SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - The stage is set at South Orange Performing Arts Center, and the performers are taking their places. The pit orchestra tunes to a crisp concert A, the house lights fade to black, and the audience’s chatter dies gracefully. This is it.
The actors and actresses in Seton Hall University’s production of Little Women, sponsored by the Department of Communication and the Arts, are halfway through their performance season with their last show on Sunday afternoon.
The effort put into these four performances was anything but easy, according to director Deborah Jacoby, but it was all rewarding in the end.
She said that many facets of producing the musical need to be adjusted to reach the best results, such as pacing the musical to the music.
“The rehearsal pace is not always exactly right, you have to adjust the scenery, the scene changers, the crew and it all happens mostly to music,” she said. “So not only are you trying to move around and make it look pretty but it all has to be timed out… like a moving puzzle… and that’s the beauty of live theatre.”
She also emphasized that the most strenuous moments of putting a show together are days before opening night.
“The hardest thing about putting on a show are the final moments when you’re trying put together sound and light and the acting and all the technical stuff,” she said. “And in a situation like this we basically come in the week of the show and that’s when we have to fix the lights and adjust the actors to the size of the stage.”
According to Jacoby, student’s classes interfered with rehearsal times, and getting them together was a challenge. She said that sometimes they could only rehearse three hours a week with the entire cast.
Once all of the pieces of the show are put together however, watching the students develop and embody the stage is the culmination of it all, according to Dr. Jason Tramm, conductor of the pit orchestra and director of choral activities at Seton Hall.
“It’s such a wonderful experience because you watch the students grow,” he said. “Some of them are my vocal students and others are involved in the choirs on campus, and to watch them become the story is truly rewarding. And then I get to put the pit together and to watch the show come together, it’s magic.”
To Christine Byrne, a senior playing Jo March in Little Women, scheduling was a constant obstacle, but it brought many students from different educational backgrounds together, and reflected in the experience of performing on stage.
“The biggest challenge was probably scheduling,” she said. “I wouldn't say it was a challenge though. More of a blessing. It was a challenge for rehearsals, but because we had people of so many different majors it really brought a lot to the show.”
“I think it is amazing,” said freshman Collin Bailey, who plays Braxton in Little Women. "The cast is incredibly talented, and the director is so involved with us and pushes us to be the best performers we can be.”
“The most rewarding part of being a college student on stage is the atmosphere,” Byrne said. “You're surrounded by your friends and people who genuinely care about you. It's a very special experience.
The combination of all aspects of the production process is symbolic to Jacoby, and she’s happy to pass the gift of seeing it all to her cast.
“I’ve performed a lot myself and I love it but I may love the idea of passing along the art more,” she said. “It’s nice to pass the torch, and it’s a nice thing to find in directing school shows and watching kids burn with desire and passion. A lot of performers have and keep that passion within them.”
Little Women’s performance schedule continues Saturday April 25th at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, April 26th at 2:00 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public.