FSU Theatre Provides A Trip “Around the World”

This past Saturday, the Frostburg State University Department of Theatre and Dance closed the first show of their season, Around the World in 80 Days. The show featured a cast of students, and featured the work of three student designers and two faculty designers.

Directed by Mairzy Yost-Rushton, the play is Laura Eason’s adaption of the Jules Verne classic. Audiences entered the theatre to Phillip Schroeder’s gear-centric set. Several different-level platforms sat upon a massive moving revolved—powered by a team of student crew members. Next to it was a massive half-gear arch, and all of this was framed by a network of gears featuring the locations visited in the book; places like London, Brindisi, Calcutta, Yokohoma, New York, and many more.

Finney(left) and Serrano (right) share a romantic moment as Aouda and Fogg
Finney(left) and Serrano (right) share a romantic moment as Aouda and Fogg

Set in the late 1800’s, with a Steampunk twist, Phileas Fogg (played by senior Alex Serrano,) and his valet Passepartout (Shahzeb Hussain) attempt to travel the globe in 80 days, the result of a bet Fogg made with fellow reform club members. Along the way, they rescue an Indian princess by the name of Auoda (Mealni Finney,) and interact with a wide variety of characters—temple guards, circus owners, train bandits, ship captains, and many more. All of these extra characters were played by four ensemble members: Brandon Huguley, Danny Marken, Kahri Blackman, and Jasmine Proctor. These ensemble members had the special challenge of not only playing eight or more roles, but creating individual voices and maneurisms for these new characters. This also meant learning multiple dialects—standard British, Cockney, Hindi, and more. In addition to the host of ensemble, Fogg, Passepartout, and Auoda are unknowingly being followed by inspector Fix (Austin James,) a slightly dim-witted Scotland Yard detective who is convinced, and falsely accuses, Fogg of being a bank robber.

The fast-paced play challenged actors and designers alike—a challenge all rose to accept. Actors were faced with learning multiple dialects, tackling quick costume changes, and maintaining high-energy as they “traveled the world.” Of course, they never left the theatre, but actors were often running back stage from side to side as the scenes moved—for the ensemble, this running happened while changing costume pieces.

The costumes, designed by junior Rachel Saylor, were a challenge in their own right. Saylor was faced not only with creating eight base costume pieces, but creating dozens of additional pieces to represent different characters. Some changes were minimal—a jacket on or off, swapping a hat, etc. Some were harder, like full wardrobe changes, putting on or taking off jackets, shirts, hats, scarves, and things of the like. Saylor also had the challenge of taking period clothing, making them culturally respectful, and Steampunk, as well. With the help of costume crew and wardrobe crew, Saylor’s vision was able to successfully grace the stage.

Junior Rebekah Brown designed props and, like Saylor, had to make them period, Steampunk, and culturally appropriate. From Steampunk guns, to carpet bags, to bundles of bank notes, Brown had to create and find props that fit the show, could stand the abuse, and be easily replaced should they break. And with props being thrown, pushed, dropped, ripped, and more, this was something Brown prepared well for.

The set, as was mentioned, moved with nearly every transition was pushed by a all-star team of crew members to create a train car, several different ships, Fogg’s house, and many more. Schroeder created a set that could be changed to represent all the different locations. He had to manipulate the revolve, furniture, and other set-off areas in the down stage area to represent not only the different locations, but the traveling there as well.

The setting was also created using lights, designed by Brian Scruggs. Scruggs used many lighting fixtures, colors, and gobos (think metal circles with designs etched into them that gets inserted into the light itself) to create the locations, represent passage of time and time of day, and , of course, light the actors. Scruggs used the gobos to show forest scenes, used special lighting features to create water, and manipulated lights to emulate the traveling on the train. He used lighting to show where Fogg &Co. were, as well as to help distract from the transitions.

I was the sound designer, and, like the others, was challenged to create sounds the represented location and traveling…from trains and ships, to elephants and buffalo, every detail needed to be taken into account—culture, timing, underscoring, and transitions. Using the sound of ticking and gears moving to cover the transitions, and music to help represent location, a lot of sound went into this production.

Senior Rachel Boch was the stage manager. She was the one in charge of making sure cues were called, transitions happened, and that no one got hurt…and when ensemble member Kahri Blackman fractured his hand back stage, she dealt with that, while calling the show.

The team of stage managers, actors, designers, and crew worked hard and collaborated to take the cast—and the audience—around the world in 80 days. Every person on the show faced a unique challenge, and took it on to build an amazing world and an amazing show.

If you missed this one, there are still several productions going on this year for you to check out. Working with CES, James and the Giant Peach is coming soon.

The Fall dance concert, directed by Jamie McGreevy featuring the FSU dance company performs November 10th and 11th at 7:30PM and November 12th at 3:00PM in the studio theate.

A Christmas Carol directed by Chris McCabe performs December 2nd, 3rd, 8th, 9th, and 10th at 7:30PM, and December 4th and 11th at 2:00PM.

You can go to the website, http://www.frostburg.edu/dept/theatredance/ or call 301-687-4145 for more information.

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