’t even know existed!
Our drill sergeant, Melissa — it’s basically aerial bootcamp — walked us through the exercises with her insane knowledge of the gym and the human body. We’re lucky we have someone as strong as Melissa in our group who is so willing to share her time and talents with us. Again, I am reminded how incredible this group is and how encouraging everyone is. I can see we’re going to be making some serious progress this semester. Hopefully by the next group workout we’ll have matching tracksuits!
Hello Everyone! My name is Emily Hoolihan and I am the MTA Blogger for the Mainstage production of The Learned Ladies by Molière, directed by Jim Peck. I am playing the role of Julien and I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of this production (especially since I’m the only freshman in the show…AHH, so excited and honored!). We open February 20th and run through the 23rd, so make sure you come see it!
We started rehearsals about three weeks ago (the cast and crew came back to campus a week before classes started to begin rehearsing!). During our first week, we did a full read-through of the show, which went really well. Each actor did lots of research on their character and we spent time during our read-through discussing our characters’ actions, personalities, and relationship with other characters. The Learned Ladies is a satire on French society that questions the role of women in society and the home; it is also a French comedy, so we all had to work really hard not to laugh a lot during the read-through because the play is super funny. One of my favorite parts of it was hearing all the different interpretations the actors had of their characters. My personal favorite was the character of Bèlise, who is played by the amazingly talented Francine Roussel (who is a Professor of Acting at Muhlenberg,for those who don’t know). She makes this flirty, sassy character so bold that you will not want to miss her in this show (or anyone else for that matter…every actor is doing a phenomenal job)!
We also had Language/Speech rehearsals with our instructor Troy Dwyer, another professor here. Troy helped us understand how much breath support and stamina we will need, in order to give 100% in each performance. We spent time going over all the words in the play that are in French, which many are. Francine, who is a native of France, also helped us with the pronunciations and meanings of the words, which really helped a lot. We then spent time doing breathing exercises to control and develop correct breathing styles for the show. It was a lot of fun and I learned a lot about the proper way to breathe, while speaking the poetic rhyming style of speech in the play.
Now, we have begun blocking rehearsals, which sound like they are going really well! That’s all for now…will update you all soon! Thanks for reading!
featured in the pictures are: Petrea Whittier, Naomi Leslie, and Georgie Simon.
Friday afternoon marked the first rehearsal of the Circus Workshop. All 33 members of the cast and creative team met up in Brown Dance Studio to discuss the project in full and begin this amazing journey. In the style of Cirque du Soleil, the circus workshop will be putting on a contemporary circus, complete with narrative and intent, minus the billions of dollars in funding.
Our fearless leader and master of ceremonies, Noah Dach, walked us through the concept and what he expects from the performers throughout the rehearsal process. His and the entire creative team’s dedication and obvious enthusiasm for the project was incredibly inspiring and a great way to start off the rehearsal.
After our pep talk, we moved into a high-energy, fast-paced warm up and broke into our respective groups. The gymnasts, lead by Henry Evans, will start their rehearsal process in the wrestling room at the gym because of the padded floors. The rest of the cast - the dancers, aerialists, actors, and other circus specialists - stayed in Brown Studio and started working on the opening number of the show. The seven aerialists, myself included, dropped the silks, pulled out the mats, and got to work.
This group of aerialists is an insanely talented group and I couldn’t have asked for better people to be working with. Aerial is an incredible circus art form, but it is by no means easy. The strength and stamina it requires compare to no other physical activity that I’ve ever tried. But this group makes the work not only easy, but enjoyable. All the aerialists are so ready to help each other out, whether it is spotting someone, or helping them work through a move they haven’t quite mastered yet. Aerial can be frustrating, especially when your body starts to quit on you and the movements become harder and harder. Every time this happened to any of us, someone was right there with an encouraging word or a quick back massage to help loosen up the muscles. We’ve already created a close-knit community that allows us to experiment safely in the air and not fear failure.
