For the past year, the Tower Hill Theatre Department has been hard at work to create and put on a performance of the classic American musical Anything Goes by Cole Porter. About the stowaway Billy Crocker as he tries to win the heart of the soon-to-be-wedded Hope Harcourt, the play is full of comedy, hijinks, and large dance numbers. Although the final product is impressive in and of itself, not everyone realizes just how much work goes into each and every show. In order to bring this to light, I sat down with two people who have had experience both in front of the curtain and behind it. To begin, I talked with 11th grader Blair Isken, a member of the Anything Goes stage crew and one of the stage managers of the show:
“So how long have you been involved in stage crew? Why do you do it, and what do you enjoy about it?”
“I’ve been on stage crew since the fall of my freshman year. And even though being a part of the Drama department in general (let alone being a member of stage crew) is a lot of responsibility and work, I think that might be part of the reason why I enjoy it all so much. Being on stage crew not only tests my ability to think quickly and critically when necessary but has also taught me the value of hard work and leadership skills. It’s also amazing to get to be involved in something so much bigger than yourself; the shows that the drama department put on every year resemble something like a puzzle: it’s up to everyone involved to put in 110% and work as a unit to bring together all the pieces and make something amazing happen.”
“For those who don’t know everything that goes on backstage, can you give us some examples of all the work that you do?”
“Well, being a part of stage crew has definitely spoiled the idea of ‘movie magic’ for me, but at the same time, knowing the amount of effort that goes in to making even the tiniest scene change happen has made me appreciate everything that needs to take place in order for a production to go smoothly. But as far as what stage crew does behind the scenes, well, we don’t just build a set: we have to plan it first. Not everyone realizes just how many precautions need to be taken or all the measurements that must be planned out beforehand. Mr. Kator started the set design for Anything Goes over a year ago because it required that much attention to detail. And then there are the lights and sound and all the props that have to be built/bought and all the costumes that have to be made. And this isn’t even including tech week, which is when the magic really happens. That is when the stage crew starts plotting out what needs to happen to ensure that a scene change runs smoothly and timely during the show, and it’s live so you only get one shot, so you want to do it right. Moving props on and off stage isn’t as easy at it looks; it is all timed very carefully and each move is strategically planned in advance.”
“From the looks of it, building the set must’ve been a huge undertaking – what was the most challenging part of the process?”
“The most challenging part, honestly, was making sure not to spill anything on the stage once it had been painted to look like a wooden floor. I still hold my breath whenever I walk across it with a paint brush in hand. It took hours to get the floor to look just right, and keeping it in good condition was of the utmost importance.”
“And finally, why do you think people should come?”
“Well, one, because it rocks! And two, because if you haven’t heard George sing ‘Be Like the Bluebird’ you haven’t lived.”
With more information in hand about the technical side of the show, I decided that I wanted to know more about the aspect the audience does see: the actors. So next, I talked with 12th grader Whitney Polich, playing the dazzling Reno Sweeney, and asked her a few questions about her experiences:
“So how long have you been involved in the THS theater department? Acting in general? Why do you enjoy it?”
“I’ve been involved with acting since I was seven years old. I did The Velveteen Rabbit at a community theatre in Massachusetts, and I’ve done Tower Hill Theatre since my Freshman year. I did Cabaret, but I haven’t been in a Main-stage production until Seussical, which was during my Sophomore year. For me, I love the fact that I don’t have to be me for a few hours of the night or week, and I just love the people in the show; they’re such a family, and I love them all so much. I really like that I get to be someone whom I’m totally not because I’m totally not Reno in real life, and it’s just really fun to be her for a couple hours.”
“Have you had any experience either singing or dancing before?”
“Well, I sing a lot. I sing in Vocal Ensemble and Cabaret and Chorus, and when I was younger I did choir outside of school and singing in church. Singing is probably my main passion, though acting is a close second. Not so much dancing, though.”
“Obviously, tap dancing is a new experience for everyone – how has it been trying to learn an entirely new skill in just a few months?”
“Dancing is probably my main weakness – I’m not really good at it – so learning to tap dance has been a major challenge. But it’s also been really rewarding, especially when you get it just right. It’s also been nice having people to lean on who are really good at it, like Brooke and Kalee and everyone else, so that’s been helpful. Though, to be honest, it’s definitely been a lot easier than I thought it was going to be, and it’s a lot of fun, too!
“Anything Goes is a classic American Musical. What’s your favorite part of the show?”
“Well, I love ‘You’re the Top’ and ‘Buddie Beware’; they’re my two favorite songs. And I just love the farce in it and how quick and fast everything has to be. So my favorite scene is probably the one with all the exits and entrances; it’s just some great comedy.”
“And finally, why do you think people should come to the show?”
“Because it’s fun! You just get to be cultured for two hours and just have a good time and not have to think about anything. Plus, it’s always a good experience, even for someone who doesn’t go to plays often or is not into theatre typically; I think it’s just a good experience to see it. It also helps give back to us for how hard we’ve worked over the past few months because we, in turn, want to give back to the community. It’s really just a good time, and I think everyone should see at least one Tower Hill production while they’re here. You won’t regret going!
The Tower Hill Production of Anything goes will have three showings:
– Friday, April 17th at 7:30 P.M.
– Saturday, April 18th at 7:30 P.M.
– Sunday, April 19th at 2:00 P.M.
As of right now, tickets are still on sale at: https://www.vendini.com/ticket-software.html?t=tix&e=9904b4dbc79c6b97b70ad849730fa8ea
Luke Solacoff ’17