Opening night is approaching fast, and a troupe readies itself for the performance of a lifetime. Most of them linger backstage, hidden from the public’s eye—some sewing, some building, some controlling lights and music. These unseen figures, alongside the actors, work for months to bring a world into existence, if only for a couple nights. By the time they are finished, they will have turned an empty stage into a home for The Addams Family Musical.
“Every year we do one musical,” said Dan Workman, theatre professor and the play’s director. “We are always looking for a musical that the students want to be involved in and shows that will have an audience drawn to them.”
After The Addams Family Musical was selected for the 2017-18 season, the actors were cast in December and production started in January. From casting the actors to designing the costumes and setting up the stage, the people involved in the production dedicate most of their time to creating an entire world out of nothing.
Sophomore Tristan Love, the actor in charge of bringing Gomez Addams to life, also serves as the head carpenter for the theatre department. In addition to becoming the Addams’ patriarch, he must also build the house in which the story takes place.
“I am in the shop working half the week,” Love said. “Working as head carpenter, I do at least eight hours a week along with rehearsals, which can be three hours a night, and practicing outside of rehearsals can be up to two hours. A good portion of my day is dedicated to getting the show going.”
A couple feet away from the neon-colored tape and the loud sound of saws and hammers is a large and flamboyant room, where sophomore Emily Costello fixes a dress on a mannequin. Her bright red lips seamlessly merge with her environment—a shop full of sequins, furs, vivid prints and textured fabrics. Behind her stands a large board, entirely filled with the details for every costume planned for the Addams family in a color-coded way. She likes to keep things straight. As head designer, Emily has to study each character and create her vision for them before deciding what clothes they will wear.
“It’s a really classic show, so I’m keeping classic elements like the color schemes in the Addams or Morticia’s dress silhouette,” Costello said. “They are characters you can recognize no matter what and you have to keep that in the show. I am keeping that classic feel, but I am throwing in things that are interesting.”
The iconic nature of the Addams family can be daunting for Emily, since she has to create characters that are familiar to many people.
w“Usually, you create everything in your mind and then you tell the audience what these people look like, so now I have a different relationship with [the costume design] because the world has told me what [the characters] look like,” Costello said.
From the color of a window to the fabric of a dress, the production team works together to decide the most minute of details to ensure the play runs smoothly. Although the audience barely notices these details, the creative process behind it requires expertise and a lot of teamwork and communication.
“Everything that goes on stage has a decision factor,” Workman said. “When we talk about the presentation of the Addams Family, when we talk about the details that go on between sets and props and lights. We always try to create a world on the stage.”
As the designers meticulously shape the lights, clothes, set and makeup, sophomore and stage manager Elizabeth “Fritz” Schumacher, went to each room making sure everyone had what they needed and staying with Emily to help her with the characters’ apparel.
“I am the person who makes sure all the cogs are spinning in the same speed,” Schumacher said. “I have to make sure that the production meetings actually happen. Once rehearsal starts, I have to have the blocking notes down for the director [and] set everything up before the rehearsal—like sweeping the stage so that no actors hurt themselves.”
The people behind theatre embody the almost miraculous ability of creating a world outside of our own and put it in front of our eyes to let us be part of it.
Historically, theatre has been a platform for social commentary and a catalyst for introspection and a better understanding of ourselves and our place in the world. The theatre department’s rendition of The Addams Family aims to encourage reflection through laughter and music.
“Part of the job of theatre is to make us question,” Workman said. “Every great theatrical piece makes the audience examine their lives and choices. It asks questions. I think The Addams Family questions [assumptions] and makes us examine our relationships with each other.”
The Addams Family will premiere on April 25 in the Edith Mortensen Center at 7:30 p.m. Other showtimes include 7:30 p.m. on April 26-28 and 2:30 p.m. on April 29.
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