by Kasey Kopp, dramaturg
This week we take a look at all the work that goes on backstage in order to create a magical night for audience members. As we come to the end of our successful (and sold out!) run, we would like to take you behind the scenes to see just what exactly goes into creating the magic you see onstage!
On the nights of a performance, actors and crew members begin arriving around 5:30 pm. With a cast of over 30 people, the time that people are scheduled to arrive (“call time”) is staggered, allowing those that do not have wigs or extensive makeup to arrive a little later. Regardless, it can become quite crowded backstage!
After signing the attendance role in the green room below the stage, actors begin applying their makeup and getting into costume. Members of the hair and makeup team will supervise and assist with the wigs and any problems that arise with applying makeup. Probably one of their greatest challenges is helping the actresses playing Mrs. Potts and Chip to get into wigs and costumes in under 7 minutes during the show!
Once they are in costume and makeup, actors will attach their microphone and go upstairs for a mic check with a member of the sound team. Every member in the company wears a microphone and completes a sound check prior to every show. If any problems arise during the run of a show, a member of the sound crew is in the green room, below the stage, ready to replace batteries or swap out a defective mic.
Actors are also responsible for placing the props that they need on the set and for setting costume pieces that they will need for quick changes. There are numerous quick changes that take place during the show….many take place within the first few minutes of the show and (some) must be completed in under a minute! While some of these changes occur on stage and in full view of the audience, others are completed with the assistance of dressers, working in the wings, to help company members make their cues. For many cast and crew members, these quick changes are the most stressful part of the show.
Once all props and costumes are set, assistant stage managers and stage operations crew sweep through, mopping the stage and doing a final check backstage before giving stage manager, Lindsi Neilson, the all clear. Once everything is in place, the “house will be open” and the audience will be invited to enter the space, usually a half hour before showtime.
As the audience arrives, down in the green room, stage manager Lindsi Neilson will lead company meeting, going over notes and announcements before the actors will do a vocal warm up at the piano and take their places for the top of the show. Once Lindsi has returned to her booth at the back of the theater (from which she calls all of the light, sound, and music cues totaling well over 100), she will call “places” and confirm with her backstage crew that everything is ready for performance. Ideally, within a few minutes, the lights will dim and the magic begins!
Tune in next time when we sit down with some of the talented actors to learn about their take on these iconic roles, the most challenging aspect of bringing this musical to the stage, and their favorite moments in the show!