If you’ve been following our blog the past three months, you’ve seen our actors pick everything from their character names and scene settings, to music and sound effects for a completely original show. Through it all they have been working on skills like movement, communication, imagination, and teamwork. This weekend, we finally got to share our work with our friends and family (and some new fans too!). We’re happy to give you behind the scenes look at SHOW WEEKEND!
Friday night, our cast and crew gathered for dress rehearsal.
Our teaching artists arrived around 5pm to start loading in props and costumes and set up backstage. As the facilitators arrived, they helped to tape actor’s headshots to chairs, set out journals and crayons, and tape up the prop tables. Once everything was organized backstage, the crew took the time to rehearse spots with tricky blocking, or specific sound or light cues. We also ran our opening montage and our big mash-up to review choreography.
The Actors started to arrive at 6:30pm. Victory Gardens has two big dressing rooms backstage – we used one for the boys and one for the girls. As they arrived, actors dropped off their coats and bags in the dressing rooms and changed into their new A.B.L.E. t-shirts. Everyone met out onstage to warm up. We went around the circle and each actor picked a stretch or warm up exercise to get our voices and bodies moving – we did everything from push ups and sit ups, to lunges and sidebends, and Quincy led us through a round of “Tony Chestnut”. After reviewing our ensemble rules, we took a bathroom break, and then were all set in PLACES to start a run-through of the show.
Our run-through went awesome with many actors starting to speak more loudly and play with bigger movements to fill up the bigger space. It was great to play with lighting and sound effects as well. It was a later night than our usual rehearsals, and we were so proud of the actors keeping their energy up right till the end.
After a brief parent meeting to review the show day schedule and some other programming notes, the actors went home. The Teaching Staff and Facilitators gathered to go over notes and clean up a bit, and then we all went home to get some sleep for the big day!
Fortunately, we were able to leave all of our props, chairs, and backstage items set up after dress rehearsal. When we arrived at the theatre Saturday, the Teaching Artists and Facilitators just had to focus on cleaning up some technical aspects. They spent an hour going through blocking for each scene, running cues with our lighting and sound technician, and rehearsing our big group numbers before the actors arrived.
As the actors came in, we joined in a circle onstage to warm up. We also took time to run-through our big mash-up to make sure words and choreography were spot-on before the performance. We have a long time before we start classes again, and will miss Andrew, Lucas, Kendra, and Peter’s birthdays, so the four of them led us through a big “I Take From the Heavens” and then it was time to OPEN THE HOUSE!
The house opens for our audience 30 minutes before showtime. Our actors all have their own approach for what to do with this 30 minute lag time. The boys mostly hung out in the dressing room goofing off and taking pictures. Some of the girls stayed in the dressing room to sing and dance. Lucy watched a movie on her phone. Many actors stayed in their chairs in the wings to draw or write in their journals.
Finally Katie called PLACES and it was time to start the show! We had a fantastic turnout and were overwhelmed by the amount of people who were seeing one of our shows for the first time! This was such a special and unique performance. The actors had total ownership over all of the material, and so they really got to be themselves and have fun onstage. Everyone had a standout moment, and, for our teaching artists, it’s incredible to see how our actors grow from one performance to the next. The excitement was palpable!
After bows and a photo-op, the whole cast and crew got to an autographed poster to commemorate the show, and headed out to the lobby to get their accolades!
SPECIAL THANKS TO...
Eric Van Tassell has been our lighting technician for several of our past shows, and knows our actors really well. He brings a great sense of humor and energy to the theatre; we can see him dancing along up in the booth and cheering us on. Even though we try to set blocking in class, a lot of times, our actors get swept up in the moment while they’re onstage and make up their own blocking or lines on the fly; Eric watches and listens carefully to make sure lighting and sound cues happen at the right time and adjusts to the whims of our performers. We're extra grateful Eric was able to join us this weekend; he is currently pursuing a master’s degree in theatrical lighting design and hopped on the train after his last final to get into Chicago and work on our show! Thanks to him, and his buddy Lego Eric for running the booth!
Big applause to our awesome Front of House Team. In addition to the professional FOH staff from Victory Gardens, and the ushers from The Saints, our facilitators Lindsay, Zach, and Jennice stayed out front greeting the actors and sending them backstage, and also helping collect donations, hand out programs, and welcome guests to the theatre. Maria Yohe (mom of founder and teaching artist, Katie) manned a donation and merchandise table. Joining them was former A.B.L.E. actor Hannah Vilic; Hannah has acted with us in numerous shows, and took a break this semester to focus on chorus and dance and other activities she loves. She came back to join us as Deputy Front of House Manager. She hung out in the lobby taking donations, and joined Katie onstage to make the pre-show cell phone announcement.
Andrew Heckman once again joined us to film the show for DVD. He has been kind enough to volunteer his time and talents for our past 5 shows, and always takes great pride in constructing a DVD that our actors and their families can watch over and over again!
Facilitator Jennice Countryman also took the time outside of class to construct boards for us to display in the lobby featuring each actor’s headshot and bio. They were bright and colorful and an awesome spotlight on each of our actors.
Rags of Honor is a silk screening company that employs homeless and chronically underemployed veterans. They did a fantastic job making our Ensemble t-shirts. These shirts are super comfy to wear and beautiful onstage and we’re excited to use them as a base costume for this and future shows! If you have any silk screen needs in the future, we highly recommend them; they do great work AND you know your money is going to a great cause!
Last, but definitely not least, the entire staff at Victory Gardens Biograph Theatre made this whole weekend a breeze. They are consummate professionals, and kept everything running smooth from start to finish. On the day, the front of house staff was easily available for anything we needed from easels to display the bio boards, to prop tables and even a walkie-talkie for Katie to communicate with the front of house team (this was a big hit with all of the actors too!). It’s great to know that the box office and the Front of House side of things are taken care of so our staff can focus on making the performance as strong as possible.