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Behind The Scenes at The Addams Family: The Creative Process
May 6, 2022
“In reality, The Addams Family is such an unusual concept, especially for a musical. That being said, there were never any dull moments,” said Gavin Miller, a junior at East High school who played Lucas Beineke in the show.
Ever since the Tosa East Players have been around, students and other residents of Wauwatosa have looked forward to the plays, the musicals, the shows they put on. This year, members of the theatre dedicated months to preparing for their second and last show of the school year, The Addams Family. The comically dark musical was performed at East, with a cast of great talent and crews that never fail to impress with the set, production, and visuals.
All the World’s a Stage: Behind the Scenes with the Cast
The role of an actor is to be precise, flamboyant, and fun to watch. The best actors and actresses of the theatre are the ones who deliver the important work from behind the curtains to the audience before them. They play the roles they were assigned, memorizing their lines and practicing for hours to get everything right. Dancing and singing at the same time is not as easy as it seems.
“Break a leg!” is a common theatre phrase that Wednesday Addams would gladly take literally. The character of Wednesday Addams, played by Claire Ranft, was no doubt an acting challenge. It’s not everyday that a person carries a crossbow with a deadpan about it. Not to mention, her dark and gothic character is in complete contrast with her love interest, Lucas Beineke.
Lucas’s character, despite being a very average guy in the musical, also required a lot of acting skill to bring to life. Tosa East junior Gavin Miller did just that, using his experience as a Tosa East Player in previous productions including The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Songs for a New World.
“One of our first rehearsals for a production is a character workshop, where all of the cast will build their character. This might include naming their family, or three of their hobbies, anything that will help you to authentically portray your character on stage,” Miller said. “A large part of memorizing is understanding the goal of your character in a given scene, which will help clarify why you’re saying what you’re saying.”
Miller also added, “If any actor ever tells you they’re not nervous on stage, they’re lying. However, if you can turn those nerves into energy on stage, which can actually improve your dancing and singing, [it’s] pretty cool!”
There couldn’t have been such a wonderful show were it not for the ensemble. The Addams Family is all about family, living or dead, and the ancestors played a vital role. The ghastly complexion and the unique outfits suggest a diverse backstory with the Addamses. Who knew that Elvis was an Addams? The sheer number of ancestors made choreographing numbers a challenge—but also something everyone enjoyed.
“We are in a bunch of group numbers with pretty much the entire cast,” said Jenna Wood, an East freshman and an ancestor in the ensemble. “It’s been pretty cool. We have a really good group of people, I’ve been enjoying it a lot. It’s a lot of fun, coordinating with everyone and working with the dances at the same time—it’s been fun working with everyone.”
It was also a large task to make everyone look like a ghost.
“[The] costumes [crew] put together all of these white outfits for everyone … all the ancestors have a different way that they die. The character that they come up with goes into their makeup and what they look like.”
The actors revealed that the process is fun but also a little crazy. They noted the environment that they work in as well as the effort that goes into it.
“Everyone is so supportive. No matter what you’re doing within theatre, everyone always has your back. It’s always chaos everywhere when leading up to opening night, but the process is so much easier with the incredible community that we have,” Miller said.
Behind the Curtains: Behind the Scenes with the Crew
When it comes to a crossbow, plenty of graves, an expansive stair set, and 30 faces to paint completely white, there’s no way the show could go on without the amazing crew behind it all. Crews are an essential part of theatre, making it possible for the performance to seem as high budget as it appears. There are sixteen crews who work with great effort to make the show look as high quality as they can.
The different crews have their respective roles, responsibilities, but also special environments. Paint Crew Head Isabel Waier commented about what she enjoys about the painting atmosphere, “I really like how chill the atmosphere is most of the time. From the start of freshman year, I never felt like I needed to be good enough at painting in order to be worthy of being on paint crew. It was just more about … are you willing to be there and do the work?’”
“So a lot of what our job is, is … making what construction makes, look pretty. We also do work on the marquee; so we make a giant poster that goes on the outside wall of the school and occasionally we do get to paint the floor of the stage if we have time,” said Waier. “They add life to the set. With The Addams Family, you wouldn’t be able to tell … that [a building is] a house … without the paint. You need the colors and the patterns that paint adds, in order to really feel like you’re seeing the play for what it is.”
Another group that serves a great purpose in the show is sound. Sound crew makes the thunder strikes possible and keeps the show alive and moving. It’s almost magic, and the crew members can attest to that. “My crew helps to make sure that all sound equipment is working,” said Audrey Hardman, a member of sound crew. “That includes the mics on the actors, the pit, and any monitor or speaker backstage or in the house.”
Although sound is often overlooked by most, we would know the difference if there weren’t any sound crew behind the show. But what actually happens during the show?
“During the shows there are many different tasks that I can do being a part of the sound crew,” Hardman mentions when asked about the tasks behind the scenes. “Most of the time I sit in the booth and script read, or I sit backstage or the pit and help if there are any problems with people’s mics or the pit equipment.”
Drumroll, Please! : Behind the Scenes with the Pit
The pit orchestra for The Addam’s Family included around 30 student musicians and a few adult musicians from the community, each one of them providing unique details to the sound of the show. This year’s spring musical provided a unique challenge for the theater: space. The band would typically play in the extra space behind the curtains. However, due to the larger cast, Pit Conductor Mr. Krubsack and Director Ms. Jaskulski relocated the pit to the orchestra room to keep live music a part of the production.
One role of the musicians in the pit is to make sure that there is a good sound to add weight and depth in a show’s soundtrack.
It’s very important to evoke the right feeling when playing, and this is no doubt a tough feat for these musicians to perform; emotion is a hard thing to capture in instruments and music. Though the pit may not be seen by the audience, they show themselves through the flowing, skillfully played music all throughout the production.
“My favorite part is working on the music with all those involved in the musical. The music is so fun and provides a big challenge for the pit musicians,” said Mr. Krubsack, conductor of the symphony for the show.
“It is probably the hardest music some of them will ever play and the progress they make from the first rehearsal to the last performance is really inspiring. This all makes it very gratifying for me to conduct the pit.”
Despite there being extra work to make the pit’s relocation successful, according to the conductor, this was not the main challenge.
“The main challenge is how the pit is able to communicate with the cast on stage as they are performing. Since the music the pit is playing needs to go along with the actors on stage, there are a few things we are doing,” Mr. Krubsack revealed. “First, there is a camera set up on me in the orchestra room that projects to a tv screen in the auditorium. The actors see this screen when they are on stage and are able to take cues from me in real time.”