What exactly goes into the execution of The Mask and Wig Club’s annual production? Street had the opportunity to talk to Mask and Wig section heads to shed light on the magic that goes on every spring at 310 S. Quincey Street.
Writing the spring annual production is a process that takes around eight months. The Junior and Senior Clubbies of the cast are in charge of these efforts, as Teddy Lavon (C ’16) and Patrick Romano (C ’16), Head Writer and Spring Cast Director respectively, explain.
In March, the cast members come up with five to ten potential settings for the play. Over the course of April and May, the group writes multiple treatments (prose pieces typically written in short story form that function as the first draft of a script). The cast then narrows it down to a single treatment which will, over the summer, be discussed and developed. By the time August rolls around, there is a writers' retreat where the first draft is hammered out. The spring show script is then polished over the course of the semester. Lavon noted that this can get hectic, however, because during the first semester, the group is also simultaneously writing and producing its fall show. By December 31 the spring show script comes together through the results of their hard efforts.
Romano, “the father of the cast,” illuminated on the laborious task that begins after finishing the script. Over the first few days of the year, the cast members congregate again at the Mask and Wig Clubhouse. They rehearse every single day until the beginning of classes. In the case of the 2016 production, each rehearsal had three different components; first, the cast members would work on scenes with Director Matt Pfeiffer. The rest of the time was spent practicing routines with the choreographer, Karen Pauro, and rehearsing music and vocals with the Musical Director, Gene Bender (though the script is written by the cast, the Annual Show is professionally choreographed and directed).
Dimitri Antoniou (C ’16), current Band Leader and tenor saxophone player, received the final set of sheet music from Wig alumni and annual production composer and arranger of over twenty years, Neil Radisch (‘86), on the first of January. The band reunited shortly after to learn and play the complete repertoire of Flight Club.
Though the band writes original music for the fall show, the spring show is professionally composed, orchestrated, and arranged by Radisch.The cast and Radisch work on the lyrics mostly, as well. The complete repertoire is finished by the start of the new year.
Besides functioning as the pit band for Mask and Wig performances, the group also performs at a series of other functions and events, such as fraternity and sorority formals and the freshman toga party at the Penn Museum. It is also the annual headliner for the Spring Fling Festival in the Quad.
Sam Rowland (E ’16), Business Manager, organizes the business and sponsorship efforts for the annual production. As Rowland explains, biz staff is in charge of “advertising, website and ticketing.”
For the 2016 show, the business staff solicited ads a total of 145 businesses throughout the city for the impressive 50–page playbill—the largest amount of businesses ever reached.
Biz staff also creates all of the printed promotional items, such as flyers and posters, as well as the virtual promotional campaigns, including Facebook profile pictures and promotional videos. The section is also in charge of finding props for the set.
Their job isn’t done after opening night, either: members continue to manage and promote the sales of tickets and ensure that the patrons keep on coming until the last show in April. Rowland noted that this year, Mask and Wig was trying to promote group ticket sales to student groups and organizations.
While the Wig thespians are memorizing lines, the business boys are calling restaurants in Rittenhouse and band members are jammin' out, Billy Clarke (E ’16), the Stage Manager, and the rest of the crew are in charge of constructing a set that will function for a variety of scenes and environments. In the case of Flight Club, M&W created a ceiling that could double as both an airplane and airport ceiling.
Additionally, the stage crew runs the tech for every show— from operating sounds and lights to managing the stage.
According to Clarke, there is a lot of creativity which goes into the creation of such sets simply because of the versatility that they must have. Just as well, there are a lot of long days and nights of cutting, hammering, painting and screwing together bits and pieces. Besides creating the sets before the shows, the crew also creates unique props for the performances, maintains the Clubhouse and takes parts of the set on tour.
Similar to the band, which plays other gigs besides Mask and Wig, the stage crew also operates and manages shows for other student and performance arts groups, such as SPEC Sound and Strictly Funk.