The official blog of the Muhlenberg Theatre & Dance Department
www.muhlenberg.edu/theatre&dance

The Learned Ladies
By Molière
Feb. 20-23, 2014

Directed by James Peck
Scenic Designer: Curtis Dretsch
Lighting Designer: Rick Fisher
Costume Designer: Michael McDonald
Photos by Ken Ek, Kenek Photography

The Learned Ladies opens TONIGHT and runs through Sunday. Just enough time left to get your tickets! Box Office: 484-664-3333 or purchase online at http://purchase.tickets.com/buy/TicketPurchase?orgid=22216&event_val=LEAR

The Learned Ladies: Opening tomorrow night! Tickets: 484-664-3333 or http://purchase.tickets.com/buy/TicketPurchase?orgid=22216&event_val=LEAR

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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!

The Senior Showcase 2014 is coming up — and Muhlenberg senior Molly Israel produced a snazzy little video to introduce you to the participants!

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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.

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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.

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Welcome Back!

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!

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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!

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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!

-Emily

featured in the pictures are: Petrea Whittier, Naomi Leslie, and Georgie Simon.

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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.