Cast and Crew Had a Total “Blast”!
Marisa Cardin / Senior Staff Writer
Peak Productions wrapped it’s most recent show, Assassins, by Stephen Sondheim, on Sunday, Oct. 23. With a cast and crew of almost thirty people, this show sure was a sight to see, with warnings of live gunfire, strobe lights, and fog machines. The story takes place in a range of different years, telling the stories of all the successful (and unsuccessful) assassinations of US presidents. It included a cast of almost 25 people, as well as a running crew of about 15. It was a huge uptaking, seeing as Western hasn’t done a musical for over five years, since “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”.
Throughout the rehearsal process for Assassins, Top interviewed several different key members of the crew in order to see what it was like putting the show together. Top asked the crew what “the most challenging part of being involved with Assassins was.” Lauren Ryals, who works at the Crested Butte Community School, was the music director of the show. Ryals helped students learn to sing their parts (often extremely challenging, with overlapping melodies and harmonies throughout each piece). She responded, “The most challenging part of being involved with Assassins was accepting that we were ending the show! The prep and show cycle flew by!” Western students and faculty had little over two months to prepare for the opening night of the show, and the process was made an even bigger challenge due to the demanding size of the show in relation to the somewhat smaller size of Western.
Graeme Duke played the character Leon Czolgosz, a former steelworker who assassinated President William McKinley. He said, “The most challenging thing about being in Assassins was wrapping my head around the challenging music involved in the show. Stephen Sondheim is clearly a musical genius, known for shows like Sweeney Todd, but his songs are very complicated to sing,” Duke explained. “So doing his music justice was a huge challenge.” Students involved in big (or small) musical numbers worked with Ryals even outside of rehearsal, in order to make time to understand Sondheim’s work.
“In the end, it sure paid off!” Kathryn Tech, the costume designer, said. “The most challenging part was definitely making sure every cast member was accurately represented by their costume, and making sure each one was unique to the character.” With most of the characters in Assassins being actual, historical people, it was easy enough for the costume designers and director to get a basic idea of the costume, based on pictures of the people; it was the extra touch of Western, however, that made the costumes so original. Top asked the crew members what “the most rewarding part of being involved with Assassins was.” Ryals said that “the most rewarding part of being in Assassins was watching everyone grow and mature into their characters. It was a magical experience.”
This being said, it is important to remember that the characters on stage were real people, often times outrageously different from the characters the actors are portraying; it takes a lot of talent to so easily “flip the switch”. Tech said that the most rewarding part of this production was “getting to see it all come together. My favorite is the “trio from Hell,” Bella Lewis, Sean Coughlin, and Skyler (???).” The “trio from Hell” played the antagonists in the musical, and were all appropriately adorned with black and red costumes, fancier than any of the other actors on stage. “They have some of the most intensive costumes,” said Tech. “And some of them have multiple quick changes, but seeing the three of them together on stage makes all that work worth it.” Duke said that “the most rewarding part of the show was seeing opening night from the wings of the theatre. After all the hard work this whole case put into the show, seeing our first audience’s positive reactions to our efforts made it all worth it.”
These answers speak for themselves; after months of preparation, it is seriously rewarding for the cast and crew to have so many people enjoy the production. Top asked the crew what they hope for Western to gain after seeing Assassins. “I hope more people are willing to give theatre a try, to see what it’s like working as an actress or actor, and to see the mechanics of backstage,” said Tech. “It’s really fascinating to see, and a thrill to be a part of.” Truly, throughout the entire process of the show, actors and crew members alike were challenged to bring something so big together in so short a time, but that was what turned out to be the most rewarding part of it.
In true nature to the current political climate, Ryals said, “Western should understand it’s all about perspective when picking a political party, choosing someone to love or hate, and beyond.” The point of Assassins was not necessarily to advertise the strength that could come from assassinating a world leader, but more the strength that comes from fully supporting your ideas. “The main thing I hope Western Gains from this show is a new appreciation for the craft of theatre. Coming from someone who never did theatre before college, this art form has become one of my greatest passions in life,” Duke answered. “Every aspect put forth in its craft, from the acting, lighting designs, music, set design…once they’re all put together in front of a live audience, it becomes one of the purest forms of entertainment we have. At the end of the day, our job is to entertain people, and I hope everyone in our community continues to come out and support us moving forward.” Top also asked the crew to summarize the experience of Assassins in one word. Tech said: “Formidable. There are few things that are as hard or enjoyable than theatre to me. Things can go wrong, but things can give you goose bumps when they end up perfect – so you strive for the best.” That is why live theatre is so magical; there are no repeats, no calls for line, no second chances throughout the evening’s performance of the show.
Theatre requires a tremendous amount of dedication, focus, and love of the art in order for the show to truly go on. When asked this same question, Duke immediately responded with, “Rewarding. I have only been in one musical before Assassins, and getting back into it as someone who is insecure about his singing voice was a great experience from beginning to end. Every opportunity I have had here at Peak Productions has given me more experience and love for theatre, and I hope to continue all of that until I graduate.” When asked this question, Ryals said, “Magical, because of the many amazing people that worked together to bring the musical to life.” Regardless of if the audience sees them on stage, there is a great amount of work that goes into making a show possible.
Assassins will go down in history as yet another successful show here at Western, with nearly all of it’s evening performances sold out. If you’re interested in seeing the next show, join Peak Productions on December 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in the Studio Theatre for an evening of Student Directed and Student Written plays! All four plays will run back to back, and are about ten minutes long. See you there! Event Announcement: Word Horde’s Poetry Slam Competition.