Arora views himself as a method actor, an actor who incorporates aspects of their character into their daily life. Arora practiced his role by conducting similar character mannerisms both inside and outside class in order to embody the character.
“While everybody's eating, I'd usually just lay down on the couch, get really messy, start scratching myself in the back, stretch out my legs, yawn a lot, mess around with the set [and] play around with people,” Arora said. “[I'd] also talk as if I am Podkolyosin [himself] and I'm not myself anymore — I'm Podkolyosin now. I made a joke that a friend who was acting with me, his name is Kevin Ma, he acts as Stephan in one of the Act One scenes. I just called him Stephan for like three weeks just to make sure that I get myself in character when I'm talking to him.”
One of the struggles in connecting with the character Agafya was the age gap, with Agafya being 10 years older than Naomi and the time period being 19th century Russia. For Naomi, a particularly difficult part was making Agafya’s monologue about the problems of marriage sound genuine to the audience.
In order to get a sense of Agafya’s inner struggle on marriage, Naomi tried relating to Agafya with her own stressors and responsibilities in life. Additionally for Naomi, donning the costumes flips a sort of switch for her, which propels her into action.
“I never have a ritual or anything I do before — the costume kind of helps, [it’s] like, ‘Oh, you're someone else,’” Naomi said. “And just knowing that I have to go on in two seconds, so I better change now.”
“I try to read into the characters motives, what they really want out of this whole play, what they need to do [and] what they want to do,” Ramachandran said. “And then I'm just trying to find memes online that remind me of them and I'm like, ‘Let's see, what does this meme mean?’ but it's just little things [and] figuring out how they relate to other characters.”
Ramachandran’s favorite character was the snappy matchmaker Fyokla who reminded her of a stereotypical aunt who constantly gets drunk during and even off holidays. While Ramachandran found Fyokla enjoyable to play, the amount of lines to memorize and the additional lines of Arina was not easy. To keep up with the two characters, Ramachandran memorized her lines prior to rehearsals and practiced with the other actors.
In addition to line memorization, costuming also helped Ramachandran with characterizing and understanding certain characters personalities, with the clothing acting as a sort of extension for the character’s personality. Of the many clothing pieces used in the play was Ramachandran’s most difficult piece — a rose corset. Her favorite piece was Agafya’s wedding dress.
“It was one of our fastest finds from the loft and me and junior Sachi Roy, who's the costuming lead, had this kind of plan that we'd go to Joanne's and get some gold lace to put on [the dress] but by then it was too late,” Ramachandran said. “But it was really nice to find a really huge skirt and mess around with it a bit.”
After the fall play, the set is taken apart and costumes are retired to possibly be reused for the next. Arora hopes that the fall play was just as enjoyable for those who participated in it as he believes it was for the audience.
“[The] play overall was a great experience for me — I enjoyed working with several other actors,” Arora said. “Not only do I want to make a good impression on them, I want them to create meaningful bonds and relationships with me. I hope that other people for future and upcoming shows also audition so they can get a piece of the happiness or enjoyment or fulfillment that I got from doing this play.”
As actors brush make up on their faces, polish their acts and drill lines into their memories, backstage set team members brush off sawdust from wooden panels, polish wallpaper and drill screws into anchors. Set team lead and senior Jackie Yeung helmed the construction of the set and helped draft the overall layout. Yeung has been the set lead for the past three years, having worked on the set for “Into the Woods” and “Mafia” among many others.
For this set, Yeung drew inspiration from 19th century Russia, aligning the warm brown colors and structure of the set with the time period. Much of the set had an antique look, with fine beige colored detailing on the chair rails, and wooden panelling on the walls, alongside elaborate wall paper to give a sense of elegance.
A challenge with the set this time was the black box, with it being more confined and needing to be both accessible for actors and viewable for the audience. The seating was arranged where the audience was almost on the set, with some chairs even being beneath the window Podkolyosin was to jump through. Adding onto that was maintaining a high quality of detail while still remaining within budget.
Sophomore Keenan Peris took charge of set when Yeung was out. Peris helped with assembling the walls and painting the muslin sheets that went up behind the windows. During the construction of the set there were a few issues, a prominent one being the wood order. Peris had a few issues with the order with one incident in particular with a Home Depot truck blocking the office and causing a commotion. Other slight bumps in the construction was warped wood, wood filled with staples and scaling down the set to fit in the black box.
In order to depict the different personalities of the two main characters, the set crew had to try and differentiate the two sides of the room while keeping up with continuity. To establish this, the floor and core color tones of the set were painted similar shades of brown. Peris and other set members spent time matching the wallpaper with the floor and wall colors and accents.
“We had two big themes — there was a dark brown and the light brown and that could represent both sides like his side [because] Podkolyosin’s the guy basically, [is] the one who doesn't want to get married and his house is kind of shabby,” Peris said. “His side was more dark, with the floor we painted all the same, but with the bottom part of the wall, the chair rail we painted that part on a dark brown with light brown like stripes as the rail. Then for the other side, it was inverted so it's just a light brown background dark stripe.”
While Kira was initially uneasy about being in charge of the lights, but having assistants to help out has been a huge confidence boost to Kira. For Kira, lighting is like electrical watercolor and is a means of expressing her creativity on the stage. Kira believes that lighting serves to highlight and convey the emotions of characters, not only by physically shining a spotlight but also by subtly amplifying a specific feeling.
“I have two assistants ... and they were really helpful, when they came around they did stuff and you don't usually find that in a lot of assistants,” Kira said. “Sometimes they don't know what to do and they just stand around and it's a little bit frustrating but they listened to what I said and it was really fun and we got a lot of work done and we were able to joke around so it was really enjoyable to have someone else there to share your kind of love for lights and It was really fun. I really enjoyed working with those two and I'm excited to hopefully work with them for ‘Mamma Mia,’ which is our next musical.”
Photo by Sarah Young