Friday, December 3, 2010
CCHS production of Noises Off turns audience laughter on
Those familiar with the hilarious show Noises Off currently running at CCHS this weekend understand that the cast suffers from schizophrenia on stage. Actors portray two roles: the character on-stage and the actor in his or her own character backstage. The humorous interplay of the characters leads to carefully planned confusion and chaos.
As in any comedy, timing is everything – a fact very apparent to two Carlisleans key to the success of the show: student producer Rachael O’Keefe of Rocky Point Road and stage manager Mariah Ganek of River Road.
“I come to rehearsal every day and for the beginning portion we just run lines,” says O’Keefe, a CCHS junior. After her work last year as co-student director in “Much Ado About Nothing,” she was recommended by Carly Dwyer, CCHS theater teacher, for the producer slot in the “Noises Off” production. After a short interview with the show’s director and CCHS math teacher Peter Atlas last spring, she had the job.
O’Keefe said that after the actors had become comfortable with their roles and knew their lines, she sometimes would read the dialog and the actors would just go through the actions. In a physical comedy with actors jumping between roles and physical sets (onstage and backstage) the lines, actions and cues are all intertwined. So much so that in this case the stage itself forms almost another actor. In fact, Dwyer devoted this fall’s tech class entirely to building the set.
“The stage is unbelievable,” says O’Keefe, remarking that Atlas considers it the most complex stage set that CCHS has ever produced. The set can rotate 360 degrees and there are seven working doors.
“The lead up to the show has been an unreal experience,” relates Ganek, also a junior. She’s enrolled in Dwyer’s nine-student tech class which meets in the auditorium along with many members of the backstage crew. Ned Roos, CCHS teacher and radio station manager, also has provided invaluable faculty support with the build.
“We spent the first month just figuring out the best way to build the set,” says Ganek of the tech class. The group ended up borrowing blueprints for the set from a college which had done a Noises Off production. The students then modified the blueprints to fit the unusual configuration of the CCHS stage. The group re-purposed a decagon base used in Macbeth in 2006 into an octagon, recycling pieces from other sets as well, in a process Dwyer refers to as “Frankenstein”-ing a remnant.”
Experience ensures smooth production
Ganek has been involved in high school productions since freshman year. She became involved in theater at age eight at the summer program run at Middlesex School, following in the footsteps of her older sister Sarah, now studying scenic painting at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.
Ganek prefers being offstage although she acted as a “bird girl” in the Carlisle School’s 7th grade play of “Suessical.” “I saw my friends moving things around and I realized that I’d rather be doing that than wearing a yellow spandex jumpsuit and a giant orange tutu.” She has studied many stage elements including makeup, costume design, scenic painting and lighting.
Ganek was assistant stage manager for Falsettos last year and Grapes of Wrath as an apprentice freshman to seniors who wanted to train an upcoming student. She was given the job for Noises Off this past fall. Ganek downplays her role in this play saying that the excellent technical crew support in lighting and sound minimizes the amount of work she has during the show. However, she does admit that if something goes wrong, she’s ultimately responsible.
“There are a lot of props,” says Ganek, “That’s my main job.” Some things aren’t available, or are impractical to use, such as smelly sardines, an essential prop in Noises Off. “I had the idea to make the sardines from Swedish fish, paint them gray and glue them to a plastic plate. And it’s worked so far.” She still has four props outstanding, but enjoys the hunt and the creativity.
On to the next big production
As juniors, both Carlisle students are looking ahead. O’Keefe hopes to study nursing or healthcare management. In her free time, she wants to continue theater – either backstage or offstage. Ganek is considering art school, and ultimately hopes to work somewhere in technical theater. She hasn’t decided what aspect yet because she “loves everything and it’s very hard to choose,” adding, “The only thing I wouldn’t want to do actually is stage-managing – not that I don’t love it, but because it’s such a tough job and I feel like it would drive me to insanity if I had to do it over and over again.
“And it’s not as artistic as I would like it to be,” admits Ganek who has shown skill as a painter. While she is sure to pursue backstage work at college, she seems certain that she will continue in the field of theater after her studies are over. Ganek modestly cites teaching and community theater as her potential career goals. And Broadway? Without hesitation she quips, “Perhaps!”
The show runs in the CCHS auditorium Friday, December 3, at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, December 4, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, December 5, at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $10. ∆
© 2010 The Carlisle Mosquito