Shane Embury

Student Life Editor

 In a matter of months, HVA’s musical theater group masterfully take its shows from a measly concept to a full-fledged production. From ordinary school clothes to heavy costumes and makeup, from absolutely no props to several revolving set pieces and from the floor of the theater classroom to the stage in the auditorium, these groups of students make it happen. However, all the audience sees is the final outcome being performed onstage. So what exactly goes on behind the scenes?

 Mrs. Teresa Scoggins, who teaches the class, holds auditions the semester before the show is performed in order to give the students plenty of time to prepare. For example, auditions for the 2017 spring musical “Hairspray” were held in January, but the idea for the show was announced in the fall semester so that students could start practicing for their ideal roles. Junior Chloe Freeman stated that she had been practicing her audition song for the musical since November of 2016, a strategy that certainly paid off since she earned the lead role as Tracy Turnblad.

 Once the cast is announced for a show, rehearsals start almost immediately. Lines need to be memorized, potential dance steps need to be learned and the set needs to be developed. Students organize themselves into multiple different groups so that they can work on various aspects of the production all at once.

 

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Students in charge of costumes and makeup have gathered extravagant wigs to help make the characters even more convincing. Photo by Chloe Freeman

 

 “Some people will be doing costumes and makeup, some people will be doing set design, some people will be doing art and some people will be doing set-building, so it kind of all happens at once,” said senior Bekah McNair. Many more students are involved with the production than just those onstage in fancy costumes. They depend on those who work behind the scenes, coming up with the costumes and set pieces and working with all of the technology equipment.

 For these diligent theater performers, the fateful “tech week” is the worst part of the process. It takes place the week before opening night so that the crew can work out any technicalities regarding costumes and set pieces, and they make sure the lights and microphones are working. The students often stay at school until nearly 10 p.m. on those nights, showing their dedication to the program. Because these rehearsals last so long and cover so many areas, it is stressful for the students, but luckily it frees their final performances from substantial errors.

 

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During tech week, students practice seamlessly moving the set pieces around and performing the show in such a large space. Photo by Chloe Freeman

 

 During the production, audience members may notice that the actors and actresses change costumes several times. “Mrs. Scoggins knows how to handle quick changes,” McNair said. “She’ll just keep directing the orchestra on playing the transition music until we get on stage. And we’ll have multiple people backstage to help us get everything on as fast as we possibly can.” However, there are still some occasions when performers don’t get changed in time, but the show must go on in those instances. McNair added that this makes HVA’s theater good practice for community theater programs, because in the “bigger leagues,” performers are given no accommodations to help them change in time. They will continue the production whether each person has completed the costume change or not.

 These HVA performers have a few traditions that they have maintained throughout the years. Among the most unique is the “nose bumps” that they do before performances.

“Before we do a show, we meet in the classroom and circle up and take a minute to get into character,” said Freeman. “People are allowed to pray if they want to. And then we do nose bumps which are where you walk up to someone and touch noses. It sounds really weird, but it’s totally something that we do.”

 

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The cast of “Hairspray” joins hands in a circle before performing live in the school’s auditorium. Photo by Tara Borden

 

 Other traditions include the way that the students celebrate their performances. They go to Steak ‘n’ Shake after the Saturday production and usually hold a cast party after the Sunday production. Seniors are also allowed to take a piece of the show home after their final performance. After “Hairspray,” a few examples of seniors picking a part to take home include McNair (as Velma VonTussle) keeping her Mrs. Baltimore Crabs tiara, Ben Prager (as Edna Turnblad) keeping one of the hairspray props and Lauren Fletcher (as Penny Pingleton) keeping a prop from the set piece that was her character’s bedroom. They can get these pieces of memorabilia signed by the other cast members as a parting gift from HVA.

The musical theater program at this school is a unique group with a lot of success to show, but those who are not in the class have known little about their hard work and humorous traditions. Now, next time the theater class puts on a school performance, the audience will have insight on exactly what happens to make the production such a success.

 

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