Students and Faculty Work Together to Prepare “The Heiress”

By Zachary Krauss

This year’s winter production put on by the Theatre program is “The Heiress,” a play written in 1947 by Ruth and Augustus Goetz. The play opened for the first time in the 1940s and has been revived on Broadway four times since.

At Cedarville, the theatre productions are put on as a collaboration between students and the theatre faculty. The team that helps put the show on is multi-faceted and consists of a stage management team, a production team, the set-building team and the cast itself.

When students go to see a production, all eyes are on the cast and the actual performance, but many don’t know just how much work goes into a production behind the scenes. Ahna Mellinger, junior Theatre major and stage manager for “The Heiress,” said that her role in the production was a lot more than she originally anticipated.

“I love people and I love being able to communicate with everyone in the show and see everything come into play and build from every aspect,” Mellinger said. “But remembering every aspect of the show all at once and trying to pull everything together to make a great production is harder than you would think.

Mellinger said that her role as stage manager changes over time as the production grows.

“We go from auditions where I’m just trying to keep everything organized basically and helping the director to the rehearsal process where at first we’re just trying to get everything blocked and memorized,” Mellinger said. “Eventually, it’s a lot of the production side of things so making sure that I have all the cues for lights and sound and knowing what props go where.”

Alix Paris, junior Theatre major and member of the cast, said that something a lot of people don’t realize is just how much of a commitment being in a theatre production can be. From memorizing lines to spending hours in rehearsal becoming a character, the process takes weeks at a time.

“For a lot of us, being in theatre is a whole-year kind of commitment and we practice for months and months beforehand,” Paris said. “We’re prepping, there’s always a lot of people involved, and it’s hard to see that from the audience.”

Paris said that her favorite thing about working with the team backstage is seeing the cast form their characters doing all of that work individually.

“Learning lines is definitely [the hardest part] right now,” Paris said. “But seeing people learn their character and build onto what’s possible for their acting is something I really just like to see.”

Stacey Stratton, assistant professor of Theatre and director of “The Heiress,” said that the art of working with a production team is one that isn’t just an art, but rather a complex process filled with different working parts.

“I think that a misnomer about theatre is that it’s just a strictly creative process,” Stratton said. “There’s a lot of work that is done in order to make sure that the script itself is presented as the original playwright would have wanted and from the business side in order to make sure that our actors know what’s expected of them each night.”

Stratton said that one of her favorite parts of working on this show is being able to see the story become more life-like and paint a true portrait of humanity in the world.

“I love the complexity of the characters and there’s no pure protagonist that you just champion the whole way through; there’s a little bit of questioning their motives,” Stratton said. “The absolute humanity that the audience will get to see and weigh in on is something I’ve enjoyed working on with the cast.”

Building realistic characters and convincing dialogue are just a couple of the myriad of tasks that the director and the stage manager have to work together on in order to make the behind-the-scenes work morph into a fullfledged production. Professor Stratton said that she is excited to see the audience react to the world her and the production team are working together to create backstage.

“I think it’s what people don’t always understand because that’s the part that you hide from the audience,” Stratton said. “They just come in and we get to show them all the hard work we’ve put into the show.”

Zach Krauss is a senior pharmacy/music double major from central Texas and campus reporter for Cedars. He loves music, theatre, biology, community and meeting new people.

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