On the Stage

I was inaugurated into the life of the stage this past week, while working in the costume department for our school play, Nicholas Nickleby.  Since this was my very first time involved in the theatre, it was quite an intense experience!  We'd spent several months designing and organizing the costume department, and the last month or so doing most of the sewing.  Since this was a Dickens story, we obviously had to use Victorian costumes.  You can get a lot of good Victorian looks by means of tailcoats and hoop skirts, as we discovered!

The cast was about 45 people, including close to 20 extras (who of course also had to be clothed.)  Most of the characters had at least one costume change.  We made about a dozen tailcoat for the men, and borrowed and rented hoop skirts for the women.  I'll try to post some pictures in here to give you an idea.

The set itself was amazing!  Dickens' books ordinarily have dozens of subplots and supporting characters, so the play version of this story had to figure out how to turn one of his so rich books into a stage production.  The play had 21 scenes in the first act and 23 in the second, with the sets being changed between almost every single scene.  I still can't figure out how they did it, but they managed to create many different areas - a schoolhouse, back garden, two separate offices, a dress shop, an attic, a cityscape, etc.  The backstage crew, including costume, makeup, stage crew, and directors, numbered as many or more than the actual cast.  Somehow we pulled it off in a tiny theatre, using a back hallway and two large school rooms for the backstage since the wings were so tiny.

I also discovered that there is a reason for calling tech week, the week of final rehearsals, blocking, sound checks and dress rehearsal before performances, Hell Week.  It certainly was exhausting being gone from 5:30 until midnight every night for a week.  As my mother warned me, though, opening night makes all the stress and fatigue worth it.  The play forces you to work with and get to know a totally different group of people than normal; challenges you to keep calm under stress; expands your skill set; and is an incredibly rewarding experience!  Notice that all the bad elements are quickly fading away in my memory.  :)  Will I do it again next year?  Oh, probably...

Here are some photos of our amazing Nicholas Nickleby!

 The evil schoolmaster, Wackford Squeer, with his wife and some of the poor orphan or abandoned boys in their none-too-kind care.

From left, Kate Nickleby, Madame Mantalini, and Miss Knag in the dress shop.

The flamboyant Mr. and Mrs. Crummles, of Crummles' Theatrical Group.

Frank Cheeryble, Nicholas Nickleby, Ned and Charles Cheeryble - look at the clock tower and working smokestack in the city behind them!

The sinister Mrs. Snawley, with Mrs. Nickleby, Frank Cheeryble, Smike, and Kate Nickleby - check out those hoop skirts!

Below, Peter Foeckler as the title character, with ascot and tailcoat!