Painting sets, writing sketches, arranging music and compiling advertising materials — it’s all part of the lives of The Mask and Wig Club members three weeks before the troupe’s musical comedy fall show.
Since auditions, each section of the all-male group — split into the cast, band, crew and business staff — have been working to assemble their respective aspects of the production.
In the paint-spattered Performing Arts Shop on 41st and Walnut streets, Mask and Wig crew members meet every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday to build the fall show’s set.
Every year, according to Stage Manager Josh Corn, it is up to the crew to decide the show’s theme. The ideas are then ran by the show’s director, who makes sure the cast can write segments for the show — primarily the opening and closing numbers of each act — that fit the motif.
“Once the theme is set, the senior crew members come up with a blueprint for the set design,” Corn said.
This year’s theme is based on the idea of a temple in the jungle. The set will include a non-specific temple, columns, an ivy tree and a “few surprises you’ll have to come and see,” said College senior and Mask and Wig Undergraduate Chairman R.J. Wynn.
The crew uses a variety of materials and techniques to transform the stage of the Iron Gate Theatre into a jungle.
In order to make the set look like it is made of rocks, baseboards are first painted in a layer of grout and then sponge-painted in multiple colors.
The tree consists of a structure made of a wooden frame and chicken wire, which is then covered with paper-maché-type muslin strips.
Typically, Corn said, freshmen and sophomores primarily paint and use the chicken wire while upperclassmen choose their own tasks. However, he noted, “we all share the responsibility.”
Regardless of the task, the crew members are likely to leave building time dirtier than they entered it.
“We try and make it as messy a process as possible,” Corn said.
On the stage of the Iron Gate Theater, Mask and Wig cast members sit in a circle and read off ideas for sketches they have generated prior to the session.
Some ideas receive chuckles from cast members, while others — such as a sketch based on Samuel Jackson Five and a spoof of Dateline NBC’s “To Catch a Predator” — are quickly tossed aside.
Following the pitches, the cast members break off into four smaller groups to create scripts for some of the potential bits. These smaller groups include both younger and older cast members, said Fall Show Director and Engineering senior Abhrajeet Roy. However, only the upperclassmen work on the opening and closing numbers for the show — including the tap-dance routine.
The four groups present the fruits of their labor — as well as a few of the sketches they wrote the night before — at the end of the rehearsal.
Despite laughs and snaps of approval from other cast members, most of the sketches written and performed during rehearsals will not make the final show. Roy said only about 20 bits will actually be used.
“It’s harder to get a bit into the show than it is to swallow your own esophagus,” joked cast member and College sophomore Alon Gur.
A good way to not have a sketch rejected? Avoiding toilet humor.
While Mask and Wig is “not technically” prohibited from writing sketches that are extremely explicit or disgusting in nature, “obscenities and gross-out humor get old really fast,” said Engineering senior and cast member David Loewy.
Roy said he hopes to finish the writing process by the end of the week.
“It’s going well,” Roy said of the show’s development. “Everyone’s really excited.”
Mask and Wig’s business staff has spent the past few weeks putting together the program for the fall show, according to Business Manager and College senior Shaun Alperin.
In order to create a thick program, the business staff members have been distributing advertising materials to local businesses and student groups, sending mailings to Mask and Wig alumni and family members and soliciting advertisements from other student groups that Mask and Wig in which members participate.
In addition, Alperin said, the business staff helps decide on the title of the show and the artwork for the program, although these choices are made in collaboration with members of the other sections.
Unlike the cast, the band is only starting its rehearsals this week.
But the lack of formal rehearsals does not mean that the musicians have not been busy preparing for the fall show, commented Band Leader and College junior Charles Lynch.
During the overture, entr’acte and filler time between bits, the band will play cover songs. The members have spent some time sharing and listening to different songs in order to determine which ones they will use in the show, according to Lynch.
Once the songs are chosen, the band needs to arrange the music “in a written form everyone in the band can understand and play,” Lynch wrote in an e-mail. Since rehearsals can run smoothly after the music is arranged, there are no problems with starting rehearsals only three weeks before the show.
Aside from the listening and arranging sessions, the band has also been getting together to socialize.
“We’ve had a few social events together to get back into the feel of being in a band together and to help get the freshmen acquainted with what we do,” Lynch wrote.
Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.