Stepping into the last opening night of my visible theatre career, the full extent of what’s dancing around in my mind and heart is inexpressible. I never imagined what this day would be like—because I didn’t want it to happen. Being involved in Ragtime has been a whirlwind experience: from working with my favourite professionals to working with my best friends and from working on building the set to working on the lighting side of the show. I couldn’t have asked for a more ambitious or a grander collaboration to be my last theatre experience.
The theatre should never be a comfortable space. With every new production, new design and new cast, boundaries should be pushed and risks should be taken, and Ragtime fully embraces this challenge. From the get go, the collaboration between Hoof ‘n’ Horn and the Theatre, Music and Dance departments has never been done on this scale. In the selection of Ragtime as the musical showcase, the sheer size of the cast and concept at hand presented a challenge that all parties involved boldly took on. There are over 40 members in the cast, including five children, over 20 orchestra members and over 20 technical and production crew members. In addition, there are countless faculty members and professionals who have devoted a whole semester into this production. This will not be your usual run-of-the-mill student theatre show; it will be a showcase of theatre.
The scene shop build crew started work on the set at the beginning of February. It has taken us over two months to construct this monstrously large majestic and grandeur set. The size of the set still shocks me; I don’t believe a set of this size has been built on Reynolds before. Each piece of the set was custom made and is larger than what we’re all used to. In order to get the second level of the stage built, each section supported by six of the I-beam columns are 12’ – 16’ large and were lifted manually to rest atop the 8’ tall columns—and as you can probably imagine, they’re incredibly heavy. The entire set is on average about 18’ tall, with the large support arches reaching about 23’ into the electrics on stage. Whilst building all these parts, I didn’t believe that it would all stand up and piece together so beautifully. The decision to build the set mostly out of MDF (medium density fibreboard) and wood resulted in more pieces needing to be manufactured and connected together. The structure being so large needed some additions for support as the material properties for wood and steel, which is what the turn-of-the-century design was based on, are very different. The move-in process was surprisingly quick. Within three to four days, the two story structure you see as the skeleton of the set was pieced together. I’m really proud to have been a part of the unstoppable set build crew and a heartfelt shout-out to Dave, the scene shop manager, for making all of this magical construction happen.
This past week has been so surreal and exhausting. I am operating one of the two follow spots we have in the show, which is a brand new experience for me even though I have worked with lights my whole theatre career. The thrill and aspiration for the perfect show provides such adrenaline rush and drives me for each performance, over and over again. The next 24 hours will be a rush of emotions, feeling the summation of all the experiences that this showcase has been built upon, the nervousness of opening night, the uncertainty of letting others critique our work, the unwillingness for these ‘last’ moments to occur and, of course, the excitement to share the accumulation of this wonderful experience in just under three hours.
Ophelia Chua, [4 Apr, 2012]
Pratt School of Engineering 2012 | Duke University
B.S.E. Biomedical Engineering & B.S. Economics
B.A. Theatre Studies – Minor