Piece by Piece
The Process of Building the Show

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.

Director Cast & Crew Music Rehearsal Read-Through
Blocking Rehearsal Set Design Costumes & Wigs
Props  Tech Rehearsal Dress Rehearsal Opening Night

Rhonda Clark 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.

Rhonda Clark, DirectorIt's 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.

Six Women group photo
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 spotlights.

Phil Carlton, Stage Manager Louise Goldberg, Musical Director
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 Musical Director.

Music Rehearsal
Music RehearsalRehearsals 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.

Probably 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 ideas.

SIX WOMEN read-through

Blocking and Choreography
Rhonda Clark during blocking rehearsal.Next 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
5 Women and 1 Man - Don Lusk filling in for one of the ladies during rehearsal.

Rambi rehearsal  Opening Number rehearsal

Swim Team rehearsal  SHARK!!

While the actors rehearse, other departments are busy preparing their portions of the show.

Set Design and Construction
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.

Costumes & Wigs
Mary Freeh, Costume DesignerWith 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 color.

Rhonda and Mary discuss the headdresses.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 changes.

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 show.

The ladies in their prom dresses and wigs.

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.

Severed Head Lives Six DaysTech Rehearsal
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.

Dress Rehearsal
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.

Often, itís 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.

God is an AlienOpening Night
Finally, after all the hard work itís time to open the doors and let in the audience.

Toll Road

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