With about a half hour left of rehearsal, we decided to put all of the parts together to do our first run of the first scene of the first circus workshop at Muhlenberg College. And what happened next was truly magical. When we put the two dance combinations together with the aerial combination and ran it full out, it was a complete success. All of the different pieces fit together so perfectly. All the previous months of planning that went into this project were realized in that first run through. We were all reminded what a special project this is going to be. Audiences are going to be in for one heck of an outstanding show.
Last week, I got to perform for the first time since coming to Muhlenberg!! I performed in pieces choreographed by Cat Chythlook and MJ Hodges for the Fall Informal Dance Concert. True to form, the tech rehearsal was a little crazy because we had to get used to lights and new spacing. The performance, though, went very well. Performing is so much fun because when you are on stage you can just feed off the energy of the other people dancing with you. The best moments are when it actually feels as though you are breathing and moving as one unit. The other great part about shows is getting to spend time with everybody backstage between numbers. Nothing brings a group of people closer then sharing nervous energy and excitement about what you are about to do. I was amazed at the quality of the final product. The hard work that the choreographers, dancers, and tech crew put into making these three shows happen was evident and definitely paid off. There were amazing and diverse pieces - some including flashlights, step, and even the Acafellas, the all-male a capella group on campus. This was definitely a show worth checking out!
The cast of Cat’s piece, “Untitled No. 1”, backstage before the first performance
This Thursday, from 3pm to 5pm, at the fireplace by Java Joe’s we will be sponsoring Good Luck Hugs with Dean Green. Come relax and get a good luck hug for finals, and enjoy 10% off your purchase at Java Joe’s!
So it is almost performance time for the Fall Informal Concert, and rehearsals have been in full swing. Both of my choreographers finished their pieces a couple weeks ago so we have been working on performance qualities. Both choreographers have been putting finishing touches on costumes, emotions, and facial expressions to help create the story they want to convey. We have debated how different costumes can add or change the meaning, an example being skirts versus pants and what each says about femininity.
Tech rehearsals start tonight, which are the one opportunity for the choreographer to play with lighting and see how the piece is going to look before it is actually performed in front of an audience. This creates a little bit of pressure for the dancers, because we only have one chance to do it correctly; but that’s just part of the process. Luckily, both of my choreographers were kind enough to film their piece before the holiday so that we had a reference point to go over the material since we have not had rehearsal for a week. It is going to be a busy week, but I am excited for the chance to perform!
Hey guys! I’m back to tell you more about the Red Door Play Festival, and am full of leftover turkey and mashed potatoes from Thanksgiving break! The festival took place the weekend before break, on Nov. 23 and 24, and it went very well. I was able to see all ten one-act shows, and it was great to see all of the work of my fellow students.
Each show got two tech rehearsals in the space, so we had to use our time efficiently in order to get everything done. There are only a set number of lights in the Red Door, but we were able to use the white and yellow ones in order to create a sunny environment, for Connections takes place outdoors in a park. We fit in four full runs during our tech time, and had additional rehearsals in other spaces throughout the week leading up to the performances.
During the performance weekend, the shows go on one after another with a 10-15 minute break between each one. I called my actors half an hour before showtime in order to fit in a quick physical and vocal warm-up, and once the show before us was finished, Megan and I set the stage and tested the lights. Students, family, friends, and professors are always in and out throughout the day, so the coordinator of the festival, my friend Alyssa, welcomed the audience and announced what was coming up next before each play starts. After all of the performances were over, the cast and crew of all ten shows helped strike the set and returned their props and costumes to the shop. Everything went very smoothly, and I could not be more proud of my cast and crew for all of the hard work they put into making Connections happen. It was a fun and rewarding way to make my directorial debut at Muhlenberg, and I learned a lot of valuable things through the process.
Below: Phil and Lydia show their Muhlenberg spirit with our mascot, the mule; the full cast and crew of Connections (me, Phil, Lydia, Megan) after one of our performances.
Hi again! Just wanted to give you all an update on how Moving Stories 2013 went now that the show has come to a close. Last time I blogged, we were closing up rehearsals and beginning our work in tech. Although it was a hectic week to say the least, the show came together wonderfully for opening night. The combination of Lara’s dazzling costumes, Paul’s brilliant lighting work and the fantastic choreography of nine students and one faculty member all came together to create an awesome night of work. As I have stated before, the works were greatly diverse in style and theme. This being said, my fellow Muhlenberg dancers stepped up to the challenge and performed wonderfully every night.
