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Theater students 'light up' during Interim
February 6, 2012
While many St. Olaf students went to their Interim class expecting to take notes, Kate Fridley '14 showed up to class each day without a notebook, ready to put up stage lights and play her clarinet.
Fridley was one of 17 students who spent Interim in the advanced Producing Theater course that integrates musical and theatrical projects into an academic setting. Their class time was spent on all production elements — lighting, sound, cast, props, set, costumes, and publicity — for the musical A Chorus Line that opens Friday. Although the class is offered every January (see last year's production), this year Professor of Theatre Karen Peterson Wilson '77 chose to tackle a full-scale musical, which required several students to work double duty by playing in the pit orchestra in addition to completing their crew responsibilities. The combination made for an "intense but fun Interim," says Fridley. (At St. Olaf, Interim refers to the month of January, the period between semesters I and II when students concentrate on one class.)
|To develop the challenging choreography in A Chorus Line, the cast is working with guest artist and Emmy Award-winning choreographer Linda Talcott Lee — the choreographer's fourth production at St. Olaf. Photo by Kyle Obermann '14.|
Out of the 15 pit orchestra members, four were enrolled in the class: Fridley, Noah Anderson '12, Mark Lee '14, and Neil Hulbert '13. Apart from practicing their instruments, these students worked on lighting design four to five hours a day, five days a week.
"I had no idea how much work goes into lighting and set design. It's really hands-on,” says Fridley. Anderson, who has played in many pit orchestras but has never been involved behind the scenes, says that seeing a third perspective helped him appreciate all the intricacies that go into lighting a show, especially for such an ambitious production.
During a crew meeting Ben Golden '12, the show's head lighting designer, pointed to a large blueprint of the lights spanning the stage ceiling as six students cheerfully raised lights and climbed scaffolding while Stevie Wonder hits played from backstage. He explained how A Chorus Line requires the operation of nearly 200 light cues, a task that's helped by automated "intelligent lights" that can be controlled from the control booth. "This is one of the most complex lighting designs the Theater Department has ever done," he says.
When orchestra rehearsals begin, the four musicians taking the class have fewer lighting crew duties as they shift their focus to the music.
A Chorus Line, which focuses on 17 Broadway dancers auditioning for eight coveted spots, requires demanding musical numbers to match the upbeat dance routines. Henry Lewers '12, the musical director, describes the music as "jazz- and pop-influenced and suited to different styles of dancing, like ballet and jazz." To develop this challenging choreography, the cast is working with guest artist and Emmy Award-winning choreographer Linda Talcott Lee in her fourth production at St. Olaf.
Because of St. Olaf Band rehearsals, class, and homework blocking up fall and spring schedules, political science majors Fridley and Anderson say they never expected to play in a St. Olaf musical. But this course has given them that chance. While she has enjoyed exploring the ins and outs of stage lighting, Fridley says she looked most forward to tech week — an intensive rehearsal time when all elements of the show came together: "We really got to bond over the music and rehearsals." And she doesn't even have to take notes.