The Making of Carrie: the Musical; 3rd in Series
With hardly any time left before the opening night of Carrie: the Musical, a crucial time begins: tech rehearsals. Actors and tech members work together for the first time, finally getting a taste of what this show will really look like. It’s chaos before order, a storm on the stage, a play being played out before them. Sparks fly on the set of Carrie.
Tech week is kicked off with a special rehearsal called crew view. The crew visits the Black Box Theatre in Maloney Hall and watches a bare bones run-through of the show. The actors present all of the hard work they’ve been doing for months with no microphones, no costumes, no lighting, limited sound cues, and just piano assisting them. They breathe, stretch themselves out. Introductions happen. Act 1 starts. Now.
Director Ed Wierzbicki calls out cues throughout the play: “school bell rings,” “lights,” “blackout!” Occasionally, he has the performance pause for a comment or prop movement. Behind me, Chris Hoyt, the costume and set designer, points out different lighting, costume, or movement cues to the crew surrounding him. Wierzbicki scribbles frantically in his binder during scene breakdowns. Stage manager Joel Porter, along with lighting designers Lydia Strong and Ethan Sepa, follow along the rehearsal with similarly large binders. My untrained eye doesn’t know what to watch for, but they know, and they take note.
For just over two hours, the actors perform the show for the crew. Even without the effects, the cast was slack-jawed watching the performance come together. On Wednesday, April 20th, instead of celebrating the herbal holiday, the real work began for these students. They will work long hours rehearsing up until opening night, including two “ten of twelve” days where they rehearse from ten in the morning to ten at night on Friday and Saturday, getting a total of two hours for breaks. I learn later that Saturday turned from a “ten of twelve” day into an “eleven of thirteen.” They have some difficulties running through the first act.
On the last night of tech rehearsal I anxiously wait for the show to begin, my heart pumping with a mix of excitement and far too much caffeine. It’s almost finals week, there’s no time for a college student like me to eat. Let’s just say I’m jealous of the pizza Wierzbicki is eating during the break.
At the start of the first act, some of the difficulties from Saturday are still apparent during dress rehearsal. Strangely enough, four actors miss the starting cue. They scramble out from behind the black curtains into their places, just barely making it before they have to start singing. By the sound of their conversation after the first act, the managing crew never imagined that would be a problem. A speaker malfunction is responsible for this mishap. “Our intercom system from booth to dressing rooms went down seconds before pre-show. That was crazy,” explains Wierzbicki. He reassures me in an email (with four exclamation points), “We will have things ironed out by Wednesday night’s opening!!!!”
Throughout the rest of act one, the timing of sound cues and lighting is problematic. The crew is having difficulty hearing the actors from the sound booth. They end up cutting a sound cue so they don’t have to worry about it. Other problems appear throughout: stereo feedback and echoes, an actor kicks a bottle over, a microphone cord breaks, some of the actors don’t have microphones at all, and there’s an awkward beat in one of the songs.
Act two runs smoother, although it is also fifteen minutes shorter, with all the biggest sound cues and lighting tricks contained mostly in one short scene (you know which one). To my surprise I see they have a different prom dress for Carrie than the one I saw in a previous meeting; it’s pinker, longer, and more feminine. Other than a missed beat or two, the play finishes pretty smoothly.
Even with all the sporadic problems, a run crew member contends that it was “less stressful than last night.” If the show was perfect already, there would be no need for rehearsals. Right? There’s always kinks to work out, a process to go through until they get it right.
The differences between the first and the last rehearsal are immeasurable: the prayer closet is now fully decorated in Jesus paraphernalia and raised a step off the floor, the stage is dressier, the lights are bright, the props are mobile, the band is loud and proud, and the actors are more rehearsed. They’ve got parts to tweak, but they’ve fixed much more than they haven’t. As Wierzbicki promised, they’ve ironed out most of the kinks. And they’ll keep perfecting the show all the way until May 1st, the final showing of Carrie: the Musical.