I personally was involved in two pieces of the show. The opening number, choreographed by Jaclyn Birkner, featured five dancers as Greek goddesses in beautiful purple gowns, fighting for power over the stage. A few pieces later in the show, I was also in Christine DeLuca’s work, featuring the struggles and triumphs of fitting into a group of friends. In this piece, each character was her own individual, allowing the cast to have lots of creative freedom. I can honestly say that I loved being in both of these works due to the hard work and dedication of my choreographers and the bonding I got to do with my wonderful fellow dancers. It continues to surprise me how much of a community Muhlenberg Dance really is, and I’m so honored to be a part of the family.
The actual run of the show seemed to fly by so quickly, especially with all of the fun ’Berg traditions every night. First came writing notes to place in each other’s Kiss the Cast bags. Then before every show was the shakeout, pass the squeeze, and a much-needed warmup by a member of the MDA, Teresa VanDenend Sorge, or Jeffrey Peterson. Physically coming together on stage as a cast before the show always seems to unify us and get us ready to perform to our greatest potential. After this, it was straight to the dressing room to touch up hair and makeup and get into costume. It seemed as soon as the shows began, they were finished, but I can honestly say that they were worth all of the time and effort that was put into them. I wouldn’t change my involvement in the MDA for anything.
In typical Muhlenberg fashion, the show must go on, even if you think it just ended. The day after our closing performance, I was up early once again rehearsing for my next performance in Master Choreographers. At this point, we have been through many rehearsals as well as one showing, and many of the pieces are choreographically complete. It is at this point that I get extra excited about pieces, because it is my work as a dancer to bring them to life. If you didn’t make it to Moving Stories, get excited for Masters 2014 in February. It is sure to be an incredible show!
Here are some photos of the pieces I was in from Moving Stories:
Hey guys! I’m back with some updates about Connections, the play I’m directing for the Red Door Play Festival. We have been refining our show by going in and fixing certain moments and doing fun exercises to help Lydia and Phil explore their characters more. Some of the main ways we have been doing this are by really focusing on their objectives, motivations, and tactics at different points in the play. Because we are all sophomores and have had the same acting teacher for Acting I, it has been really great to use what we have learned in class throughout the rehearsal process and to have the same vocabulary and experiences to work with. I am very pleased with the amount of commitment and dedication everyone has been showing while working on Connections!
Tech week is about to start, and I know that the cast and crew are ready to take on the challenge. This past week, I had Lydia and Phil bring in costume options so that we could pick what they would wear in the show, and Megan went to Muhlenberg’s prop shop to pick up any items that we could not just provide from our dorm rooms (in this case, the only thing we needed was a knife). Soon, we will move into the space so that we can add the final aspects to the show – lighting and sound. While I have training in technical theatre from high school and classes at Muhlenberg, I am very glad that Megan is more familiar with the light board in the Red Door and will be able to figure out most of that. I cannot wait to incorporate these last pieces and to present the show to the campus!
Here are some photos of one of our rehearsals in a classroom: Lydia and Phil mid-scene, and Megan being great at her job as a stage manager.
Since the last time I wrote, we have just been putting the base of the set together for The Winter’s Tale. However, on Monday we hung up branches in the Studio Theatre. These branches are made out of rods and white rope that has been painted. They extend to the very top of the theatre and then curve around toward the floor. I did not want to take any pictures because they are so beautiful, so you all have to go to the show and see them!
Today at work I became a master at braiding. I was at work for a total three hours and not once did I stop braiding rope. At first I was helping Curtis, the designer, with the long braids of rope, and when that was done we had to braid about 4-ft-long ropes. The pictures below are of Emma braiding the rope and then Emily cutting off the measured length of the rope with a hot and smelly machine. She was wearing a mask because the warning sign on the bottom said, “Fumes may be deadly,” or “Do not inhale fumes” (something scary like that). Curtis told us to braid hundreds of these 4-ft-long ropes because they are going to be used for large tassels. I am not sure exactly what he means by that, but I guess we will have to wait for the show to find out!
