Theatre UCF gears up for summer comedies
Directors, actors and stagehands are bracing themselves for the beginning of UCF's repertory season, which will showcase both a period play and a more contemporary musical.
On Thursday, the season will begin with The Importance of Being Earnest, one of Oscar Wilde's most well-known comedies. The story follows two men who find themselves trying to court two ladies through the use of false identities.
On Friday, the musical Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up? will take the stage. Written by John R. Powers, James Quinn and Alaric Jans, the musical takes place in 1950s Chicago at a Catholic school and follows eight children as they mature into adults and meet up at their 10-year reunion.
Both productions are sharing the main stage, alternating days of the weekend until July 19. Earnest will then be reprised on stage from Aug. 27 to Aug. 30.
Because of the constant back and forth between the two shows, it was crucial to make the sets as efficient as possible. The actual background used in both is the same, allowing for the look and feel to change with a quick refurbishing.
"There's something really fun about seeing a space transform. You have the same basic structure that supports two entirely different shows," said Earnest director Mark Routhier.
The vast difference in time periods between the two productions means working twice as hard to portray the times truthfully, yet economically, as seen in the works of the costume department.
With a budget of approximately $200 per dress for the Victorian-era Earnest, students in the theatre department often make the costumes by hand. One dress can take up to 120 hours to complete, including the time taken to design, measure, sew and detail, said Dan Jones, costume shop manager and designer.
Amanda Tavarez, a senior BFA acting major, will wear period costume for the first time for her role as Gwendolen Fairfax in Earnest. To stay true to the times, she has a corset, bum pad, slip and a petticoat under her clothes, which also helps to reinforce the etiquette of a high-class lady.
"I think it helps, but it's also a challenge trying to say such a wordy play and be constrained in the corset," she said. "It makes a big difference to things you'd normally do, like you would normally sit and slouch, and it just helps tremendously."
Because of its relative modernity, the wardrobe for Black Patent was mainly found off the racks. The girls will wear crinoline under their dresses to give them the correct shape for the 1950s era.
Theatre UCF chooses to put on these repertory shows in the summer in order to prepare the students for working in professional theatres, many of which put on multiple shows at a time in summer, said Heather Gibson, marketing director for Theatre UCF.
Rehearsals can often become whole-day affairs, especially as the opening nights get closer. Many of the actors have a role in both shows, whether they're on stage for both or working backstage on the other.
Trevor Starr, who plays Algernon Moncrieff in Earnest and Louie Schlang in Black Patent, is performing in his first repertory season and credits focus and rest on getting through the hectic schedule.
"It's a very busy rehearsal process, so on top of just making sure that you're resting and that you're taking care of yourself, it's important, especially [that you're] reviewing everything after rehearsals and you're really processing what you just worked on for the past five hours, so that when you come back in you're not just starting from square one," said Starr, a junior in the BFA musical theatre program.
David Klein also acts in both productions, playing the butler Lane in Earnest and Eddie Ryan in the musical. He likened being in the repertory to working a full-time job, but one that will give him substantial experience for when he begins to work in summer stock theaters.
"I think it's really great to work with everyone and work with people I haven't worked with before. That's a really great thing, that's what I really enjoyed this summer," said Klein, a second-year transfer student also in the BFA musical theatre program.
Director Routhier is hoping to see audiences connect with his show, as he's found many of the themes still ring true today.
"There are so many lines [and] observations that resonate today with as much truth as they had then and it is 120 years later. It's one of the reasons that the show feels fresh," he said. "In producing classics, you run the risk of the production feeling like a museum piece. I am hoping that we've made this fresh and brought our Wilde's genius and accessibility."
Noelle Campbell is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @Noellecampz or email her at NoelleC@CentralFloridaFuture.com