After the successful production of Blithe Spirit in October, IMSA’s Drama Club has hit the ground running for Noises Off, their upcoming winter show, and it certainly won’t be one to miss. Not only has The New York Post praised the play for being “dangerously close to the non-metaphorically medical,” it will also pose many new and interesting challenges within its production to both acting and set design.
As a very basic rundown (without any spoilers, of course), Noises off is a comedy based around putting on a comedy which, in the show, is called Nothing On. As actors forget their lines during rehearsals and props begin to get misplaced, the show falls into a state of chaos, one that even flows backstage. By the end the personal lives of the actors mirror those of their larger-than-life characters: the director is convinced that the show will be a total flop, and everyone is just hoping to survive until the final closing curtain. The writer, Michael Fran, came up with the idea while watching the production of one of his shows from backstage, noting that it was funnier than the actual play, something that I, as a member of Drama Club, can also thoroughly attest to.
Acting on a Few Dimensions
Auditions for Noises Off took place from November 13–14, so the full cast has been assembled and rehearsals are already happening:
Christian Delgato will play: Lloyd, the hot-headed and perfectionist director in Noises Off
Ella Barnett will play: Poppy the emotional and skittish stage manager in Noises Off
Seth Glasgow will play: Tim, the sleep-deprived and overworked assistant stage manager
Nandini Bidithi will play: Dotty Oatly, a TV star and actress in Noises Off who plays Mrs. Clackett, the chatty Housekeeper in Nothing On
Nolan Hansen will play: Garry, a solid actor who can only speak on-script in Noises Off who plays Roger, a Real Estate agent in Nothing On
Lennon Kimbrel will play: Brooke, an inexperienced and absent-minded actress in Noises Off who plays Vicki, a girl who Roger is attempting to seduce in Nothing On
Garrett Snedden will play: Freddy, an actor with a fear of violence in Noises Off who plays Philip, an Englishman who lives out in the country to avoid taxes in Nothing On
Skyler Vickers will play: Belinda, a cheerful actress in Noises Off who plays Flavia, Philip’s dependable and chore-dodging wife in Nothing On
Byrd Gilissen will play: Selsdon, an experienced actor and alcoholic in Noises Off who plays the Cockney Burglar that attempts to break into Phillip’s house in Nothing On
Grania Kozlowski will act as the understudy: keeper of the script
All but three of the actors above technically have two different roles: their character in Noises Off and their character’s role in the play-in-a-play Nothing On. As described by Byrd Gilissen, Drama Club President and actor in the upcoming show, “In the script we switch from show to show, so a lot of the time it’s just normal script, but you have to remember, oh, am I playing this character or am I playing this character playing this character.” The actors are also facing another interesting, and quite unexpected, challenge “so we all have to learn a British accent, which will be interesting. The actors are all American but the characters they are playing are British, so we switch back and forth.”
Noises Off also has a main feature of on-stage chaos, with props being forgotten, doors failing to open and close, and actors forgetting their lines, blocking (the positions they take on stage), and cues. As Gilissen put it “the show is supposed to go wrong.” Though this on-stage confusion can be hard to replicate and keep straight during regular rehearsals Gilissen believes that “In full run-throughs during tech week, when we have everything, it will be a lot easier because right now, in rehearsals, we have no props, so we don’t remember if we have the plate or if we don’t.”
As a final remark, Gilissen added that “It’ll be a lot of improvisation and panicking,” and that “It’s definitely one of the more unique shows that drama club has done and it’s definitely a lot of fun” — two lines that sum up the comedy, action, draw, and style of Noises Off perfectly.
Large Set, Larger Undertaking
When asked about the most challenging part of the set, tech director Winston Mattson said “the set rotates, so creating a platform that is visually appealing and can move will be a definite challenge.” The entire set essentially acts as a second stage complete with its own backstage, which can be revealed by flipping the set. This rotation allows the audience to follow the drama, both on and offstage, throughout the farce. It also poses a unique engineering challenge, as described by Mattson, not to mention that the set is two stories tall.
“In my prior experience, we have used a lot of the same materials over and over again, but for this show, we will be buying some new stuff, a lot of new lumber, a lot of new paint, and [many more] materials.” Mattson said, describing the construction process for Noises Off. As a Techie myself, I have become quite accustomed to our usual building style. We normally take the already made walls and flats, and then paint them and piece them together to form a set. Though for this production “it’ll be an interesting challenge to first build walls and also doors and door frames.” Most of the set for Noises Off will be built from scratch, rotating platforms and 2nd stories included.
Due to the intensity of Noises Off’s set, the construction schedule will completely change. Instead of building everything during tech week, as is normally done, the construction of this set will be spread out over the course of many months; in fact, construction has already begun. Mattson noted, “In December we’ll finish building, we have 11 flats to build, and then we will be making doors and door frames over the week of intercession. From there we’ll build the rotating platform, and the second floor will be made around February.” The hope is to have the set completely finished by the start of tech week, sometime late in February.
“I’m kind of excited just to see the final product.” Mattson said in his final remark on the set, “It’s going to be a lot of work, this is one of the most challenging sets that, probably, theater will see for a long time, so I’m excited to see if we can pull it off and how it will turn out in the end. Our team is definitely up to it.”
Don’t Miss It!
Noises Off is one of the funniest and most chaotic comedies out there, and it marks new and exciting challenges to IMSA’s Drama Club in both its double-acting and head-spinning set design. Gilissen recommends “that people come see the first night, and then come see the next two nights because you won’t know what happened but it’s super funny.” Mattson adds that “It’s a really funny one, it’s pretty quirky, and I think that IMSA students will really enjoy it.” So, be sure to come see Noises Off when it comes out in February to support the actors and the techies, and to, of course, have a good laugh.