Six actors, approximately 60 hours of rehearsals, three to six gallons of paint, 16 costumes, about 40 technicians, 26 props, 500 feet of wood and a lot of hard work, all came together to create the play Steel Magnolias.
Actors and technicians started preparing for the play back in late August and early December; however, director Katherine Fischer and technical director Andrea Martin started talking about the production in the spring when they chose the play. Additionally, the directors discussed their plans for the show over the summer as well as applied for the show’s rights. When deciding on the play, Fischer said she wanted to do something she had never done before.
“I haven’t done an all single gender show before so I was just thinking about something that we haven’t experienced and the kids haven’t experienced before,” Fischer said.
In the first round of auditions, everyone must have a minute long monologue memorized. At callbacks, students perform scenes and monologues from the show. Fischer said having the monologues memorized was like a first step to the audition process because of how important it is. She said callbacks helps her determine which person is right for the part.
“We pick short little monologues or little scenes and we do it in a different combination of seeing who might be paired with who,” Fischer said. “They read for multiple parts and then we decide from there.”
When designing the set, Martin said she considers the viewpoint of the audience and how each set component works together.
“After we figure out the style then I have to think about things like blocking and staging to make sure that the set is conducive to good visibility from the audience and good movement from actors,” Martin said. “I elevated two of the aspects of the stage so when the actors were sitting on the sofa or the hair dryer chairs, we could still see them as an audience behind those salon chairs.”
In the first few weeks of rehearsal, the actors primarily work on memorizing their lines and blocking. Fischer said that every movement is important to think about.
“We start asking questions like how am I going to move on stage, where do I sit, where do I stand and then we start kind of exploring more about the characters. How would my character say this line and what kind of facial expression would they have,” Fischer said.
While the actors rehearsed, the show’s technical crew worked in the scene shop. During the eight weeks of preparation, technicians primarily worked on set build, props, and costumes. Martin’s responsibilities included
managing the technical elements of the play: props, costumes, lights, sound, and set build. She said she was able to step back and allow the crew to work primarily on their own.
“I have a lot of really talented seniors in tech theatre that have spent three years with me working on plays so I was able to make them crew heads and really leave them the autonomy to be in control of their crew and report back to me,”
Martin said. “I gave them broad goals and then they would finish those independently and get back to me when they were ready for there next project.”
Props Crew Head Raegan Calvert and her team read through the script in order to determine the props that they needed to either buy, make or find. Calvert said having a big technical team helped things to go smoothly.
“We had more members than usual, so everything went pretty well because we were able to divide the work and get everything done efficiently,” Calvert said.
After working separately for seven weeks, the cast and crew came together during tech week, the week of the production, for final dress rehearsals. Martin said tech week is very helpful and critical to bringing the play together.
“It’s the first time the actors are on stage in costumes and incorporating their props. It’s a lot of additions for the actors and it’s also the first time technicians are doing their role for the show rather than just preparation work,” Martin said.
After all the time and effort put into the production, Calvert said it has all paid off.
“It’s a lot of hard work but its really, really rewarding at the end of the show to see everything come together,” Calvert said.