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Head Over Heels The Musical

Presented by F&M's Department of Theatre and Dance

Songs by The Go-Go's

Conceived and Original Book by Jeff Whitty

Adapted by James Magruder

Based on 'The Arcadia' by Sir Philip Sidney

These people did behind-the-scenes stuff on this show.
These people prepared and performed in-scene stuff for this show.
These people also did lots and lots to support this production.

Director’s Note

I always think about theatre-making as an intense and exciting collaboration, much of which is an iceberg hidden under the surface of the performance our audiences see. I can safely flag (no pun intended) the process of working on this show as an impressively full-bodied iceberg. Since we've all been sharing that water for the past weeks, or would be if we were allowed to share water, I'd like to collect some inspiring actions and attitudes from the many collaborators who have contributed to this process. Here are some problems we solved: how to combine live voices, remote voices, recorded instruments, live music. Where to physically record instrumentalists. What software to use. Where to locate and how to safely rehearse musicians. How to integrate remote performers. How to have performers smooch when they can't touch. How to balance a rehearsal schedule with maintenance needs for the building. How to utilize round-robins of room usage during rehearsal periods to keep everyone safe. How to mic through a mask. How to ensure that props aren't shared during performance. How and when to sanitize the objects we use. How to rehearse outside at night without lights. How to stay connected with one another in the midst of much independent work. How to make it work without a scenic and lighting designer. How to work around quarantines. When and how to rehearse and perform an outdoor show in October, when the likelihood of rain is high. How to do more with less. How to lean into the pleasure of this hopeful show whenever possible. How to keep thinking about story and aesthetics in the midst of logistics. I am so grateful for Julia, my co-creator. For Jo, the student dramaturg who brought this show into conversation in the first place. To the incredible and committed production staff team: Rob, Ginny, Holly, Bonnie. To Monique for managing a plethora of contracts. To Ali and the students who assisted him, for filming. To Travis and the Music Department, John and the Art Department, Jeremy and the Film Program. To the students most of all: performers, stage managers, assistant stage managers, prop managers, crew. Thank you for your resilience and commitment. I am so proud of, and inspired by, each one of you.

Rachel Anderson-Rabern

Vision of Nowness

Text by Johanna Bear, Dramaturg

“Reflection / a vision of nowness” is both a song lyric and a guiding principle of F&M’s production of Head Over Heels. The process of bringing this show to the stage has required the cast, crew and production staff to engage in a continual negotiation of what is possible, what is desirable, and what is safe when creating art in the midst of a global pandemic. In many ways, Head Over Heels reflects this present moment back to us: amplifying the absurdity of having intimate scenes with characters maintaining a six foot distance from one another while also imagining a world that is beginning to recognize that what they have come to know as the status quo is no longer tenable.

Video Description: The Go-Go's performing "Head Over Heels" live in Central Park in 2001.

Head Over Heels is a piece of theatre that exists at the intersections of many forms. It borrows the characters, plot, and textual language from Sir Philip Sidney’s 16th century pastoral prose romance The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia while using the musical language of 1980s glam rock by incorporating the music of the Go-Go’s. Like the show, we too are living in a moment of heightened hybridity, with many of our cast and crew learning and performing remotely. Our remote ensemble and the remote character of the Oracle act as the bridge between the remote and the in-person, the divine and the human.

Video Description: Virtual ensemble members Ellie Borghi, Elise Baer and Annie Wu work on Zoom with Assistant Director Priyanka Patil to devise movement inspired by a snake.

