The lights dim and rise as the audience erupts into a standing ovation, thanking the cast for sharing an amazing experience. The cast form into a line as they go into a gratuitous bow, thanking the audience for their praise and applause. Suddenly the small stage and static mics were worth it. Spastic rehearsals filled with difficult choreography and crammed lines showed their final reward.
East students participated in a local production of the beloved show Mamma Mia!. The show took place last weekend, and was produced by the Storm Dance Alliance drama department. Although the show’s production was unconventional, the cast succeeded in bringing the enchanting songs of ABBA to life.
Slipping through my fingers
Compared to usual musical theatre productions, Storm Dance Alliance’s production of Mamma Mia! was very challenging and unconventional as it was performed in the back of a public restaurant, Two Brothers Roundhouse Tavern in Aurora.
“We were faced with having so many staging changes because [we didn’t know] where the show would be for a while. And when we actually got into space we had little time [and] lack of rehearsals with costumes. The crew had to put together our entire set in one night the day before the dress rehearsal,” freshman Alexa Kreiling said.
The show follows a young woman named Sophie trying to find out who her birth father is days before her wedding. Her search for the identity of her father brings three men from her mother Donna’s past back to the island they’d last visited twenty years prior.
Alexa was a part of the production’s ensemble and junior Jacob Loveland portrayed Sky, Sophie’s fiancé. Senior McKenna Kreiling, junior Alaina Hyland, and senior Lucie Kupres made up Donna and the Dynamos, a dynamic band consisting of Donna and two of her best friends.
The show’s director Brian Fauth said that the Two Brothers Roundhouse Tavern wasn’t their first choice for a performance space. Due to the unconventional staging situation, many obstacles were presented for the cast to overcome.
“We tried to book fifteen other similar stages, but nothing was available. Thankfully, we had developed a good relationship with Two Brothers Roundhouse in Aurora, where we performed our last show. While it was unconventional, we transformed their Tavern stage into ‘Donna’s Taverna’ with little difficulty,” Fauth said.
McKenna said that she hadn’t seen the performance space until they started rehearsing in the Two Brothers Roundhouse Tavern. They had to adjust their stage setup as they designed the set for a bigger stage.
“We only had one full dress rehearsal with all of the set, costumes, [and] props. It definitely created a lot of stress and tension, but through everyone contributing all they could to the process, it made the transition into the new space easy and smooth,” Kupres said.
About five actors got sick days leading up to the show’s opening performance. For Hyland, it was especially challenging because she lost her voice the day the show opened. However, cast members and the directing team helped her out through vocal warm-ups, so she was still able to perform. Fauth said that difficulties like these can manifest themselves into educational experiences, teaching the actors to be focused and stay in character to keep the story moving along.
“One of the fundamentals we teach about acting in a live performance is that something could go wrong during the show. An actor might flub a line, or miss an entrance, or say the wrong line entirely. The most important thing to do is to not break character, but keep the show moving along and hope the audience doesn’t notice,” Fauth said.
The stressful days leading up to the performance were a lot like the chaotic song and dance breaks used to carry the story along in Mamma Mia!. Rehearsals were very much unlike East’s previous productions as rehearsals weren’t as frequent. Instead, the actors had to get used to a sporadic rehearsal schedule.
“We only rehearsed one to two times a week for three months and then had two days to rehearse in and out of the location of the performances before the show. And with all of that and the number of kids in the show, I think the show was very impressive,” Loveland said.
Rehearsing in various unusual facilities wasn’t traditional either for this enchanting musical, but the cast managed to stay on task.
“We rehearsed at a dance studio, sometimes in a big room, sometimes in a kitchen. Translating that into performing an immersive theatre piece was a challenge, but we had an amazing cast of actors that were patient and flexible,” Fauth said.
The musical’s abnormality didn’t dance away any of the usual struggles brought on by an actor. Performing in front of an audience can frighten anyone. An actor wants the audience to have fun watching the story unfold song by song, but sometimes this can be stressful, not to mention a large time commitment.
“I tend to overthink every little aspect of my character to make sure I can put on the best show possible, and though this can mess with my self-esteem at times, it pays off big time because it means that every small detail of my character in the show is thought through and exactly how I want it to be. I use that negative emotion to drive me forward to be the best I can be,” Kupres said.
The extracurricular nature of the show presented some difficulty for Hyland. She said that she had trouble with time management, as rehearsals were weekly, alongside having to keep up with school work. This caused her to struggle with memorizing lines. However, being in this show brought Hyland much joy as she got to bring happiness to the audience through her performance. She found this experience more rewarding than other theatre experiences she’d had in the past.
Thank you for the music
Most of the students in this production have been doing theatre since they were young. They have been building their acting skills since they were as young as six. McKenna said that experience of being in Limelight productions has helped shape her into the person she is today.
“It inspires me to learn and grow from others around me, both characters in the shows and the people around me. Theatre has helped me to become a more well rounded and kind-hearted person,” McKenna said.
The actors said that theatre both inside and outside of school has inspired them greatly, as it has taught them to learn and grow from others around them both on and off stage and that portraying a variety of characters with different backgrounds can have a strong impact on an actor as well as the audience.
“Theatre is inspiring to me because of how much variety and creativity can be used the making of a show. A single person can make a change in someone’s day through a performance,” Alexa said.
Kupres said that by being on stage as an actor, you have the ability create a connection with the audience through rehearsals and devotion given to the production at hand. She said that strong relationships between the cast and crew are often built through productions like these.
“The actors and crew and directors and everyone involved with the show is telling a story to make the audience laugh, cry, and immerse themselves in the lives of the characters,” Kupres said. “I truly think that it’s something you can’t find anywhere else.”
Diana Morales is a staff writer for Oswego East’s online news magazine the Howl