Now that Drood is over, I’ll tell you guys a little bit about what went on backstage during the show.
Most of the transitions went on behind a closed curtain, and we had more than enough time for almost all of them. The tricky part was that the wagons were huge. They weren’t that heavy, but they could do a lot of damage if you didn’t pay attention to where you were going or couldn’t see what you were doing. We worked out paths of movement as much as we could so that this wasn’t as big of an issue, since you can’t shout to the person at the other end of the wagon while a scene is going on in front of the curtain.
During Act II, there are hardly any transitions, but we did have the voting. For those of you who don’t know the show, the audience votes on the ending. They choose who are the detective, the murderer, and the lovers. It makes the show fun for the audience and keeps the cast, crew, and orchestra on our toes. Most of the voting was done by applause, but in order to make it an exciting reveal, the murderer votes were tallied up and counted backstage. Another ASM, Sean, and I had about a minute to count up the winner. Then, we’d give a piece of paper with the murderer’s name to an actress (Georgie), who handed it to Vince, the conductor. He showed it to the orchestra, so they’d know what to play when the time came. It was exciting to count, but especially fun to tell the murderer when he or she came offstage.
It was somewhat painful to (literally) tear down the results of the work we’d been doing for months, but in another way it was a happy goodbye. We worked hard, it was fun, it went well, got great reviews, sold out most shows. It felt right to let it go. The nice thing about college theatre is that even after the show ends, you run into the cast and crew all the time. Especially at dinner—our eating schedules were so messed up from tech and the show that we practically had a cast reunion at 5:00pm in the dining hall. So, yes, it’s sad that the gang’s not all together for 4 hours every night, but it’s not the end.
Hello everyone! My name is Jillian, and I am a sophomore at Muhlenberg. I’ll be blogging about the Red Door Play Festival this semester; the Red Door Play Festival happens every semester, and is made up of about ten shows that are under an hour long and are completely run by students. So, the students direct, perform in, and stage manage all of the shows. All of these shows take place in the Red Door Cafe, which is small, intimate, and resembles a coffeehouse or dinner theatre type of space. Last year, I performed in three Red Door Plays, including a student written musical. This semester, I’m trying something new – directing! I’ve never directed anything other than children’s musicals before, so this is definitely going to be an adventure.
The first step of the process was picking my show, and I chose a show that I was very familiar with. It is called Connections, and was written by Jane Martin. I chose this show because it has a minimal set and not many lighting cues, which will work well in the space provided, and because it has a small cast, which will provide a close-knit rehearsal environment.
After choosing the show and having it approved by the festival coordinator, we held auditions. All of the shows audition together, and after the auditioners finish their prepared monologues, they can be asked to read sides or do other things related to the shows. So many talented performers came out, so casting was really hard! My cast is made up of two other sophomores named Lydia and Phil, and my stage manager is my friend Megan.
We are now in the beginning of the rehearsal process for Connections, and it is going very well! The show is about fifteen minutes long, and deals with very dark subject matter. Our small cast and crew have been working efficiently, and we just finished roughly blocking the show. Going forward, we will be able to explore new character choices and ideas, now that the groundwork has been completed. I cannot wait to keep working, and to post some pictures from rehearsal!
This past Monday we had our first showing for the informal dance concert. This means that all the choreographers and all of their dancers came to the Brown Dance Studio to show what the choreographers have created so far to two members of the dance faculty serving as the artistic directors for the show. It was a little daunting at first to show what we had been working on for weeks to outside eyes. However, the process itself, at least from the point of view of a dancer, was painless. I actually found that it showed me a glimpse of what the student choreographers have to do besides create movement for me to perform on stage.
Before his/her piece each choreographer had to share a working title, how many minutes they had finished, how many minutes they needed to complete, and questions they wanted the other choreographers as well as the artistic directors to answer. Many of the questions were along the lines of, “What is the relationship of the dancers?” and “How does this piece make you feel?”
