The Hardin-Simmons University theater program will be performing Blithe Spirit by Noel Coward this Thursday through Sunday. The play has a small cast of only seven, but the number of people that worked behind the scenes to make this production come together amounts to upwards of 30 to 40 people. There is so much more to the successful production of a play than what meets the eyes of the audience when they watch the final performance. Dr. Spangler was kind enough to allow me to sit in on a rehearsal last week and she shed light on how important the people backstage were to making the play run smoothly.
The people involved in any play or musical are broken up into different companies: actors, technicians, set crew, designers, running crew, publicity, box office, props, makeup, costumes, sound, lighting, media, etc. Each of these companies has anywhere from one to twenty different students. Each group works individually for the weeks leading up to performance and then the weekend before the show opens, they all come together for what is called Tech Week. This is when all of the pieces finally come together “like the last pieces of the puzzle.”
Some of the amazing things that these different teams of students have done for Blithe Spirit have been building multiple 20ft walls from scratch that are specifically designed for the set, figuring out how to implement movie magic into the world of theater to make props fly across the stage and perfectly lining up the lights and sound to make the play feel like the audience is stepping into the characters’ everyday lives. Costume and prop design are also extremely detailed. The costumes are handmade by the head costume designer Richard Transki so that they can be accurate to the play and 1944 time period, even down to a specific shade of green. The props are also carefully chosen. Dr. Spangler spent one of her Saturdays running around Abilene looking for four matching martini glasses because the script calls for three different types of glassware and they all have to be specific to 1944 and the wealthy status of the characters.
Students even go as far as managing the play. Lauren Railey, a sophomore early education major from Marble Falls, and Faith Holbert, sophomore theater education major from Quanah, Texas, are the Stage Manager and Assistant Stage Manager respectively for Blithe Spirit. This means that they manage every student involved in the play and act as the connection between the director and company members. In essence, they are in charge of making the director’s vision come to life. This means hours of extra work outside of rehearsals making schedules, detailed plans for each of the different companies, and being in constant communication with everyone involved in the play to ensure that when tech week roles around everything fits together seamlessly.
Dr. Spangler shared a little about why she chose Blithe Spirit.
“I chose Blithe Spirit because it has a small cast, its’ heavier on females than males, it is in a style called ‘farce’, and our students need to learn the skills and techniques of farce and be able to perform the style and identify the characteristics. It is a very specialized type of comedy. And I wanted our entire season to be one of laughter and lightness.”
“Many people don’t know the story of Blithe Spirit….or if they do, they may have seen the movie, years ago. (There was a recent movie, but I heard it wasn’t very good! I haven’t watched it.) It is an hilarious, improbable, spooky story! Just perfect for October!! I think that people will enjoy laughing and witnessing some incredibly talented actors and technicians come together for a ghostly tale!!”
Come out this Thursday through Saturday to experience Blithe Spirit. Everyone has worked so hard to put together a seamless production, and you will have a deeper appreciation for everyone that is working behind the scenes.