Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Stage Director: Tap-dancing Monsters and Frankensteam

“If you like the film,” said stage director Rae Robison, “you will like the musical more. The spirit of it and much of the dialogue remain the same but the story is expanded, and there are different takes on some of the original scenes and characters.”

 But not knowing why fans of the movie greet each mention of Frau Blucher with a horse whinny won’t keep you from enjoying the music and mayhem onstage. “You’re going to see tap-dancing monsters and monster girls, and singing and dancing galore. It’s just so funny. Every night at rehearsals I am laughing until my face hurts, because our cast is so enthusiastic, and they come up with new stuff all the time.”

 In fact some of the cast hasn’t seen the movie. “I told them that if they hadn’t watched the movie, or watched it recently, please don’t. Because I wanted them to come in and make this their own.” “We have definitely created, scenically and in our production, a unique approach to this show you will not see anywhere else.”

 Part of this unique approach is adapting the 19th century industrial look known as steam punk. But this time, it’s Frankensteam. “I saw a painting of the monster—he was connected by metal staples instead of stitches, so he looked like a machine. That led us to emphasizing that machine style in the set and in one character’s artificial limbs, and in how we constructed the monster.”

 But that’s all that will be revealed about the monster. “We’re not even releasing any photos” so the monster will be a surprise just for the audience. In the tradition of the original Frankenstein movie, not even the name of the person playing him will be revealed. This much can be told: he is a well-known local actor.

 “We’re doing this is Gist Hall Theatre, which is a space I really like. It’s limited seating but the advantage is that you are right in on the action. It’s very participatory! Also, the way that Gist is set up we’ve been able to make some innovative design and staging choices we couldn’t have made on a regular proscenium stage.”

 “We’ve got a lot of new faces this year both on stage and backstage—it’s very exciting. These new students are bringing ideas from their community colleges or other companies they’ve worked with.”

 “We are also participating as a production in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival competition. We haven’t had a fully participating musical since Urinetown. We built our sets so we can move, so I hope we get to travel—especially to the festival in Boise.”

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