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Chocolate bars, Advil and Pepto-Bismol Behind the curtain – Part II

July 12, 2012

Tonight, July 12 is preview night for The Mousetrap. All the pieces are coming together, ready for opening night Friday, the 13th. Drumroll….. please.

The set is fantastic, the actors ready and the dress rehearsal on Sunday was a great success. I had the pleasure of going behind the scenes at the Coast Capital Theatre to see all the nimble minds and fingers at work moving in and assembling the set, painting, drilling, climbing ladders, hanging lights, testing sounds and doing the myriad of little things that have to come together to create the illusion of a 1952 isolated manor house in the country. See Mayhem turned into perfection… behind the curtain – Part I for pictures and some insight into backstage action. It has been a lot of work and a ton of fun.

Throughout, Wendy Bollard, the play’s director, has overseen everything and everyone, making sure all the pieces come together – the amount of grey in a beard, the pitch of a voice, sight lines and the angle of walls, adjustments to paint colours, and the fadeout of sounds. A minutiae of detail that she monitors in addition to directing the actors in their roles. An exceptional jazz songstress, Wendy has also produced, directed, and performed as a dancer and actor, all of which she uses to enhance her role as Artistic Director of Peninsula Productions.Geoff Giffin, President of Peninsula Productions, is the producer of The Mousetrap. His responsibilities run from administrative matters to arranging the birthday cake, which is not to make light of his role as nothing would happen without him. Geoff tells me about the 10 foot rule (sometimes the 3 foot rule) that everything has to look realistic from 10 feet back. See if you can spot these interesting details that are incorporated into the set: a toggle (light) switch made from a tuna fish can that goes down instead of up when lights are turned on because that’s the way they worked in England, the newspaper that is a different size than those of today, and the snow that builds up on the window during the course of the play. Geoff is President of Peninsula Productions and prior to his all-consuming work for the arts on the Peninsula had an illustrious background in high-tech, including work for NASA.

Shelagh gives me a tour of her stage manager position

Shelagh Shermann (past stage manager roles include The Ladies of the Camelias and The Cat’s Meow) takes a moment from her preparation to explain her role as stage manager. Working with a headset and a monitor that she uses to watch what is going on on-stage, she runs operations, controlling the sound and light queues as well as the action. This sounds to me like a multi-tasking nightmare. Some stage managers work from the booth behind the audience but Shelagh likes to work from the stage saying, “my job is to work with the actors as well as to queue in the sound. I can’t fix things if I am up in the booth.”

I go with Jacqollyne Keath into the sound booth to watch her trouble-shoot for sound issues. She has been on stage since the age of 4 and in addition to doing sound, is an actor, singer, dancer and director. The sounds and music have come from many sources, the library, sound CDs and ones that she has had to create. She explains that the music and sounds are all queued by number into the computer, ready to go. She has the script alongside her with the sounds all marked in. When Shelagh advises her by headset “Sound standby, go “number”, then Jacqollyne hits the corresponding key and the soundscape fills the theatre.

In the soundbooth with Jacqollyne

Using her background in architectural design, architectural illustration, interior and graphic design and with a fine artistic eye, Andrea Olund, our Set Designer, has recreated an old English manor house onstage, with all the period details. In 2009, when she was working with props on the set of Waiting for the Parade produced and directed by Wendy Bollard, Wendy said to her “do you want to be Art Director?” and she has undertaken that role several times since including for Lend Me a Tenor which just finished a successful run at the Coast Capital Theatre.

Andrea and Pat check out the paint

Pat McClean has a fine eye for costume design and, with many years of experience behind her, has come up with the amazing period costumes that the actors wear in The Mousetrap. She is also a director of Peninsula Productions and a down-in-the-trenches worker behind the curtains. A fount of information and ideas, and the owner of a basement full of period furniture and associated paraphernalia, she brings enthusiasm and a long tradition in the arts to the set.

I have only featured some of the highly accomplished people behind The Mousetrap. Many are award-winning and all are very good at what they do. Peninsula Productions is blessed to have many talented and dedicated people working to put on this production. The process has meant lots of laughs and jokes, but there is also the stress of timelines that are always too short. A mixture that played out in the collection of chocolate bars, Advil and Pepto-Bismol delivered to a forever-anonymous person last Sunday.

If you are like me and have spent your time in the theatre in front of the curtain, I hope you have enjoyed this little journey behind the set. And if you have a chance to go to The Mousetrap, please post a comment to let me know what you think!

The Mousetrap previews tonight, then opens Friday the 13th and runs until July 28th. For more information on The Mousetrap please click here and for information about tickets, click here. And to see more pictures of behind-the-scenes action, click here.

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