In addition to contextualizing the production’s history, this program also serves to document the rehearsal process as a way of archiving the creation of a new means of artistic practice for this institution. This production is an unfinished work, even more so than most productions are, due largely to the circumstances of the pandemic necessitating the planning of safeguards and due to it taking more time to accomplish less while still trying to find time for play. Rehearsals took place both in person and virtually over Zoom to accommodate actors who needed to quarantine during the rehearsal process and those who were not studying on campus during Fall 2020. Physical rehearsals rotated in and out of buildings to ensure that large groups of people were not inside for too long and that proper distance could be maintained when actors were singing. Props were sanitized after every use, masks were made and washed, remote ensemble members were sent lighting kits to use at home, rehearsal tracks were recorded, projectors were sourced, and each decision had a myriad of backup plans branching off in every direction in case we needed to pursue something else. In case it didn’t work. In case it wasn’t deemed safe enough. In case the college were to abruptly transition to entirely virtual learning. In so many ways this labor of love reflects the experiences and the realities of the characters in this show. Throughout literature, Arcadia, the place where our story begins, is a mythic utopia. And yet Head Over Heels allows us to imagine what can happen when that perceived utopia is disrupted by the arrival of a new vision of nowness, a new vision of what the future can be. It is our hope that this show transports you but also allows you to think more deeply about what it means to be making art in this moment. What does it mean to be moving through the forest and have our reality transformed around us until it is something we can only recognize bits and pieces of? Is this change something we reject out of fear or is it something we welcome as a necessary piece of what comes next?

Site-Specific Theatre

Image Description: A digital image of the design for F&M's Susan and Benjamin Winter Visual Arts Center featuring the reflecting pool in the foreground. The building's sides are white and hollowed out and curve around each other and a ramp leads out of frame to the right of the image.

As a result of necessary safety precautions, F&M’s version of Head Over Heels has been reconceptualized and restaged as a site-specific production. This decision in turn opened up numerous challenges and unexpected delights for all involved as the space has in many ways become its own character in the show. Using the new Susan and Benjamin Winter Visual Arts Center also serves as a tie between visual and performing arts at F&M, as well as requiring the negotiation of a heightened number of spatial, academic and administrative relationships beyond the purview of a show with a more traditional location. Production staff met with or engaged in email correspondence with the North Museum, the Office of the Provost, the Office of the President, the Art, Art History and Film Department, the Shadek-Fackenthal Library and Facilities and Operations, as well as managing bids from three different companies interested in providing the technology needed to make it possible to project the virtual ensemble onto the side of the Winter Visual Arts Center. Creating an outdoor site-specific production has also meant that the entire production team has had to relinquish a great deal of control to the elements and to the pandemic with the knowledge that precious rehearsal time could be further reduced as a result of unexpected weather or in case someone were to get sick during the lead-up to the show. However, it has also meant creating an environment where theatre is actively happening in the world outside F&M’s Roschel Performing Arts Center. It has meant creating an environment where people walking their dogs can take in a few moments of rehearsal, where neighbors can wander into a performance, and where the lines between audience and performer become increasingly blurred.

Performance Lineage

Image Description: A Zoom screenshot featuring the cast and crew of Head Over Heels with Original Broadway Cast members Bonnie Milligan and Ricardo Zayas.

Image Description: A Zoom screenshot photo of Head Over Heels Original Broadway Cast member Ricardo Zayas.

Image Description: A Zoom screenshot photo of Head Over Heels Original Broadway Cast member Bonnie Milligan.

Working on this production during a time in which everyone is both more isolated and more interconnected than ever before has also allowed us to become a part of the greater Head Over Heels performance lineage through a Zoom conversation organized by Assistant Director Priyanka Patil that featured Original Broadway Cast members Bonnie Milligan and Ricardo Zayas. This conversation gave the cast and crew the opportunity to be reminded of the extraordinary circumstances within which this production is situated and of its remarkable ability to connect people even when we are unable to share physical space with one another. Students were able to ask questions about Milligan and Zayas’ craft and careers as well as their journeys with Head Over Heels, as both articulated just how much they missed the community it created and the chance to tell such a rich and raucous story of love and newfound community eight times a week on Broadway.

