Behind the Seuss: Senior musical staged in Grotto for the first time

Mia Hawkins, Editor-in-Chief

Typically simple and serene with Mary at the forefront, the Grotto erupted into color during the month of April in preparation for Seussical, this year’s senior musical. The center of the Grotto was taken over by a professional stage adorned with the neon and patterns founds in the worlds of Dr. Seuss’ famous children’s books.

Due to its better lighting and space, the Grotto was the venue for the senior musical this year for the first time ever. The most intense and eye-catching part of the set was the stage.

“We went through a few iterations for the set,” Stage Manager and senior Louis diBernardo said. “We originally did not have walls or any structures … but [this idea] was soon scrapped as we realized it was too abstract for the audience. We then saw this image online of a set … and we fell in love with it. So we decided to rent it instead of build it because in order to build it, we would have had to be there all of spring break, which we did not want to do.”

Most aspects of the set, including lighting and props, were rented out. However, many were still designed, built or purchased by the props crew.

“We pulled inspiration from Dr. Seuss books and movies,” Props Lead and junior Betty Pham said. “There were also a lot of things that we made, such as the clovers — we spent days making nearly 200 puffballs out of yarn.”

Dr. Seuss stories are undoubtedly full of color and magic that go beyond the wildest of imaginations, which made visuals such as make-up and hair extremely important aspects of bringing this musical to life. Before showtime, much of the cast was required to arrive three hours before in order to get themselves prepared and into character.

“This show was a big deal for me and I didn’t want to let the seniors down, so I definitely had more pressure put on me to well than other shows,” Makeup Lead and junior Maria Contreras said. “…Having a big crew is essential…a lot of my team members picked up the skills pretty well and the makeup process went smoothly during show nights.”

Working in the Grotto worked to the crew’s advantage in some aspects. Because of the set and everything already being on campus, they’re weren’t as limited when it came to move rehearsal and prep time. However, according to Pham, the limit of backstage area didn’t prove to be easy. Neither was the clean-up that the crew had to do in order to not be in the way during school the next morning.

Even with the pressure of responsibilities, the backstage crew was expected to keep calm and make sure everything is within their control to keep trust between them and the cast, said sophomore Gwendolyn Smith, one of the costume leads. Smith said it is all about mental preparation.

“You have to prepare to manage your time so you can get homework done and be extremely tired the whole week,” Smith said. “As a backstage lead, you have to stay calm, even if you are secretly freaking out. You also have to be prepared for tech week, which takes a lot of energy and time.”

Tech week takes place the week before the opening of a show, musical, or any other type of production. At this point, all technical elements of the show are used during rehearsals for the first time. This also about the time Stage Manager, in this case diBernardo, works on the final drafts of the cue script. This script includes all the calls or cues the stage manager has to make throughout the show. It holds a combination of blocking, choreography, and technical cues.

“…the creation of my prompt book was one of the most important tasks for me going into the show,” diBernardo said.

Despite dealing with the struggles of having to learn how to work behind the scenes, train their teams, deal with issues such as finances and design, the students working backstage of Seussical pulled together and created a memorable show for the cast to be a part of and for others to enjoy.

“It was a lot of responsibilities that made me, I feel, a better lead and a more responsible person,” Contreras said.

With more than 100 seniors making up the cast, it’s no surprise that the crew found this production to be more challenging and rewarding.

“I think the large amount of people made the entire process a lot more fun,” Pham said. “I met and formed stronger bonds with a lot of seniors, which was really nice because it was the last time I’d get to work on a show with them again. The amount of fun that comes with such a large group of people definitely made everything a lot less stressful.”