Before the Curtain Rises

From Susie Smith

As the Production Manager of this year’s Education Summer show Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Jr, I’m honored to work with a wonderful staff of dedicated volunteers. I’d like to take a few minutes to give you some insight into what happens before the Curtain Rises.

We’ve been discussing this show for over a year with Grace Billingsley (Director) and I having our first real planning meeting last July. It’s fun to go back and look at our initial discussion points and see how far we’ve come already. I think it’s interesting how producing a show parallels so much to coordinating weddings. Both things I have done in the past. For example, you first choose the perfect show (select your bride/groom). Next you need to set a budget, pick the dates and get a venue reserved. All of this is generally done 9 – 12 months out. There are many more similarities, but I’ll let you pick them out as you read ahead.

Next you start working on putting your Production Team together. For The Little Mermaid our staff is strong. We have an amazing directorial staff, including a Director, two Assistant Directors, a Musical Director and a Choreographer. The remaining team is equally amazing in roles such as Set Design, Set Construction, House Manager, Box Office Manager, Costumer, Properties, Hair/Wigs, Make-up, Marketing.

We began meeting as a team last November (over 7 months before the show) to discuss Grace’s vision and how to make that come to life. Many hours have already gone into discussing, planning and preparing for this show, but we have only just begun. We are 3 months out and the fun is just beginning.

There are also challenges to face. This year in particular has been difficult finding Technical support and we have also lost a couple of people along the way, including our Stage Manager. Fortunately these positions have now been filled and our team is complete! Marshfield Community Theatre is also tackling 2 big shows this summer, as Hello Dolly will have its run just two weeks before Mermaid opens. This puts a strain on volunteer resources, such as marketing, costumes, props and space. Rehearsal space will need to be shared, but in all reality, Mermaid will need to rehearse off-site as our building is just not big enough for our large cast of 73.

Plan, plan, plan and then it’s time for Auditions. This is where we find out who will be in our cast and in what roles. It’s such an exciting time so we can finally put names and faces to the parts we have been discussing. After Auditions, our actors are in full force as they have rehearsals 3 – 5 days a week and spend hours practicing on their own time. There will be songs, lines, blocking and choreography to learn. While they are doing their job, the Production Team carries on as costumes are made, the set pieces are built, props are gathered/made, preparing for promotional engagements (including the 4th of July parade) and marketing the show.

Two weeks before the show, we get to move into our venue and the real fun begins as we add in all the technical elements, like sound and lighting. The Stage Manager and Technical Director take over and make the magic happen. In the lobby, the House Manager will work on making the experience even more magical as audience members can buy show related items from the boutique as well as send roses to the cast. Our Box Office staff and ushers will help you get your tickets and to your seats. Don’t forget about intermission, where show-themed food items can generally be found. Behind the scenes of every show, you have the stage crew moving set pieces around and making sure props and actors are where they need to be. Our costumer, hair and make-up people help our actors look their best on stage. 

Just like a wedding, unless you are involved behind the scenes, you don’t really know what goes into making a masterpiece. By the time our audience sees this sure-to-be magnificent show, all the hard work will have been done and the cast will be ready to enjoy lighting up the stage and providing high-quality entertainment.

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