For each person involved in making Head Over Heels “Get Up and Go” there has been an unusual and impromptu learning process, one that is made particularly challenging for the performers as they attempt to tell the show’s story while being unable to rely on many of the more traditional hallmarks of their craft. Because they must wear a mask and remain six feet away from each other at all times, each performer has had to adjust to singing and acting with much of their face obscured and with their scene partners largely out of reach. “Performing in a pandemic is definitely a challenge because of the obstacles that we’ve faced because of the precautions we’ve had to take but it makes me appreciate how much work goes into making a performance go well!” said Johnathan Screen, a member of the ensemble. “Singing with a mask is extraordinarily hard. It is so hard to get in a good breath, which, if you’re not aware, is extremely important to singing! I feel like singing with a mask brings more attention to your breathing and I think that it is something that I’ll hopefully remember when it is ok to not have to wear masks anymore.” "It is a trial and error process," added Haley McAllister, who plays Mopsa, "In the beginning, we thought that we could do music rehearsals online, but vocal aspects like pitch and timbre would sound really different through a virtual medium and make it difficult to learn. We had to find a way to be in the same physical space while still complying with safety guidelines."

Image Description: A photo of the Winter Visual Arts Center at night with lights illuminating the top of the building so that a rainbow flag is just visible in one of the windows and a person can be seen silhouetted at the base of the building.

Like Screen, McAllister has also had to learn how to sing without letting her mask affect her vocal quality. "Some songs only give you a sixteenth rest to take a breath, so you need to inhale with brevity and power," she mused, "Oftentimes this would result in me feeling like I just swallowed cotton. My mask would suction to my face to act as a barrier between my mouth and the air around me, and I would end up coughing instead of belting. Over time, though, I was able to get the hang of it!" McAllister also touched on how she has responded as a performer to the new reality of having much of her face not being visible to the audience. "When people can't see the expression on your face, whether it is due to great distance or a face covering, everything has to be bigger," she explained, "Sometimes it can feel silly because we usually only use our faces to emote, but it worked for this show because it's a comedy. The more ridiculous it is, the better! It also brought some anonymity to the show. In de-centering my human appearance, I felt like I was less connected to my own identity and more so to my character. Perhaps that is why masks are so widely used in theatre!"

Image Description: A photo of the Winter Visual Arts Center's ramp decorated with four solid-colored cloth flags - one yellow, one green, one blue and one purple.

Just as Head Over Heels borrows from multiple source texts and torques them to the point that they become something altogether new within a preexisting form, so too has this production required each one of us to become infinitely more flexible with what theatre, and our individual roles in it, can look and feel and sound like. We have all been transformed as artists, practitioners, teachers, learners, and performers by what this moment and this show has asked of us. As Pythio says, “Yet who resembles / Any of the Fools who started on the journey here?” Thank you so much for joining us for Head Over Heels. It is our sincere pleasure to welcome you into our vision of nowness.

Image Description: A series of Zoom rectangles featuring the cast and crew of Head Over Heels smiling into their cameras. From top to bottom, left to right: Professor Rachel Anderson-Rabern, Johanna Bear, Luke Solacoff, Olivia DePasquale, Helen Buscher, Annie Wu, Ellie Borghi, Priyanka Patil, Skylar Rella, Shoshanna Frank, Elise Baer, Lauryn Harper, Steven Kopits, Johnathan Screen, Haley McAllister, Ryan Squires, Charles Romano, Shelby Kaplan, Jake Miller, Sheryl Apunte, a phone.

Credits:

Created with images by DESIGNECOLOGIST - "TRIPPING ON LOVE" • Eric Nopanen - "Kick back, close your eyes, listen. Remember exactly where you were when you first heard it." • Annie Spratt - "I took this with my Mavic Pro drone, flying over this huge iceberg from the boat you see on the bottom right as my travel companions head off on a zodiac (which you can see moving away from us on the bottom left). I knew most of an iceberg is below water but when I saw it from above the sheer scale of it made me gasp!"