Piece by Piece
The Process of Building the
Mounting a stage
production requires a tremendous amount of work and cooperation among a
large group of people. Take a peek behind the scenes of SIX WOMEN WITH
BRAIN DEATH as we examine the
steps in building the show - from preparation, through rehearsals, and
finally into performances.
is the director of the
latest production of SIX WOMEN WITH BRAIN DEATH. She's previously directed
23 shows for Carpenter Square Theatre including the 1996
production of SIX WOMEN.
her job to determine the overall vision and shape of the
production. and ensure that the acting, set, props, costumes, music
and lighting work together to serve the showís style and purpose.
Tabloid headlines and pop-culture
references figure prominently in the humor of this particular show. Since
SIX WOMEN was written during the Reagan years, some of the jokes have
become dated. Even some of the pop-culture references changed by author
Mark Houston for the 1994 production are no longer relevant, so they must
be updated to retain their punch.
Of course, aliens, Elvis, Liz
Taylor, and Bigfoot still regularly appear in the tabloids, so those
references are still as fresh as when the show was first written.
Cast and Crew
Next, the cast and crew must be selected. Many of the women in this
production are veterans from the other SIX WOMEN casts. For Mary Freeh and
Renee Preftakes, itíll be their fourth production each. For Ellen
Webster and Shawn Carey, itíll be their second production. Lysandra
Dial-Meek and Emily Etherton are making their SIX WOMEN debut, however,
both of them have worked backstage on previous productions.
Clockwise from bottom left: Renee,
Rhonda Clark (director),
Emily, Mary, Ellen, Lysandra, Shawn, and Louise Goldberg (Music Director).
The crew also has returning
veterans. Phil Carlton (Stage Manager) and Don Lusk (backstage crew and
voice-overs) are returning for their third run of the show. Other crew
members include Adrian Thompson, Lane Fields, Tyler Etherton, and Bob
& Lyn Bates - whoíve all worked on numerous other CST productions.
Each of the women has their own personal dresser responsible for their
props and costumes. Other crew members are required for lights, sound, and
Phil Carlton, Stage Manager and
Louise Goldberg, Musical Director
Of course, a musical show requires
musicians and SIX WOMEN is fortunate to have the talents of the local band
MISS BROWN TO YOU, featuring Louise Goldberg on keyboards, Mary Reynolds
on guitar, and Elyse Angelo on percussion. These talented women played the
music for CHANGINí
LANES during our 1999 season. Louise Goldberg is also serving as
began with a run-through of the music. Musical Director Louise Goldberg
worked with the ladies to determine their vocal ranges and decide who
would sing each vocal part.
the hardest part for the returning cast members is unlearning a part they
might have learned for a previous production or, even harder, learning a
part the way it is written rather than they way they got used to singing
it. Most of the first week was devoted to music rehearsals so the cast
would have a good grasp of the music before adding movement and dialog.
The second rehearsal was a read-through of the script. The cast and
director sat around a table, read through the script and discussed their
comes the most grueling part of rehearsals Ė determining where and when
the actors move during the action.
This production is being presented
in the Tolbert theatre at Stage Center, so its blocking can take advantage
of the three-quarter round space and be different than any of the previous
productions. Some of the blocking is worked out ahead of time, and some is
worked out with the actors during rehearsal.
The opening number of SIX WOMEN is
almost 15 minutes of singing, movement, and dialogue and required two full
rehearsal nights to block. All together, it took almost three weeks to
block and choreograph the entire show.
Once the show is blocked, rehearsals can really begin. The timing of the
lines and movement are refined, integrated with the music, then repeated
over and over.
5 Women and 1 Man - Don Lusk filling in for one of
the ladies during rehearsal.
While the actors rehearse, other
departments are busy preparing their portions of the show.
Set Design and
SIX WOMEN is a musical review, so it requires a number of settings that
can be quickly changed. Set Designer Tom Harrington has to take these
requirements and any limitations of the theatre space into consideration
when designing the set.
To accommodate these
quick set changes, the set utilized revolving platforms and set pieces
that rolled on and off stage.
approximately 15 wildly different scenes, you can expect that SIX WOMEN requires a
lot of costumes. In addition to appearing in the show, Mary Freeh is also
designing and constructing the costumes. The
opening number is the most complex; with four costume changes for each
woman Ė thatís
24 costumes just for the first 15 minutes of the show!
After discussions with the
director, Mary decided on a color scheme for the show. Each woman is
color-coded and all of her costumes utilize variations on that particular
Each woman has a basic costume - a
black top and skirt or pants, then other pieces (hats, robes,
straightjackets, etc.) are layered over that for specific scenes. Each
piece is designed so it can be easily removed during quick costume
In all, over 80 costume pieces
were created for this production, requiring lots of late nights for the
costume crew. We thank Mary, Adrian Thompson, Don Lusk, Phil Carlton,
Rhonda Clark, Lysandra Dial-Meek, Emily Etherton, Taylor Etherton, Robert
Erwin, Joni Trombley, and everyone else who helped get the costumes ready.
In addition to
numerous costumes, the ladies also have wigs for various scenes - almost
25 in all. In addition to his work on costumes and backstage crew, Adrian
Thompson is in charge of acquiring and maintaining the wigs during the
Props and small set pieces are very important for setting the mood of each
scene. These must be gathered or constructed early enough so the actors
get used to using them.
Technical Rehearsals are generally held a week before the show opens. They
allow the crew to figure out where each prop needs to be placed, where the
costumes should be for costume changes, when the set pieces need to be
rolled on, when the lights come up, how high the microphones need to be
set, and how traffic needs to flow backstage.
A few days before opening, dress rehearsals are held. The show is run with
(hopefully) no interruptions - using music, costumes, makeup, lights,
sound, and all the other technical elements. The Dress Rehearsal allows
everyone to get a feel for how the show should run in performance, and
allows for last minute fine-tuning.
desirable to have a few audience members so the actors have some feedback
and can determine where the laughs come, or where something that should be
funny isnít getting the expected response.
Finally, after all the hard work itís time to open the doors and let in
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