Behind the scenes at Marquette’s Helfaer Theater

Eva Sotomayor

Theater is often said to be “the greatest” of all art forms. But have you ever wondered what goes into a play?  A tour of the backstage of Marquette’s Helfaer Theater reveals everything that goes into production, from carefully crafted costumes to the elaborate, detailed scenery that brings it all together.

 

 

photos by Alex Alvarez

What do they perform?

The theater department produces five plays a year. Four of the plays are for a college audience, while the other is geared towards children, especially kids in the Milwaukee Public School System. Plays are chosen based on a variety of reasons, according to Debra Krajec, a director and assistant associate professor in the Theater Department. Of the four college directed shows, Marquette produces a play chosen “just for fun”, a musical, a Shakespearean play, and in spirit of Marquette’s “Be the Difference” motto, a social justice play.

 

Set Design 

A play’s scenery has to be as accurate as possible. When a play is selected, students in charge of scenic design have to research the time frame the play is set. The scenic designers devote hours upon hours to learning about all the historic aspects that a story denotes; every little detail is taken into account. After the set is first designed and sketched out, it’s time for the carpenters and the crew to actually build the stage. The construction of the stage is mostly done in the “shop,” which is a large room in the back of the theater. It is in the shop that the crew spends months constructing intricate backdrops, furniture and props. After the play is done, the props are saved and stored so that students can use them for future productions. But that’s not all. Sometimes, a little baking goes on. There’s a stove and an oven in the theater for scenes that require actors eat or drink.

Stage Manager 

Sitting in the upper level of the theater is the stage manager. The stage manager has the best seat in the house, but also one of the most important and vital jobs in the play. He or she sits facing center stage during the performance while reading the script. The stage manager then gives cues to the lighting and sound crew to make sure everything runs according to plan. It is his or her job to oversee everything that is happening onstage and make sure that it is all happening at the correct time.

 

Costume Design Studio

Sitting in the upper level of the theater is the stage manager. The stage manager has the best seat in the house, but also one of the most important and vital jobs in the play. He or she sits facing center stage during the performance while reading the script. The stage manager then gives cues to the lighting and sound crew to make sure everything runs according to plan. It is his or her job to oversee everything that is happening onstage and make sure that it is all happening at the correct time.

 

Backstage 

During a show there are about two or three people working backstage helping actors with costume changes or makeup. Often, actors are required to change costumes in just a matter of minutes. The stage helpers follow the cues from the stage manager in order to prepare the actors for their upcoming scenes.

 

Green Room

The green room is the “waiting room” of the theater. It’s where actors hang around until they are required onstage. Sometimes it’s also a place where actors can touch-up on makeup or on costume details, while having immediate access to the stage. The green room is located in the first floor of the theater. There is also a student lounge where actors can hang out and relax after performances or rehearsals.

 

Upcoming shows in 2012

Tickets are usually $10 for Marquette students.

“Defying Gravity”, Feb. 16-26

“Defying Gravity” is an uplifting drama based on the life of Challenger astronaut Christa McAuliffe. The play explores the human need to reach for the stars and embrace the universe beyond us. The play is a celebration of hope and portrays the message that anything can be accomplished.

“The Comedy of Errors”, April 19-29

The “closer” of the theater season is one of Shakespeare’s earliest comedies. Featuring sets of identical twins, feuding spouses and full with witty, Shakespearean word play, it is an exciting play that will make you laugh like never before.

 

Profiles

Alexandra Bonesho, Actress, Senior, College of Communication

Alexandra Bonesho has portrayed many roles in Marquette productions, most recently Audrey in “Little Shop of Horrors” and Molly in “Holy Days.” She will portray Adriana in April’s “The Comedy of Errors.” Preparation for roles involves a lot of reading. For example, in her recent role in “Holy Days,” Bonesho said that she and the cast “researched statements from survivors of the Dust Bowl, photographs of the damages, living conditions and physical effects it had on the people of the Great Plains.” Bonesho said research is essential in developing a character. Her favorite roles, so far, were the various characters she portrayed in “The Laramie Project” last February. The characters challenged her, and she explained that she had to “develop a strong sense of character and physicality that would allow me to easily switch between characters in a matter of minutes.” She hopes to pursue a career in acting.

Raquel Garces, Scenic Design, Sophomore, College of Communication

Raquel Garces was the scenic designer for the recent production of “Holy Days.” Her job was to design all of the scenery for the play, a task that required a lot of research on The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl-era in Kansas. All of the staff worked hard to make the scenery as accurate as possible, Garces explained. “From the beginning we knew we wanted lots of dust and space,” Garces said. “Holy Days” marks her first scenic design experience. She previously worked as a lighting designer and stage manager for past productions. Her favorite play at Marquette was “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” in which she was an assistant stage manager.

 

Nic Trapani, Lighting and Sound Design, Sophomore, College of Communication

Nic Trapani was the lighting designer for “Holy Days” and will be the sound engineer for “When You Take a Mouse to School.” A professional sound mixer is used to pull all the sounds together that the show needs. Trapani works with the director and corresponds the play’s sounds with the director’s vision. He is also the “resident sound guy” — the go-to guy when something technical needs to be done. Trapani aspires to work in scenery and the technical side of theater, so his current work in the Helfaer serves as great practice. His favorite play thus far has been “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

Debra Krajec, Director 

Debra Krajec is a director and professor in Marquette’s theater department. Krajec’s job as director is to oversee the general production of a play, ensuring that everything goes as planned. The director collaborates with scenic and costume designers, the lighting and sound production, as well as the actors. Krajec gives her point of view and angle on what the play should be like. Krajec has directed more than 20 stage productions since working at Marquette in addition to working as a costume designer in countless others.

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