Behind the Scenes: M-A's Hairspray

By Aaron Zheng and Rebekah Lindsay

M-A’s bear stage drama, looking to redefine the meaning of school plays, opened Friday night with their rendition of the musical, Hairspray, based on John Waters’ film from the 80s with the same name. Set in the 1960s, Hairspray aims to raise awareness about political issues like race and body positivity which are still relevant in our society today.

Costume designer, Sharon Peng adjusts costumes backstage.

Their extensive nights of rehearsal have paid off, and the message of the play is evident. Francesca Battista, a third-year drama student at M-A, said “it’s both powerful to see how far we’ve come in terms of advances in political rhetoric and social rhetoric and the way we actually maneuver through society.”

Actresses Melissa Mendoza, Sophie Glinder, Francesca Battista, Alexandra Ornes, and Gigi Fierro pose backstage before their final dress rehearsal.

Watching the show is watching the moral shift between generations. This educational magnum opus strikes a string within American culture that both the young and old should watch to learn. Danette Bathauer, the director, emphasized “you can always find a way to relate to a show but this show in particular is very timely in our political climate.” The play is made by and made for students from every generation. Actress Sophie Glinder agreed “everyone has different experiences. Everything we’ve done has made us who we are.” John Mathews, the parent of actor Blake Matthews, stated the play was “very emotional with all the civil rights stuff. The characters have so much courage to step up — that’s what gets me.”

Actors listen to the director of the show, Danette Bather, during a cast meeting.

When watching the show, it’s no surprise that with a nonstop soundtrack and smooth transitions, the musical could be life changing for both the actors and the audience. Lauren McDonnell, a spectator of the arts, stated, “it’s the sync between the orchestra, actors, props, lighting, which makes the script turn into an authentic experience.”

Crew members, Hannah Chew and Spencer Dryer operate the spotlights above the tech booth.

Leo Freedman, a musician in the pit orchestra, stated, “it’s sort of funny because I’ve never seen the show. We are about a 20-man team cramped in a bunker-like room, playing for hours on end and playing for the last 3 weeks every day. We can’t even see the show from our angle. It would be funny to watch back recordings and be like this is what it looks like to see the show for the first time.” Alperen Alan, a colleague, elaborated on the pit’s contribution to the show as a whole, “it’s exciting being in sync with the actors. We feel the clashing cymbals when actors’ conflict, we empathize when feelings turn melancholy, we beat the drums rapidly when we sense despair.”

Musical director, Kent Kurrus conducts the pit orchestra in the final rehearsal before opening night.

Credit is also due to Kate Stoneham, a stage manager and the right-hand person to the director. She said, “when it’s tech week, my job gets a whole lot harder because me and Ken are technical directors, he and I put all the cues together. There needs to be a light cue, sound cue, spotlights, what needs to go on stage, what needs to be offstage, rigging cues, etc. Especially for this play we have turntables, so we need to make sure which side is turned toward the audience.”

Crew members Maura Butzlaff and Jacob De Geus put the final touches on the set.

Freddie Campbell, the light operator for backstage, said “for Hairspray specifically, the cast is a lot more diverse than it’s ever been. Everything makes lighting a lot harder, which is why this year’s show is much harder than previous shows. Aaron Grinstead, who runs the day to day operation for the theater believes that “the number of kids that came out this year is the most unique aspect. When Ms. Bathauer and I first came to M-A, we were getting around 12 to 15 kids tops, now I think we have 125 kids. We’re becoming better and better every day; the sets are becoming more and more technical; we foresee a future unbounded with possibilities.”

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