What a week. I can hardly believe that our production of East o’ West o’: A New Musical has finally wound to its end. It’s always difficult, after working so hard for so long on a production in any capacity, to wake up on Sunday morning and realize that the whole thing is over. That’s the nature of college theatre, though, and it precludes us from sitting back and relaxing. We never rest on our laurels Cap and Bells always has its eye to the future.
I have spent the semester serving as the production manager for Michelle Rodriguez’s beautiful musical, as well as lending a little bit of creative and textual advice to our wonderful director, Alison Pincus, and our fantastic librettist, Elena Faverio. It’s been a challenge, to say the least. Most of my theatrical experience has been in the acting department. I’ve always loved acting. While it can be hard work at times, I usually enjoy every moment of it and try to do as much of it as I can with Cap and Bells. So, when the rest of the Board asked me to think about signing on to “stage manage/production manage/assistant direct/keep Alison and Michelle sane,” I found the task more than a little daunting. However, I thought, “Why not? I’ll help out.” Perhaps I shouldn’t have entered into it so casually, because I have done a lot of work for this production—I’ve collected schedules, reserved spaces, hung curtains, dug up rugs and stools, set up chairs, operated microphones, and sent just around ten thousand emails since the beginning of February. I’ve learned that production management is all about making sure your actors look good. I’m used to being one of those actors. I’m used to having other people make me look good. So being the one doing that work has been strange and difficult. However, I’ve also found it incredibly rewarding. We made a musical!
Last Sunday morning comes to mind as a good example of the dichotomy I’m talking about. I had just gotten a text from an actor telling me that she would be half an hour late to our rehearsal and been informed by another that Michelle had given her a different rehearsal time than I had. When I arrived at the Directing Studio, I found disgruntled actors and a very upset Michelle, coming close to breaking down over the progress of the production and telling me how angry she was with me for not telling the actors the right rehearsal time. As soon as the music started, though, our frowns melted into smiles and the tension in our bodies morphed into enthusiastic foot-tapping and general merriment. In fact, I have a hard time precluding myself from dancing to just about any song that Michelle writes. Throw Kevin Lawkins’ musical genius in there and you’ve got a surefire recipe for success.
Even as Alison would give me six different tasks to do at once, I have loved putting it all aside every once in a while to watch her work with the actors. I once sat in on a rehearsal in which she and Pat Megley, our stellar man-bear-prince, acted like bears. Exclusively. That’s all they did for an hour—and it was great! The way Pat’s character improved after rehearsals like that is a testament to Alison’s talent as a director.
While things were certainly not always easy, my work on East o’ West o’ has reminded me why I love theatre. It’s a total community exercise. Cap and Bells cobbled such a diverse group of people together—some of our cast and most of our musicians had never done any work with Cap and Bells before this! And we were all in it together, 100% of the way. Our American consciousness conditions us to love our “rugged individualism,” but theatre gives us the opportunity to rely on others and to be relied on. It’s a great feeling. So, to Michelle, Alison, Elena, Kevin, and the entire cast and crew of East o’ West o’: thank you, thank you, thank you.