The View from the Pit
I love live theatre, especially musical theatre! I love getting to the final product and knowing all the weeks of hard work that were put into that performance. I love watching actors and singers learn, practice, grow, conquer, and create. I love working with musicians to build the musical foundation for the folks on stage. I love watching the collaboration between cast, crew, orchestra and audience. I love it all, because you need it all to bring a story to life.
All of this has happened at Waukesha Civic Theatre the past couple months to bring The Goodbye Girl to life on the stage. I am blessed to be the music director as well as one of the musicians in the pit. This show is orchestrated for 21 people, and we’re doing it with 8. That requires a lot of creativity with the instrument books and very talented and flexible players. Luckily, we’ve got all of that. The members of the orchestra have worked hard to create the proper blend to support the style of the music and give the performers and audience a full sound.
Add to the mix the fact that we’re playing in a room separate from the theatre space and you’ve got the recipe for an exciting adventure. Our 8-piece orchestra spends show time in a corner of the back studio. Each of us is mic’d and the sound is piped into the theatre. Monitors on stage help the actors hear what we’re playing, and monitors in our corner help us hear what’s happening on stage. In addition, our conductor has a video monitor to watch the action, as well as a head-set to communicate with our stage manager. The actors on stage get no visual cues from the conductor.
What makes a system like this work? TRUST, FOCUS, FLEXIBILITY. Every person has to trust that every other person will do his or her job. The actors, the orchestra, the stage manger, the sound technicians – we’ve all done our prep work to make the lines of trust work. Focus is also a huge piece. Because we can’t rely on visual cues when something goes wrong, we must stay focused on the present. Again, the key players in the game are aware of everything going on around them so that they’re ready to go at all times. And flexibility is a must. Every person has to be willing to adjust to anything and everything. Missed lines, set pieces that get stuck, a lengthy costume change, a dropped beat. Anything can happen. And it probably will, which just adds to the excitement.
It’s a bit crazy, I agree. But sooooo much fun! Knowing that we’re all invested in doing our part to give our audiences the very best we can makes it all work. We’re a great team, and we’re having the time of our lives! See you at the Theatre!
~Anne Van Deusen, Music Director