Behind the “Birdie”

Every summer we open up the building here at PlayMakers for our Summer Youth Conservatory and demand the same kind of professionalism of high schoolers as we do of our own company members. On stage and off, each student works 8-hour days for over a month to put on a production that proudly bears the PlayMakers name. But it’s not often you get to hear from these students. This summer, as our SYC students prepare for Bye Bye Birdie, we’ve invited three of these students to chronicle their experience, beginning one week into rehearsals.

Thomas Cassidy (Mr. Harry MacAfee) is a recent graduate of Carrboro High School, and will be attending Allegheny College in the fall. He began doing theatre in his freshman year of high school and is excited to be participating in his fourth SYC production.

Brandon Dale is a recent graduate from East Chapel Hill High School, and in the past has also worked with One Song Productions, YPPC, and Barriskill Dance Theatre School. He is extremely excited to be working in the Paul Green Theatre for the first time. For Bye Bye Birdie, he is working with the incredibly talented scenic tech crew, though he can usually be found working in stage management or design.

Aria Margulies has returned for her second summer with SYC in the costume shop. She is a graduate of Carrboro High School. Most recently, she was the Assistant Costume Designer for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. She will attend Elon University this fall to study Elementary Education and Theatrical Design. She has been sewing for four years and has an interest in period clothing. She is very excited to be working with vintage clothes from the ’50s this summer for Bye Bye Birdie.

July 18, 2017 – Thomas – Paul Green Theatre

A long and difficult tech week has concluded and we are all excited to be getting into our full runs, and soon, for opening night. On Monday we did a full run in the afternoon and one in the evening, and the show is beginning to really shape up. There are always difficulties, such as quick costume changes but all are beginning to be smoothed out!

Hope to see you all at the show!

July 7, 2017 – Aria – Costume Shop

On Monday I was lucky to work on a gorgeous vintage dress from the ’50s for Kim (Lili Whittier). We worked to deconstruct it so we could rebuild it stronger, and with a better fit for the actress. The dress was handmade, which meant I got to see what finishing techniques/stitches were used, and have held up to the test of time.

In the costume shop this week we have been working hard on our MTOs. On Wednesday morning we all sat around a table and worked to hem skirts so they would be ready for the fittings scheduled for after lunch.

This week we have also been working hard on finishing the hems, waistbands, and adding linings when needed. Our plan is to finish on Monday when we will then turn our efforts to checking off the long list of fitting notes.

July 5, 2017 – Thomas – Rehearsal Hall

Everyone’s excited to be back after our day off, but we are all a little more tired than usual after Fourth of July fireworks, but it’s no excuse to take it easy, there’s no time for that! We’re ramping up the work to be prepared for the designer run tomorrow, which will be our first full run of the whole show, and where all the technicians will be present. There’s quite a bit of excitement (and nerves) about the run tomorrow. For me, there was pretty much nothing to do for the first half of the day because the rehearsal hall was in use staging the first half of Act II Scene V, so the other parent characters and I were downstairs to try to block out a rough idea for the ‘Kids’ reprise, and some general line memorization work. In the afternoon we were all upstairs officially blocking and choreographing that part of the scene and it looks absolutely amazing, it’s an incredibly fun number. After that, we re-ran everything we’d worked on, then the day wrapped up, and we all went home!

June 29, 2017 – Brandon – Scene Shop

On the first day of the show, I saw that there were only about six kids and three faculty members participating in the scene shop, and I was certain that we would never be able to get everything done in time. After the first day of tool qualifications and a subsequent morning learning lessons on how to read and write plans, make cut lists, and turn something that is on paper into a real tangible object, we were finally ready to get started on the set.

Initially we split into groups and started working on platforms for the stage, and I was still sure we would be behind schedule because of the small group and short time frame. After we finished that first day of building—and seeing what we had already built,—I was immensely proud of us as a group. That feeling was amplified even more by the end of the week when we had seen truly how much work had been done, and I was very confident of the future of the show’s tech.

All of this made me really realize just how important teamwork is, especially in theatre. Without working together, only a small fraction of what had been made would of been possible, and we definitely wouldn’t of had as much fun doing it!

June 28, 2017 – Aria – Costume Shop

We’ve already covered so much in just a week of work in the costume shop! We’ve:

  • Learned the essential stitches in the PlayMakers shop.
  • Earned qualification on the shop’s sewing machines, serger, and industrial irons.
  • Helped pull shoes from stock.
  • Started work on our Made-to-Orders—or MTOs—pieces which we’ll be making specifically for this show.
  • Celebrated our designer, Alexae Visel’s birthday

Tomorrow, we’ll continue to work on notes from fittings of the actors, planning a hit list for the weeks ahead.

June 27, 2017 – Thomas – Rehearsal Hall

This morning during check-in we set out some goals for ourselves as individuals and as a company in the coming week and beyond, which is something that I always think is a really valuable thing to do. For me, at least, it gives specific things to work towards and think about in the rehearsal process. Before breaking to begin rehearsal Jeri Lynn told us all that we’d be recorded by UNC-TV at different points in the rehearsal process for a web show chronicling this year’s SYC, and we were all very excited. After that, we took a ten minute break and then split up to the different rehearsal rooms to rehearse separate parts of the show—various scenes, songs, and dances—so we could make the most of everyone’s time during the short, four-week rehearsal process. And the day was fully underway!