After all the pieces had been performed each choreographer received oral feedback from the professors and anonymous written feedback from each of the other choreographers. It was also very interesting to see how each choreographer created something completely unique from the others. I won’t go into details because I want it to be a surprise for the audience, but some of these pieces include such creative ideas to enhance the emotion or meaning of the piece.
Moving Stories showings and Masters rehearsals -- by Natalie
Hi everyone! I’m back again, blogging about some of our awesome dance shows here at Muhlenberg. This semester, I’m involved in Moving Stories, which opens next week (!), and Master Choreographers, which will be performed in the spring. For Moving Stories, I am dancing in the works of two senior student choreographers: Christine DeLuca and Jaclyn Birkner. For Master Choreographers, I am cast in Dorrell Martin’s piece, and I’m also working as an understudy with fellow blogger Dalit in Jeffrey Peterson’s newest work. Rehearsals for both shows are well underway, with Moving Stories quickly approaching.
This year’s Moving Stories performance will feature the work of nine amazing student choreographers as well as Muhlenberg faculty member Teresa VanDenend Sorge. We began rehearsing for these pieces a few times a week immediately after auditions early in the year, and have just completed our third showing of the pieces to faculty members. For this most recent showing, finished pieces were presented complete with costume options by our awesome guest costume designer, Lara De Bruijn. Seeing all of the works in the final stages of the rehearsal process is very fulfilling, due to the process it took to get them there. I am particularly excited about this year’s show because of the sheer variety of dance styles in the show — from pointe work to pieces infused with images of ancient Greece. Overall, I expect it to be an excellent show that you won’t want to miss. Tech week is just around the corner, get your tickets before it’s too late!
Rehearsals have been just as busy for Master Choreographers as well. For Jeffrey Peterson’s work, I am responsible for knowing the parts of all the dancers in case of absence or injury. Although it can be a tricky job, I’m so thankful for the experience to work with such a conceptually advanced piece. Over halfway finished, this piece is sure to be one the audience will remember. Rehearsals for Dorrell Martin’s piece began just recently, on a busy weekend in which he came to Muhlenberg. In just one weekend, with many hours of intense rehearsal, we were able to nearly complete his entire dance. I absolutely love Dorrell’s choreography style, a kind of jazz-modern fusion. The first Muhlenberg performance I ever saw, as a prospective student, was Master Choreographers, and Dorrell’s piece in that show took my breath away. I wanted to dance like those Muhlenberg dancers, which sealed the deal on my choice of colleges. Two years later, I am absolutely honored to be cast in a piece with the same impact as his previous works. I look forward to this February’s performance, and you should too. It’s definitely not one to miss!
Working on our poses for Christine DeLuca’s Moving Stories piece!
After seeing Drood this past weekend, I feel proud to say that I go to a school that has so much talent that it can produce a show as brilliant as Drood. In addition, I feel proud to say I go to a school that can produce such amazing sets. There were so many different elements to the set, such as the opium den, the train tracks, the graveyard, the home of John Jasper, and all of the backdrops. I think it all came together really nicely!
One of my favorite things to do when I watch a Mainstage is to point out to all of my friends the things I helped build. I like to see their reaction because most of the time they think I am joking; it’s not like me to build or craft things. I had helped hang up the British flag one day in the shop, and seeing how it was used in the show was so cool. I also remember being in the shop for about three hours one day, and all I accomplished (with the help of many other students) was painting one of the train tracks. When Damon, the technical director, asked us to paint the train tracks, I thought it was going to be a quick and easy task, but I was definitely proven wrong. However, I loved being able to see how the final product was used in the set.
For me, having helped with the set adds a whole new element to seeing a show. I enjoyed Drood because of the acting and singing, but also because I could look at all of the set pieces and know what they first looked like and understand how much work went into making them. It’s exciting to see the shows and the audience’s reaction to the set, and to hear their positive responses, because the set really makes a huge impact for the show!
You all didn’t think I was gone for good did you? One last post, and then I’ll put my blogging to rest (for now).
New Voices is over! It’s incredible to look back and see how far Superhuman has come since its first reading. I think I can speak for all of our cast members when I say that the characters we saw on paper ended up forming into different people entirely in rehearsal. With just weeks of rehearsal I think we managed to find these people, and make them dimensional and relatable.
