MCCTA, the Marist College Club of Theatre Arts, debuted its fall musical Bonnie & Clyde this past weekend. As smooth as it went, there was plenty of behind the scenes work to get to that point prior to opening night November 6.
“You don’t want to know,” was all Molly Judge and Kim Kenny had to say in terms of the hours they spent on the show each week, claiming they “basically live in the theater.”
As a first time partner with MCCTA, Director Dana Sachs put his 45 years of experience to work when he chose a cast that looked like an ensemble. “I can honestly say I think I got it right,” said Sachs, proud of the outcome.
Following auditions early in September, actors were given approximately two months to prepare their lines and to fully transform into their characters.
With acting experience since third grade, a memorable voice and the ability to engage the crowd, actor Austin Christensen was well-chosen for the lead role as Clyde.
“I’ve never had such a well-rounded character. He’s a fun and outgoing guy with all different sides – excited, in love and vulnerable,” said Christensen, expressing interest in his character, Clyde.
What’s not to be forgotten are all the other members who put it all together. Members in charge of production, tech, design and costumes have known their responsibilities as far back as the summer and have been working since then to achieve a vision of the show.
Production Manager Irene Elias was the master-mind behind choosing the people responsible for various aspects of the show, as well as making sure they were on track with deadlines. Elias worked closely with College Activities and Bob Lynch to get things approved and scheduled. What might sound simple tended to get stressful, said Elias, when the process would require her to go to multiple people of various rankings and power in order to make progress.
“Any hours that I don’t spend sleeping or in class, minus another two hours for homework, is spent on the show completing things on a deadline, because I have to and I want to,” said Elias.
Aside from necessary rehearsal time and “tech hours,” everyone committed extra hours to help prepare for the show.
“Everyone is here because this is what they love to do, so they make time for it,” added Christensen, who balances MCCTA with three other large clubs on campus.
However, the process of getting the show to run smoothly wasn’t all so simple.
With over 30 scenes, the play called for excessive stage changes and many set elements. Sachs decided to shorten scene changes and to split the stage with lighting. The running crew, therefore, had to work extra hard to change the set promptly.
After the late arrival of microphones, tech week rehearsals began only two days before opening night, this being the first time the crew worked in unison with tech and the stage crew.
At Wednesday night’s rehearsal, Sachs sat in the back observing the show, jotting down notes and periodically making comments to people in charge of sound. Occasionally props were not taken off stage or the scene change was not completed on time. Although there also were some kinks with the microphones, these were all things Christensen said “are anticipated and easily solvable.”
Molly Judge, Chairperson of MCCTA and stage manager of Bonnie & Clyde, had been working since the summer helping to choose the directors, hold auditions and much more. During tech rehearsals, Judge stood by the stage with her huge binder of notes calling out orders and running through scenes like a natural. With being in charge of so many people, she admitted it’s hard to get everyone to listen, but enjoyed seeing how the show came together.
Curtis Brauner, Scenic Designer, was responsible for designing the set pieces. Since the summer he had been construing ideas and concepts he felt would make the stage transform into the proper setting. Brauner said one of the hardest parts of his job was combining ideas with the director, stating that both their visions would sometimes clash and changes would have to be made.
“No matter how well you design something on the computer or on paper, it always looks different in person once it’s complete,” said Brauner.
However, the two had similar desires to tone down the use of technology from the Broadway version. For this reason, Sachs chose to include the news boy character holding real newspapers and yelling out headlines between scenes, rather than implementing large video screens. In the end, Brauner’s vision of a “dirty, poor and decrepit” set that mimicked the style of the Great Depression came alive by distressing every set piece to make it look older.
As the show crept closer, some pieces were placed on wheels for easier mobility, props were hooked up to fly rather than be carried and broken pieces had to be repaired. Even the getaway car, one of the most used and complicated pieces of the show, was only a vision until tech week, when the car was finally completed.
Everyone joined together prior to each show for the traditional MCCTA warm-up with chants and tongue-twisters led by the seniors and passed down each year.
“It’s a real family and community in MCCTA. We push each other to be the best we can be and work together to put on a great show,” said Courtney Lawlor, Assistant Production Manager.
The inclusion of the audience was that “final piece of the puzzle” Sachs said was missing.
“Getting a great crowd opening night is important. It gives that extra boost and energy since we started just by performing for empty crowds,” said Elias.
Opening night went well, aside from the wobbly door prop that almost fell over, which Sachs attributed to the extra energy and adrenaline of the cast. In comparison to Wednesday’s rehearsal, sound, tech and scene changes improved, making the show both sound properly and run smoothly.
“There aren’t words to describe how the show goes from a vision to a real production on that stage,” said Kim Kenny, Tech Director.
“I’m very pleased,” was all Sachs had to add to express his pride in how Bonnie & Clyde turned out.