By: Aamir Rasheed
Every year, MSJ’s fine arts club, Universal Performers (UP), produces a fall play. This year’s production, Bull in a China Shop, opens in the Little Theatre starting Friday, November 9th.
UP was founded several years ago by current Band Teacher Monica Kraft as its advisor and director. Since then, UP has yearly hosted three major programs: the fall play, spring musical, and Jazz dance.
Mrs. Roundy recently joined MSJ this past spring as a Drama and English teacher and subsequently took charge of overseeing and directing UP.
Bull in a China Shop follows the actions of four elderly ladies who’ve become sensually fascinated with their neighbor, Mr. O’Finn, a detective in the homicide department of their local police station. To satisfy their desires, the women lure him into their house, entrapping the poor detective in a situation that turns out to be much more than a routine murder investigation. Throughout the play, suspense, humor, and plain audacity keep the audience on the edge of their seats. UP’s talented performers portray their characters with perfect comedic timing and stunning authenticity, leaving nothing wanting.
Behind the apparent ease and effortlessness of the performance, however, are weeks and weeks of hard work. The process to create Bull in a China Shop began in summer.
Director and UP Club Advisor Mrs. Roundy selected a production staff consisting of student assistant directors and various backstage crews through an application process and periodically met with it during summer to decide on which play to produce and to plan out the lighting, sets, and costumes for the actors.
“I first brought a selection of plays that I felt could be adaptable to different audiences and cast sizes,” Mrs. Roundy said. “We then narrowed it down to Bull in a China Shop because of its versatility and because it was a comedy, which tends to draw in audiences more than tragedies do.”
The audition process was the next step. With the help of her assistant directors, Mrs. Roundy selected the cast through auditions in mid-September. This process was special in this particular production; because there were so many talented actors, Mrs. Roundy and the student assistant directors were able to select two entirely separate casts, giving twice the number of people the opportunity to act in the play. The actors selected and the play planned out, the phase of training the actors and rehearsing the show commenced.
This phase was perhaps the hardest; starting from mid-September, Mrs. Roundy, the performers, and the production staff spent an average of six to eight hours per week for almost eight weeks in order to ready the final production. First, the cast attended a series of workshops to align the actors with the psyche of each of their characters. This was often difficult given that the characters and therefore their behavior and responses change over the course of the play. The cast then began rehearsing individual scenes as everyone became used to his or her role. Scene sets and costumes were finalized, stage movement was choreographed, and scripts were memorized. Eventually, complete dress rehearsals took place. For many performers, the monumental time commitment this phase required was sometimes challenging to fulfill.
“Memorizing all the lines is hard, but what’s harder is planning your schedule.” says Senior Cole Nauman, who plays Mr. O’Finn’s cynical assistant detective, Sherman, “Now that the play is starting, we’re currently doing about three or four hours a night, every night, until the show starts.”
The cast has spent countless hours doing what they love to do in order to create Bull in a China Shop. Senior and Student Assistant Director Noa Kretchmer, who plays the unsympathetic newspaper reporter Jane Rodgers, says that being a part of drama in high school has been a cathartic experience.
“My favorite part about acting is that I can express emotions that I can’t express in everyday life,” she says. “All of the anger and meanness that I don’t express as me, I can express as Jane. Acting is a very good outlet.”
The first show will be Friday, November 9th, in the Little Theater at 7:00 PM. And what should one expect of the play?
Said Mrs. Roundy: “Murder, mayhem, and laughter.”