Sunday, July 19, 2015

Evita: A Cursed Production

I recently closed my first show as assistant director for a production. Even though I enjoyed working on the show, I am extremely thankful it's over! We did Evita, the true life story of Eva Peron the First Lady of Argentina, and I have to say that that show is cursed, either by someone who really hates Santa Evita or Eva Peron herself.

The loss of a director in the middle of the rehearsal process

I auditioned on a whim for the production in April. I had been taking voice lessons and wanted to put them to use. I didn't want the title role and the only other part I could audition for was The Mistress, who sings my favorite song of the show "Another Suitcase, Another Hall". I received the cast list the same month where I saw my name under "Chorus". There were only two parts for women to play so I knew my chances were slim of getting the part of The Mistress.

Anyway, I was going to still be in school when they started so I would miss about 2 weeks of rehearsals. So I downloaded the cast album and began learning. I show up for my first rehearsal and learn that I am actually ahead of the cast on music! I still don't know what they did for those first two weeks, but it wasn't learn music. And then after two days of rehearsal as a cast member, the director approached me, letting me know that the original assistant director (AD) had to back out because of work and was asking me if I could step up and take the position. He knew I was in school for technical theatre and was able to handle the responsibility of this position. I couldn't turn it down, obviously, it was a great credit to my name! Little did I know it would be one of the most stressful and eventful shows I had ever been a part of.

If you think being behind 2 weeks in music and having to replace an AD is bad, then you are in for an entertaining story.

My first rehearsal as AD went ok. I was a little hard for me to jump from being a cast member to a position with authority, especially since I was about 10 years younger than most of the cast. I felt a little uncomfortable telling the cast to be quiet or to stop what they are doing and listen. But I got over that fairly soon. As rehearsals went on, I could see that this was a difficult show, musically and technically.

There were over 200 costume changes to be made within 2 hours, our set wasn't done, and we opened in a week and a half

As we crept closer to crunch week, I became more and more nervous. The music just didn't seem to be there. Each character had at least 5 changes and they weren't making them in time. Our Eva had 22 different changes! Which was ridiculous. Our moving set wasn't complete until opening night. We had a revolving table in our set that was man powered by two "hamsters", a screen that was to come in and out in almost every scene for a projection that needed two people to pull, three scaffolds that moved around backstage, an entire bedroom set on wheeled platforms, and more smaller set pieces. And all of those pieces had to fit on the revolve perfectly because if not, when it turned, it would rip down our masking curtains. Things just didn't seem like it was going our way.

Numerous injuries and set disasters, on preview night

Crunch week went fairly better than expected, even though we never had a complete run with out stopping and in one rehearsal I have to make four ice packs because we had numerous people fall and twist or bang something! All in a span of 30 mins, night felt pretty disastrous. Preview night came, and there were a few mishaps. Including our bedroom set getting caught on the screen's bottom curtain and ripping it off during a scene. The spins not being completed, which means the set was facing upstage during the scenes. And the screen not coming in and out properly, so the actors had to run around it and enter from the wrong areas. A lot of things did not go right, but it was preview and the show had to get better from there, right? WRONG.

Opening night fiasco, a night we could not imagine

Opening night. Imagine preview night, but 5 times worse. We had 6 intelligent lights (moving lights) and two of them decided to not respond to the cues properly. Instead of hitting the disco ball up towards the roof, they began to blind the audience by pointing downward. The screen curtain was ripped again! Spins were not made correctly, again! And to top it all off, the fire alarm went off due to the fog that was used during the opening of the show.

I ran the show from the light/ sound booth, operating the lights. I was on headsets the entire time, and these were the ones that were always on. So I could hear literally everything that was going on in the dressing rooms, backstage, and in both booths. I heard every thing that went wrong and it was my job to fix it. I was able to fix most of the big issues, like the scaffolding not being in the right spot, and the incorrect spinning. What I didn't really like was the crowd in the booth. We had myself, the sound engineer and his assistant, board member, the choreographer, the executive director, and then when the lights messed up, the lighting designer/ artistic/ technical director. It was nearly impossible to hear and to top it all off everyone was trying to tell me how to fix it. I knew I could handle it if I had my space. But that was't going to happen. There were probably 100 voices in my head that night.

A stage manager break down

But I guess the opening night audience did not see the same show as I did because they loved it! Which made me feel a whole lot better to know that I helped contribute and save the show. I don't take all the credit because I just told the stage manager and crew how to fix it and they were the ones that pulled it off! I was so thankful to have them. And the crew was made up of high schoolers that had never done anything like this before. They were all amazing.

I decided that I should be backstage to help make things go smoother. I did not want a replay of what had happened. But when this was announced to the stage manger and crew, our stage manager basically had a break down and was crying, saying that she had failed the director, which she did't, and that she was being fired, which she wasn't. I was simply there to help. I dismissed myself from the conversation, seeing as I do not do well with tears. But I later learned that the stage manager stay back and talked with the artistic/ technical director for 2 HOURS! I felt bad for her, but she really needed help.

We had four days to replace our leading man

We had an opening night party for the cast, crew, directors, and designers. And at that, it was where our leading man, playing Che, made a major mistake, not once, but four times! And let's just say that it involved alcohol and minors. Long story short, after opening weekend we had to replace Che with our artistic/ technical director. He only had four days to learn that part. But he did really well!

After the rough opening weekend and the anticipation of the new actor his opening night, things went fairly smooth the remaining weekends. We did have a girl fall backstage and needed to go to the E.R. Of course, all I heard was "Call an ambulance" which made me freak out, because I had no idea what was going on. Really she only need a couple of stitches near her jaw. But from the commotion that I caught over heads, it sounded like she almost died! And then another night, a different cast member fell and that was over exaggerated as well. And we still had some lighting issues, but no problem that we hadn't dealt with before.

But none of it mattered...

And that, in a nutshell, is why Evita is cursed. We never had a flawless show, but it really didn't matter because each new audience loved the production more than the one before it. And that's all that really counts.

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