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Mask and Wig practices for their fall show, Conquistadora the Explorer Credit: Zachary Wasserman

Tonight, Mask and Wig will give its debut performance of its fall show, “Conquistadora the Explorer,” featuring original musical numbers, comedic bits and a jungle-themed set.

The cast, crew, band and business staff members of the all-male performing arts group have spent the last few days joining forces in order to put all the pieces together.

Load-in and Set Assembly

On Saturday morning, all hands were on deck to move the set pieces from the Performing Arts Shop on 41st and Walnut streets into the Iron Gate Theatre.

Mask and Wig rented a 26-foot truck to transport the larger pieces, while some of the smaller set elements were walked over.

Once everything was in the theater, the crew began to assemble the Mayan temple-esque set.

The crew laid out the faux-stone platforms that form the base of the set, said College senior and Mask and Wig Stage Manager Josh Corn. After the platforms were put in place, the remaining larger pieces, such as the columns and trees, were installed.

At that point, there was a lot of drilling to be done, said College senior and Mask and Wig Undergraduate Chairman RJ Wynn, but by now “most of the heavy tool work is done.”

As the weekend passed and the set progressed, the crew also touched up paint, hung the lighting above the stage and assembled the smaller set elements.

The key to getting the set ready: making it look cohesive, explained Engineering senior and Mask and Wig crew member Rafael Fernandez.

The bulk of the set assembly was completed on Saturday and Sunday, so that the band and cast could start rehearsing on it. Still, the set is not completely finished until the curtain rises.

“We have a rule that the set is not done until opening night,” Corn said.

Props and Marketing

The business staff spent the fall break weekend traveling around campus and the city in an effort to retrieve all the props needed for the show.

Many of the props are found at costume and prop specialty stores, Wynn said.

Other props, however, require different methods of acquisition, according to College senior and Mask and Wig Business Manager Shaun Alperin.

For example, the business staff went to Student Health Service in order to get an official Penn rape whistle, Alperin said. Another prop in the show is a family-heirloom shofar.

“There’s always some weird stuff we have to buy,” Alperin said.

In order to get a good turnout for the performances, members from all sections of Mask and Wig have been trying out various marketing tactics.

Mask and Wig members have been selling tickets on Locust Walk for the past week.

Additionally, members have been carrying Dora the Explorer balloons and wearing party hats in order to promote the event.

While balloons and accessories are not typically part of the group’s promotional activities, Alperin explained, the opportunity to engage in a funny “guerilla marketing” scheme this year was too difficult to pass up.

Final Rehearsals

While the crew was turning the stage of the Iron Gate Theatre into a temple in the jungle, the cast and band were putting the finishing touches on the musical numbers.

On Sunday afternoon, the cast finished up the choreography for the closing number and continued to tweak the song’s lyrics.

The cast was not alarmed that some dance routines had yet to be learned. In fact, they seemed pleased with their progress.

“We’re actually ahead of schedule,” said fall show director and Engineering senior Abhrajeet Roy.

That night, the cast met with spring show vocal coach Gene Bender, who drilled the cast on enunciation, emotion and pitch while they sang. Roy said practicing with Bender gives the cast the chance to focus strictly on vocals.

In the rehearsal, Bender told the cast members that he wants them to be a good group — not just a good college group.

Band leader and College and Wharton junior Charles Lynch was also on hand to ensure the band-composed music worked for the cast and to make adjustments as necessary.

On Monday, the cast, band and crew finally came together to practice performing the fall show.

Engaging in a “dry-run,” cast members out of costume moved from position to position in the main production numbers so that the crew could set up and practice lighting changes.

Monday’s run-through was also the first time the cast and band performed on the set, allowing them to adapt to their surroundings.

“The transition from our rehearsal space to our set always takes more time than we think it will,” said Engineering senior and cast member David Loewy.

This initial run-through takes its toll on cast members.

Cast member and Wharton and Engineering junior Jordan Mayerson called the rehearsal “a long and tedious night with a lot of downtime and repetition.”

Programming the different lighting cues posed challenges for the crew because one person was trying to set the lights while at the same time teaching someone else how to use them.

“This is crew-goes-crazy night,” Corn said.

Last night, the crew continued setting the lighting cues and running through the show. But in reality, the group is never quite ready until showtime.

“We sort of run out of time, and then the last rehearsal is the show,” Corn said.

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