When the curtain rises at the
Besides the countless shows this summer stock has performed since 1959, there is a story that seldom makes the spotlight: the flurry of production work unfolding on the other side of the curtain.
For 56 seasons, prop makers, set designers, wardrobe artists, seamstresses and technical directors from across the country have flocked to
An old Studebaker dealership downtown is their home for 12 weeks. Inside the soaring space, a network of rooms buzz with power drills, pianos and dancers and the click-clack of sewing machines.
Every inch of every show is crafted in this space.
"On one magical day in May we go from seven employees to 155," said
Because the theater rents their stage from
The musicals are selected ahead of time, but actors don't rehearse together until they arrive in
"This means they are doing a lot of work on their own, going home and studying," said Clark. "It makes your head spin."
And puts a tremendous amount of pressure on not only the actors, but the production crew.
To make it happen, they rely on pros like
The technical director returned to MSMT for his sixth summer this year. Like many in the crew who forgo afternoons lolling on the beach, he works 80-hour weeks with one day off to rest. Starting here as an apprentice, the 24-year-old is now running the department and building original sets by hand.
While the current show is running he has 12 days to go from scratch to stage-ready installation. How does he do it?
"You can't second-guess your decisions. You have to trust yourself and others around you to work quickly and safely," said Stagg, poring over architectural renderings for "Footloose" this week, which opens
To make sure the Douglas fir trees of 1850's
"It has to happen the same way every night, but it's fresh every night," says Stagg, who returns each summer because of the "caliber of artists here who are passionate about their work. It's a lot more important who I'm working with than where."
For a resident company specializing in musicals, this is crucial.
"It's amazing that we pull it off in such a short time," he said.
Each show ushers in new musicians and new musical directors, leaving precious little time to be off key. "My job happens in two days," said the
"In two weeks we will have a new audience," and a musical score that shifts from the folksy "Goin' Courtin" to cutting "Footloose" '80s-rock style, he said.
"You don't think about it, you just do it," said Whitely, who returns to
Without the all-hands collaborative focus and consistency of Stagg, Whitely and MSMT Production Manager
"We are a family, a community and everyone works together. Without that there is no way this would happen," said Clark, who started at the theater eight years ago as an actor.
And for actors and dancers, some of whom rehearse for a new show during the day and assume their roles in the live show by night, such toggling can be tough. "Not everyone makes it," said Clark.
But those that do are introducing new audiences to an affordable alternative to
"For the kids, live theater is new. We want to show them that video and TV can't possibly capture the visceral feeling of live theater," said Clark.
Even for seasoned vets like
And the bond that's formed working in the trenches, away from the glamorous spotlight.
"We are all friends, which makes the job easier," said Whitely. "We keep coming back for each other."
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