Pre-show Preparation at Footloose

Austin Schouman, Entertainment Editor

For all the work that goes on during the actual performance of Footloose, a whole lot more goes into pre-show preparation. Entertainment Editor Austin Schouman embedded himself backstage in the two hours leading up to showtime to see exactly what goes on.

2 hours to curtain

Actors, actresses and members of the tech crew (called techies) arrive. Immediately upon arrival, performers head to the Choir Ensemble room to get ready. They start off with putting on the costume they’ll need to be wearing for the first scene. Since there’s still over two hours until the curtain comes up, few actors are nervous. The feeling in the air is one of excitement. While the actors get dressed, techies begin work on the set. The first task that needs to be accomplished is moving the set pieces in position so they can be easily rotated in and out of scenes. A common phrase in theater is that without techies, actors would be naked and in the dark. There’s definitely a lot of truth in that statement as techies spend most of their time running around helping with anything and everything.

1 hour, 45 minutes to curtain

Due to a limited number of makeup artists, performers generally have to wait to have their makeup and hair done. Drama Club spends about $400 on stage makeup. Costumes come from thrift stores, parents’ closets, and the performers themselves. To speed the process up, several actresses help out with makeup. Techies also receive earpieces to quickly and easily receive instructions from several directors.

1 hour, 20 minutes to curtain

Tech t-shirts are handed out to the tech team. Director Rita McLary says the t-shirts are handed out to recognize the hard work the crew puts in.

“Techies do a ton of work for little or no recognition,” McLary said. “They don’t get any sort of applause, and a lot of people don’t know that they put in just as much work as the performers on stage do. So handing out t-shirts is a nice way to recognize their contribution.”

The actors and actresses that require the least amount of clothing and makeup start to look stage ready. It takes anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour for a performer to go from modern style to that of the 80’s, depending on the role. It’s around this time that the ensemble room officially begins to reek of hairspray. My eyes were watering just standing near it.

1 hour to curtain

Final checks are performed on all the moving parts of the stage. This includes the Footloose sign, several banners, and the curtains. If anything breaks, techies are expected to figure out what to do, McLary only steps in for life or death situations. Luckily everything works as expected. Costumes are placed off to the side for quick change. Main characters may go through eight to ten costume changes during performance.

Performers each sign thank you cards to the tech crew, the pit, and the backstage helpers. A few ooooohs and aaaaaahs ring out as a couple actresses start to warm up. Everyone in the room talks about everything but the performance that is now just an hour away, perhaps in an attempt to calm nerves. It’s also at this time that several early birds show up at the gate, hoping to claim one of the 98 tickets still available.

45 minutes to curtain

Ushers arrive and are given instructions by Ushering Chair Keith Owens. Ushers are expected to help out as many nights as possible. It’s at this point that the techies have a final meeting. McLary informs the group of any changes to equipment. Props that were an issue during dress rehearsal may be struck from the performance altogether. Backstage helpers run through the aisles in search of trash.

Performers with a speaking role are given their mics. They’re secured to the thespians’ faces by a piece of clear medical tape. If anyone has to go to the bathroom, now is the time to do it. Senior Josh Nicholson, who plays Chuck Cranston, claims to hold the record for bathroom breaks at 5, though no one could confirm this record.

30 minutes to curtain

The ensemble room starts to go crazy at this point as players start to run around making last second adjustments. The whole cast gathers in the choir room for the final meeting. It is at this point that any kinks noticed in the dress rehearsal are brought up and worked out. This particular time, the focus was on how senior Seth Burton would handle a line with profanity, and a swinging cross that would drop down from the ceiling for the church scenes. Just about everyone is jittery and nervous at this point.

20 minutes to curtain

Cast wide warmup starts. They run through several different chants that start low and get higher to fully stretch out the vocal cords, along with a speedy run through of the alphabet that builds in speed. The final costume check is done. The focus at this point is on the performance.

10 minutes to curtain

McLary delivers a speech to the cast. She talks about delivering the performance they owe themselves after months of hard work. They break, and head down the hall where the stage awaits.