Performing the show in front of an audience was one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done. I’ve never had to sit facing front, staring at the audience for an entire show before. It’s a humbling and “upchuck-worthy” experience. Sometimes there was no choice but to make eye contact with an audience member. I caught people looking at me when someone else on the opposite side of the stage was speaking. You notice everything. And their reactions changed every night! There were serious lines that sent a ripple of laughter through the audience, and then the next night, they’d laugh at something else! We had little choice but to watch them react differently each time.
During the other plays we all sat in the greenroom together, and casts from different shows got the chance to hang out with each other, which was wonderful. During Sinternet, the casts of the one-acts and some of the crew-members got to talk and get to know each other. I got to see old friends, and make new ones. It was a great experience.
I won’t lie, it wasn’t perfect. Sometimes life throws curveballs at you that shake up the world around you, but you have to keep going. But those moments can make those around you rise to the occasion and support you. I was so proud to be part of a show with such a passionate and supportive cast. They are all incredible people, and I hope we work together again soon.
We just finished our second day of tech for The Mystery of Edwin Drood. It’s moving slowly but pretty smoothly; the set designer (Tim) has been helping us choreograph the big scene transitions, which is really helpful since the run crew is AWESOME, but small and mostly novice. The director is also cognizant of the set changes going on between scenes, and has planned it so we have more than enough time to make the transitions. Some actors are also helping when we need extra hands on deck, so all in all it’s been pretty not brutal. We’ve got a fantastic team, and even though we’re all a little exhausted, we’re remaining patient, respectful, and optimistic.
As we begin our runs in the theatre, we’ve started to replace our rehearsal props and costumes with the real ones. As you can see, we had a lot of fun tonight with the magnifying glass. Below is Stefanie (Drood), Sean (ASM), Dan (Durdles), and myself.
Rehearsals for the informal dance concert have been in progress for about a month now. Both of the pieces I am in are well underway with about three minutes of choreography accomplished. Rehearsals for this show have been unlike any performance I was a part of in high school because there seems to be a strong emphasis placed on improvisation and collaboration between the choreographer and dancers. I came from a very structured school where the emphasis was on technique and any dancing I did on stage was specifically taught to me by the choreographer. At first the idea of having to come up with my own movement on the spot and the freedom to interpret the movement how I wanted to was quite intimidating.
One of my choreographers, MJ Hodge, really wants to incorporate each dancer’s unique style and movement tendencies into her piece. In the beginning this terrified me because it requires much more movement creation on my part, which I am not used to. MJ has made this process less frightening and difficult by providing prompts for the dancers. These prompts vary from spelling a word to conveying an emotion to journaling our thoughts and then creating movement from the writing. Having the dancers create movement is only the first step; the more fun part is putting the many phrases together. Placing two movement phrases created totally separate from one another side by side can often create juxtaposition, or as I prefer to call it “Happy Accidents.” I really think it is exciting to see how different entities, whether they are music or movement, magically match up or complement each other. Pictured below is MJ working with one of the dancers to modify the dancer’s self-choreographed solo so that it can better mesh with her vision for the piece.
So while MJ’s rehearsals have been a lot of creation of movement, my other choreographer, Cat Chythlook, has been focusing on the intention for each section. Some movement has been created by the dancers, an example being the boys’ duet, but for the most part Cat has been very specific with what she wants us to do. This presents another challenge because even though the movement may not itself be difficult, presenting it with the right facial expression and intensity is. To help bring out the specificity of emotion she wants, Cat has spent time discussing personal stories and thoughts with the cast. Both choreographers want us (the dancers) to bring an element of ourselves into the piece but have different approaches to draw this individuality out of us.
This week in the Scene Shop was all about paining and getting Empie ready for Drood. When we get back from fall break, tech for the musical will be starting so everything has to be more or less ready to go. My friend Rebecca (see below) and I put base coats of paint on the windows I described in my last post. It was so nice to paint and get a break from cutting and lifting, but not to worry because as soon as we finished painting it was back to lifting. What I can remember from this week was lifting heavy pieces of wood into Empie, lifting heavy pieces of wood to the wings of Empie, and — wait for it — lifting heavy pieces of wood back into the center of Empie, not to mention moving them back into the wings for the last time.
