Producing an E-52 Show
I. The Proposal
The first thing in the production process is for the show to be proposed by any undergraduate student! A typical proposal has a cover page with show venue, full production staff, list of characters, rights information, synopsis of the play, the director’s concept, budget, schedule, and the director’s resume. It is presented to the Executive Board, revised if necessary, and then presented to the membership. Opportunities to get involved on production staff are as follows (but not necessarily limited to): director, stage manager, production manager, technical director, publicity coordinator, costumer, hair and make-up artist, house manager, lighting operator, sound operator, and properties master. If applicable: stage crew, fight coordinator, choreographer, dramaturge, musical director, vocal coach, scriptwriter, etc.
II. Auditions and Callbacks
Either at the end of the semester leading up to the show or the beginning of the same semester of the show’s performance, auditions will be held typically by the director(s) and the stage manager, but the production manager and other lead figures may be present. Most shows E-52 produces are straight plays, so little preparation is necessary most of the time. You will most likely do the following at the audition location:
Go at any time during the audition time frame.
Fill out an audition sheet, which asks for your basic information and skills.
Wait until it’s your turn to go in the audition room where you will meet the panel and typically get your photo taken.
The audition panel will most likely ask you to read an excerpt of the script in character to get a feel for your personality and basic theatrical presence. Feel free to move around and perform for them! From a panel’s perspective, they are not only trying to match your persona with a character, but also determine your level of comfort as a performer based on those couple minutes. Plus, they want friendly, reliable people who seem like they will get along with the rest of the cast and stay committed.
After a reading, they may have you do an improvisation exercise or some other activity involving skills needed for the show.
If any questions come up on either side, those will get answered. And that’s it!
Above all, do NOT be nervous, do NOT worry about having minimal or no theatrical experience, and do NOT be intimidated. The people organizing the auditions have all been in your shoes before and E-52 is known for being friendly. We always seek new members and encourage you to audition!
After two nights of auditions, a night of callbacks will be planned. The names of people who get a callback will be sent out after all the auditions. Callbacks are chance for the panel to see you a second time because they like you and want to see more of your personality and skills! Callbacks will most likely be a repeat of auditions but incredibly more elaborate and in groups. Plan to stay for the entire callback time slot if you get a callback. If you do not get a callback, don’t freak out. It could mean that they like you enough so they don’t need to see you again. There have been plenty of times when people who don’t get callbacks are cast. The cast list is typically emailed to everyone who auditioned right after callbacks, and then the show begins!
III. Rehearsals and P-Staff Meetings
Rehearsals will start shortly after callbacks and be established at weekly times for either the full cast or specific roles. They are usually in Perkins 310 or another classroom on campus. Many rehearsals start with updates/attendance and an improvisation game. Then blocking will begin, which is when the director starts to plan the movement and position of actors on the stage while actors start to act out their lines. There are different ways directors block: they can let the scene go and see if they like what the actors do, or they can tell you as the scene is going what they want to see specifically. The stage manager records all of this during rehearsals. Line memorization (being “off-book”) will begin immediately and there will be deadlines in the rehearsal schedule to have specific scenes memorized by. The director might also plan office hours just to help with line memorization.
During this time, the production staff (“P-Staff”) has meetings, usually on a weekly basis, to discuss plans and how the play is going. During the later weeks of rehearsal, the production staff will start to come into rehearsals for costuming, props, publicity pictures, etc. and start integrating themselves with the cast.
IV. Tech Week
This is the time when everything starts to come together. It’s also the time where all the problems arise with the show, and everyone thinks everything’s a disaster. But it all works out in the end!
It starts with move-in, usually the on a Sunday, starting in the morning. The cast is required to attend, all day. This is when the stage manager, tech director, and cast lead the process of building the set. Pre-building may be done beforehand. Flats (the back walls for a set) are transported and painted for typical shows, any big set pieces are brought in or built, and costumes and make-up are brought into the dressing room (also known as the green room). Also props are brought into the theater. E-52 owns tools, power equipment, and plenty of wood in the tech closet for building to get done. The tech director may also buy extra supplies for more complicated sets. There is usually also the first tech week rehearsal that night.
Rehearsals are then every night, longer (usually going until midnight), and more demanding. Full line memorization is always the goal by tech week. Some nights will be tech run-throughs to plan light and sound design, scene changes, and costume run-throughs, for example. The goal is to get through at least one full dress rehearsal of the show before opening night.
A typical performance weekend is Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights with a matinee on Saturday or Sunday. When you have to report to the green room to get ready, or “call”, is typically an hour before show time. The house manager sets up the venue with your biographies (that you’ve written beforehand for everyone) and your picture as well as ticket sales and any decorations. Almost all shows in Pearson and Bacchus have a short intermission where the house manager sells candy and flowers. When performances start, the director’s job is done and the stage manager is in control for making sure actors are where they need to be, when they need to be there.
Directly after the last performance, unless in special situations, the cast and production staff take down the set and put everything (costumes, props, wood, etc.) back where they belong. This is called “strike” and usually lasts for an hour or two, depending on efficiency. And then there’s the last big cast party!
Remember, all actors and production staff positions in E-52 are run by undergraduate students of all grade levels, so one production you may be a director or production manager or a position of much responsibility, and in the next production you may have a small acting role. Everyone switches roles all the time, and E-52 takes pride in being a close-knit group to allow these transitions of roles to be comfortable.