Monday, August 13, 2012

"Seussical" Through the Eyes of a Summer Player

By Jamie Ostmann

“Alright guys!” announces Deb Chesterman, the superhuman stage manager of South Coast Repertory’s biggest Summer Players show, Seussical, “Go to dressing rooms, get dressed, then come sit in the house!” This is how she starts a typical day during tech week.

Tech week is when costumes, scenery, lights, make-up, props, and sound are added to the show. And what a show this is!

Kelsey Bray (Jojo) gets her body mic put on. Kailyn Dunkleman (Mayzie) looks on.
Hamilton Sparks (Who/Ensemble) and Brooke Boukather (Jungle/Ensemble) prepare for a rehearsal.
Everything about Seussical is huge, starting with the sheer number of bodies in the cast: 31 people ages 10 to 22. And everyone is expected to do his or her part to make the show run. 

“If one of you is at 50% energy level, it brings the entire cast down from 100%,” Hisa Takakuwa and Erin McNally, our dedicated directors, constantly remind us.

Erin McNally gives notes to the cast. In the background, choreographer Kelly Todd works with the Bird Girls (Shane Iverson, Shannon Booth, Lauren Cocroft, and Taylor Serafin.)
Seussical requires a lot of energy. It’s a story told through movement and song, with about 20 musical numbers. And for the first time, Summer Players has its own choreographer, Kelly Todd! Kelly, assisted by dance captain Kailyn Dunkelman who plays Mayzie, makes sure the movements are flawless. They incorporate different styles of dance into the show: from a salsa “Amayzing Mayzie,” to a boogie in the opening number, to a Charleston in “Green Eggs and Ham.”

In addition to looking good, we have to sound good. As musical director, Erin McNally works with all of us not only to get the notes right, but also to put “heart into our voices.”

Arranger and orchestrator Bobby Nafferette teaches us the notes to the songs, making intricate four-part harmonies easy to sing. However, no matter how loud you sing, it’s hard to make your voice heard in a big theatre like the Argyros. So this year, thanks to the helpful sound technicians, actors who sing a lot of solos wear body mics.

Christopher Huntley and Guy McEleney (Wickersham Brothers) are all set to "Monkey Around" in the amazing costumes created by designer Sara Clement.
Some aspects of Summer Players shows remain year after year, but never cease to amaze us. The perfect examples are the costumes and set designed by Sara Clement. The actors look like they stepped off the page of a Dr. Seuss book, for sure! And the set—from its red-and-white circus tent to its green and orange climbable vines—makes inhabiting a Seussy world so much easier.

So we “Seussians,” as stage manager Deb calls us, continue to try to make the world of Dr. Seuss come alive through words, color, song, and light.

Every day, we get better, striving towards the perfection we dream of one day reaching, working hard, creating memories, and most important, enjoying ourselves. And as Dr. Seuss himself said, “Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one!”

Jamie Ostmann plays several different roles in Seussical, a production of SCR’s conservatory. Excerpted from her summer blog.

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