I used to question these types of things but now I just listen to what Damon says and I do it because I imagine he knows a lot more than me on the subject. After we finally got all of the wood into the wings, we started to set up the set for Drood. We attached a roof to the rods that came from the ceiling of Empie, and we also put together the front sides of the stage, which consist of a very long piece of wood that stretches from floor to ceiling. I am so excited to not have to do some heavy lifting for a few days, but I’m sure when I get back from break things will be crazy in the shop getting ready for Drood.
When I was approached about blogging about what goes on in the scene shop, I started laughing, because I am a dancer whose only experience with carpentry started when I came to Damon last fall asking for work study. After a year of working in the scene shop, I can say that it is a very unusual yet fun job where I always leave having learned something new. Just last week, I got a splinter in my finger and I made Damon pull it out. I was just being a little dramatic, it was really not that bad, but it made me feel like I had actually accomplished something because only the talented ones accidentally shoot a staple up their finger. And I got a pair a tweezers from it, so it was well worth it.
Anyway, we have all been working hard at putting together the set for The Mystery of Edwin Drood. On Monday, I had the privilege of lifting such heavy things. First, I had to get a lot of lauan (a type of wood) and attach it to a wood frame with glue and a staple gun. Of course, I was the one to glue and not put the staples in. I later found out that this unknown object was a very large window. So when you all go see Drood, look out for the beautiful windows I helped make.
I have also found my new favorite thing to do in the shop: spackle. Spackling is when you take some nice mushy white stuff that looks like clay and slather it on the window where the staples went in. This spackle fills in the hole of the staple, creating an even surface to paint on. However, the first time I started spackling I made the mistake of taking the wrong mushy white stuff and then had to awkwardly find the actual spackle and go over my mess. I do know that you should only put a little spackle on the wood because globs do not help with making an even surface. So, if you see Drood and see any globs on the wood, know that it was actually not me this time!
To finish up my activities today at the shop after spackling, I watched Damon, Eric, and other workers put together the Opium Den. Yes, I do mean watch because I spent about 10 minutes looking for a particular drill that by the time I went to give it to them to use, they had finished putting it together. It does look very nice, and I will post pictures next time when it is a little more complete.
Hey guys! My name is Sarah and I’m working on The Mystery of Edwin Drood this semester. I’m one of 3 assistant stage managers (ASM, for short) working on the production. Rena is a sophomore like me, and Sean is a freshman. We also have a stage manager, Becca, who is a junior. There’s also an assistant director, Ariel, who’s my age. The rest of the production/creative team consists of faculty members, and all of the actors are students.
Let me tell you a little bit about how rehearsals work here. For this show, we have them 6 nights a week, 7-11pm. The stage management team (Becca, Rena, Sean, and I) usually gets to rehearsals an hour early to set up. That means getting chairs and a music stand for vocal rehearsals, taping up a number line and an outline of the set for dance rehearsals, setting up a prop table for scene work, etc. We goof around a little bit during this time, too. Eat, play music, dance around. It’s great.
Once rehearsals start, though, we get down to business. Our jobs change from rehearsal to rehearsal, which is nice because we get to work on different things every night. A lot of times I’ll be on book or taking line notes. Other nights I’ll be a runner—making copies for Becca, checking the sign-in sheets, or calling actors. Sean and I run dance rehearsals when they overlap with blocking rehearsals, which is cool.
Although the SM crew is at every rehearsal for the whole time, not all actors are called. After a rehearsal ends, Becca plans the next day’s schedule with the director, choreographer, and music director, and emails it out to the cast. So there are some people I see all the time, and others I only work with for a few hours every week. We all know each other pretty well, though. Last week, the director and choreographer stopped to discuss something, and the cast started a massage chain!
I can’t believe we open tomorrow. And I still feel new to this material. We’ve worked really hard on it, don’t get me wrong, but it seems like every day I find something new, or I’m surprised by an audience reaction.
