A Backstage “Production”



Behind The Scenes of Singing In The Rain at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina

What happens when you take 150 costumes, 23 umbrellas and 7 dance numbers, combine them with 14 crew members, 23 actors, an orchestra, amazing scenery and then mix it all together with 250 gallons of water-every night for 4 weeks?

You get Singing In The Rain! Directed by Casey Colgan it is the biggest production to date for the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina.  Now, take this show and consider the “production” that happens backstage. Brian Riley, Director of Production, calls it “controlled chaos and very well orchestrated.” The process to put a show together like this begins 3-6 months before they even go into rehearsals. It all begins with set, lighting and costume design. The process is “very fluid and orchestrated with lots of communication back and forth between the director and designers. It is a living art form, nothing is set in stone-it evolves”, says Riley. Rendering drawings of the sets are a starting point in setting “the stage” and everything seems to develop from them.

Fast forward to 6 weeks before rehearsals begin. Casting the show took place locally and in New York City. According to Jill Gorrie, choreographer for Singing In The Rain, the Arts Center has a great reputation in NYC. When auditions for an Arts Center show are held in NYC there is a buzz among the actors. Actors I spoke with were in awe of the island’s hospitality and they love performing here! Jill Gorrie danced in the Arts Center’s very first show, Crazy For You, with Casey Colgan and has since danced with Broadway national touring companies and in Europe. She now focuses on choreography and in 2010 returned to the Arts Center to choreograph Aida for Casey. Jill said, “Casey is such a visionary. I get him. He’s trusting, I trust him…and he’s just fun!”

Director Casey Colgan has been directing and performing with the Arts Center from it’s beginning. Mr. Colgan has performed on Broadway, toured with national and international companies, directed, choreographed and has been on the dance faculty of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in NYC for 30 years. Hilton Head is so fortunate that Casey keeps coming back!

There were seven dance numbers in the show and it took 4 weeks to rehearse. Since it was such a big musical they needed to use 2 rehearsal spaces. The Black Box was mostly used for dance and the 3rd floor was used for book/dialogue and music rehearsals. The crew taped the set outline on both floors so cast members could move from floor to floor and not miss a beat. The Stage Manager, Ginger M. James, has in her possession the Stage Manger book-AKA the Bible. This book is several inches thick and contains EVERYTHING – from scene blocking to lighting cues, costume changes to scene changes…any change to anything is documented in it. You name it, it’s in the Bible! Ginger has been a stage manager for over 30 years and is in her 13th season at the Arts Center.

The actors arrive and dive right in – going from dancing in the black box to singing or running a scene on the 3rd floor and sometimes head to the Bank of America Room or the Heritage Foundation Room. In between everything they go for costume fittings for 150 costumes! There was actually a third production behind the scenes with this show. Three black and white films featured in the musical had to be shot during all of the rehearsal madness. Can you picture the “backstage production” I’m talking about? To keep the actors organized and on schedule there is a bulletin board that displays rehearsal schedules, announcements, sign in sheet and more.

While the actors are rehearsing the crew is busy “loading in” two weeks before “teching” (technical rehearsal) the show. The first week lighting is hung as well as the soft goods – scenery, drapes, legs and borders. During the second week the scenery is installed onstage. Once this is all finished there is a 10 hour rehearsal for the actors to get their stage spacing set. Next up, 3 1/2 – 4 days to tech (technical) the show, a Broadway production does it in 3 – 4 WEEKS! Teching a show consists of light cues, costumes changes, scene changes, special effects (raining onstage!!), film cues, music cues, sound cues all coming from the Bible. These are long 8 hour days. Finally, they move into dress rehearsals – working out the kinks and finding the rhythm of the 2 productions…onstage and backstage.

Next up for the Arts Center Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash  February 10 – March 1, 2015 for tickets and to see the Arts Center’s season visit http://www.artshhi.com