Grace Jordan, Campus Carrier arts & living editor
Berry’s upcoming theatre production, “Through the Ages,” is a cabaret centered around theatre and musical theatre. The show includes scenes and pieces spanning from the early twentieth century to contemporary theatre.
Anna Filippo, director of theatre and the director of the cabaret show, talks about the initial formation of the cabaret show. Because of COVID-19, theatre productions and rehearsals are more restricted now and it can be hard to find a way to put on a production while creating a safe working environment for everyone involved.
“You know with COVID, back in the spring and summer, the faculty and the students were talking about what we could possibly do because we had so many what ifs up in the air, and we try to do a musical every year,” Filippo said. “We knew doing some kind of regular, book musical with a story would be almost impossible. So, we thought well what if we did something that could be rehearsed somewhat separately and then pull together and so we thought if it’s a cabaret of sorts we can do that.”
The brainstorming did not stop there. Now that Filippo had a type of theatre production down, there still was the question of what the theme would be and what the pieces would look like.
“When we decided I was going to direct it we asked the students for some ideas or kind of a theme or something you want to explore,” Filippo said. “And one of the ideas that came from the students was this sort of historical look at theatre and musical theatre and they just threw out the term through the ages and that’s the name of the show. So, then I thought it’d be fun to make that specifically American musical theatre and theatre, so we decided to start with the early 20th century and then the last part of the 20th century and then into contemporary musical theatre.”
For auditions, students were told to prepare pieces to perform that were a part of either of the three eras. They could choose from a list of pieces that were given to them by Filippo or choose their own.
“For auditions we said here is this span we’re trying to cover so we got a list and I said either pick from this list or use this as a springboard and just make sure that whatever you’re auditioning with fits in this era,” Filippo said. “The beautiful thing was people weren’t locked in to one thing, it wasn’t one script, so they had a little bit of wiggle room to decide. I’m hoping they were sort of passionate about it when they auditioned.”
The cast for the production this semester is bigger than it has been in the past and due to the nature of the cabaret, there being multiple scenes and COVID-19 restrictions, there is a lot going on behind the scenes and in rehearsal. Senior theatre major Madison VandenOever plays in four pieces in the cabaret.
“It’s been a cool process,” VandenOever said. “We have a music director and then we have our regular director who directs all the acting and so we’ve been kind of split up. Half of the cast is in the music room working on their songs and pieces, and then they’ll switch and go over to our main theatre space and work with the director on acting and movement. So, that’s how it’s been working so far.”
On top of the separation of the cast, due to COVID-19, the actors will have to wear masks not only off the stage, but on stage as well.
“It’s weird, it’s strange to have to wear a mask,” VandenOever said. “It kind of hinders your acting ability because like two-thirds of your face is gone so diction is really important, especially in our singing. It can be hard. Acting wise, sometimes it’s just like ‘well maybe make a weird eye thing there because you can’t really see what someone is doing’ so you really have to pay attention to what your eyes are looking like because if you’re not really engaging all of your face it’s going to be even harder for the audience to get what you’re meaning.”
Students will perform several acts throughout the cabaret, but there are a few in particular that Filippo believes will be well-known and particularly interesting to the audience.
“In the first act, when you think about the golden age theatre, probably most people, if they know nothing else, they know Rodgers and Hammerstein,” Filippo said. “So, we definitely have representation there. Also, there’s a show called Raisin in the Sun and we are so proud to have that in the first act. Then when we get into the more contemporary kinds of things, we’re doing some really exciting things. We have an original play that a Berry College student wrote and then we also have something really interesting. We have two students who are theatre majors. One is very good at lights and one is very good at sound. They’re going to put their talents together into this really interesting light and sound show that’s all about the technology.”
Viewing of “Through the Ages” will be available for all Berry community members Feb. 17 through Feb. 21. It is CE credit approved and can be watched over Zoom.