Let me tell you a little about the tech week process. We do a run-through of each show on the stage, run through bows, and then get notes from our directors. The awesome part of tech week is that now we get to see all the other shows. I got to sit in on run-throughs for Pricking, Restroom Rehearsal, and Sinternet, and I was so impressed and excited to see my friends doing great things. I know that these shows mean the world to us, and it was so fulfilling to get to watch everyone work. It also was pretty fun seeing everyone in costume. But at the end of the day, after the laughs and the jokes, I feel really comfortable in my costume, and I think it reflects my character beautifully, so thank you, Lex Gurst and the costume shop!
Tech week has run much more smoothly than any other I’ve experienced. It’s a lot less stop-start, no one is yelling, and there haven’t been any crazy set or costume emergencies (yet?) that cause everyone to run around not knowing what to do. I think it’s because everyone has come very prepared, actors and crew alike, and we have one heck of a creative team. It’s been really relaxed and fun and interesting. I can’t wait for tomorrow! Break legs, everyone!
Tech begins! Superhuman is starting to be a real show! We rehearsed in the space with our chairs and with lighting cues for the first time. We also rehearsed in our costume shoes. This rehearsal was basically for the designers to make sure the set functioned the way it was supposed to, and for Aly, our director, to have a chance to work with the lighting designer to make sure their visions and expectations matched up. The cues were written and experienced. It was really exciting to be in the space while it was lit. It really gave me an idea of how the show would feel, and I felt really good about it! I think everything is going really smoothly, and it’s going to be a great show.
The main feature of the set for Superhuman is the furniture: a set of four mismatched chairs in which we sit. These chairs are incredibly important to our characters. The actor relationship with the chair is something Aly has emphasized. It’s very true— rehearsing in the plastic chairs from the rehearsal house is incomparable to sitting in the actual chairs we will be using. The best part of tech rehearsals has been having the chance to get very comfortable and familiar with the chairs and the space.
I heard the lighting designer talking to Aly and mentioning my bangs. They cast a shadow on my face, and make it harder to light me. As Eric said, “It’s like you’re wearing a visor.” And that is hard to light. I thought that was so interesting. I never would think of that! But it is an important detail, and now they are working on how to fix it. I guess that’s tech week for ya.
Eric also told me about the seating arrangement. The risers went in easily, and there will be about 110 seats. The corner set up has the capacity for 120 seats, but that would not have worked for the director’s visions for the shows. So now we have a set, we have lights, we have risers, and we have a crew and actors. Tech week begins now.
Hello internet! This week, the cast of Superhuman has a new villain to defeat: punctuation. With this piece, as with any piece, directors and playwrights can be sticklers about detail. And in every production, actors take “artistic liberties” with the text and change it. This piece is unique, however, in that the punctuation patterns are as important as the lines. Zach Shery, the playwright, told us that he modeled each character’s dialogue in a very specific way— and that every period, comma, pause, dash, and ellipsis is important. This is tough as an actor, and also for me personally as an individual who is not great with details. I have found certain speech habits of mine creeping into my speech in rehearsal, and I am trying to suppress them and stay true to the written words.
In addition to the punctuation being important, the silences between the dialogue is just as meaningful. Last night we worked together on the moment between each monologue. It was a slow process, but I think we all walked out feeling good about it. I personally was really glad we took so much time to work on it. It’s funny, we all get along incredibly well, but during rehearsals like the one last night, we do very little interacting with each other. It’s hard not to crack jokes and talk to each other. But of course, we end our rehearsals hanging out and sometimes starting up a massage train, which is a wonderful way to wrap up. I’m going to end this post with a quote from our illustrious playwright, Zach Shery: “Superhuman began as a notion of putting superheroes on the stage in a scripted production. I have been drawn to superheroism for some time, and the recent film ventures into the genre only added to my fascination. My passion for mental health/illness destigmatization merged with this interest to bring us a story of superhumans struggling with their own mental health, in a way that I believe is partly fantastic and partly rooted in our own world. I hope that the grounded nature of this play grabs people and offers them an experience worth empathizing with. I also hope that everyone can enjoy a show where superheroes are the main focus. I know that I would.”
I think that very eloquently sums up this show. That’s all for now! Thanks for reading!