The Sound of Music: Photo Essay

After nearly three years with no musical productions, the RM Black Maskers made a return to the stage on April 1st with a production of Sound of Music. Following former drama director Laura Andruski’s resignation on February 7th, 2022, members of the club underwent a 6-week production period in which cast, pit and crew put together the show. The production closed on April 8th after a four show run, with director Emily Davis calling it “one of the most successful productions RM has ever put on”. Audiences saw some of the highest turnout in Black Maskers history, with a minimum of 250 audience members per show. 

Tide photographers Shriya Kalluri and Victoria Dziasek documented the process, from rehearsals, to set building, to the show itself. 

Members of sound crew pose in front of the production booth (Anna Lee)

As with any production, the show began with weeks of preparation from the cast, crew and pit. The Sound of Music had a delayed production start on February 25th, following a dispute which resulted in former RM drama director Emily Davis to step in and take over the show. The Black Maskers Drama Club is comprised of over 200 members, making it one of the largest clubs at RM. The Sound of Music had a 36 person cast, and over 150 tech members spread across 10 various crews. 

The cast for the Sound of Music included a large chorus to play nuns and sisters at the abbey. The ensemble began the show with an opening prayer song taking place in the abbey. Rehearsals were led by Ms. Eyler, the choral director and RM’s chorus teacher, and Angelina Guhl, the student musical director and member of the ensemble. (Victoria Dziasek)
The set decoration crew operates in conjunction with set construction; with set construction building the bones of the set and set decoration painting backdrops and additional pieces such as the pillar above. They also work with props and running to design the set for different tableaus throughout the show. Shuxin Dai (pictured above) runs the 22 person crew with co-chief Johnny Newhouse. “I really love being set dec chief, it gives me an opportunity to bring our shows to life and the people involved are amazing,” Dai said. (Shriya Kalluri)
Technical directors and stage managers Bence Szego (right) and Rae Culligan (center) assist lighting chief Elena Berman (left) in setting up practical lighting pieces for the show. The chandelier helped distinguish between locations represented on stage and was lowered before every scene taking place in the von Trapp household. Pieces such as this required extensive planning from the lighting crew and the technical directors, as well as much practice in lowering and raising the piece smoothly.
(Victoria Dziasek)

Following 6 the weeks of production in which crews constructed and decorated the set, collected and made props and furniture, designed, focused and programmed all the lights, created costumes, and tested makeup and sound; tech week began on March 28th. “Tech week” is the week before a show in which the show is completely run through in costumes, makeup and with full tech. It aims to “smooth out any wrinkles” and catch tech mistakes so they can be corrected before the show. Black Maskers tech week rehearsals usually run from 2:30 to 10:00 PM, with a 30 minute dinner break at intermission. This gives crews and cast the chance to practice their roles and become familiar with what the show looks like all put together.

Sound crew is in charge of all sound effects and microphones for the show. They test mics and sound levels before and throughout every show to make sure all equipment is working well. Learning to work the mics and sound board requires extensive training and is a “crucial” part of making sure the shows run smoothly. Sarah Lavan, pictured above, is one of three sound chiefs. “One of my favorite things is watching the show come together from rehearsals to tech week to show nights! Cast and pit were so talented and we couldn’t have put on such an amazing production without them”. (Victoria Dziasek)
During tech week, actors and crew members stay at school rehearsing from 2:30 to 10:00 pm, so many use the time between scenes to finish homework and study for tests. This production’s tech week began on March 28th, the week before the end of the 3rd quarter, adding additional stress to students. Actors Nani Gildersleeve (right), who played Frau Schmidt, and Brooke Frampton (left), who played Mother Abbess, are seen doing homework between their scenes at rehearsal. “…it was definitely hard studying for tests and doing assignments through [tech week], but I would definitely go through it all again for this,” said running and set decoration member Rushi Jain. (Shriya Kalluri)
After tech rehearsals conclude, all cast and crew members meet in the auditorium to review the notes taken by stage managers, technical directors, crew chiefs, and assistant directors during the rehearsal. Members review what went well during the rehearsal and what needs to be improved. Many note that while the process is “tiring and tedious at times”, it is an important step in making sure everything runs smoothly. (Shriya Kalluri)
Every musical at RM is accompanied by a pt orchestra. Members of RM’s band and orchestra audition for music director Dr. Peter Perry, who selects members to participate in the production. The orchestra is yet another element that required many rehearsals, both with and without actors and singers. Evelyn Cooper, a violist in the orchestra, noted the show was “organized so well, especially being last minute.” (Victoria Dziasek)

Black Maskers has a longstanding tradition of putting on two productions per year; a fall musical and a spring play. This year, the order was switched to account for COVID, as musicals typically have larger casts and more contact between actors. The drama club also puts on an unofficial, student run “One Acts Festival” which serves as a fundraiser for the club. The Sound of Music opened on April 1st, and had shows on the 2nd, 7th and 8th. 

Before every show, when the curtains are closed, there is an air of simultaneous excitement and stress backstage. Crew and cast members rush to finish preparations and get to their places before the curtain is drawn. But actors that open the show must not be drawn into the buzz. Angelina Guhl (pictured above), opened the show with a solo as one of the nuns at the abbey. “It feels cool, I feel special,” she said about being the first one on stage. (Shriya Kalluri)
Throughout the show, the sound crew continuously checked the microphones to ensure that batteries were full and mics were secure, especially through costume changes. With over 20 mic’d actors in the cast, sound crew had to undergo several mic changes backstage. “Mic changes require everyone to know where they have to be and when. It’s really important that everyone is communicating and working together,” sound chief Anne Moser said. (Shriya Kalluri)
The musical involved several numbers with demanding choreography, including the song “16 going on 17” which featured Allison Howlett as Liesl Von Trapp and Daniel Murphy as Rolf Gruber. “The choreography for 16 going on 17 was definitely the most difficult of any number because the song was so long and we danced for pretty much all of it, but the student choreographers and Victoria (the assistant director) were so creative and listened to our input! It was one of my favorite numbers to perform, we had a ton of fun.” said Allison Howlett. Choreography was created and taught by student choreographers Avery Wang and Lila Halper. (Shriya Kalluri)
After almost 8 weeks of planning, preparation, training, and rehearsal, the actors took their final bow for the production of The Sound of Music on April 8th. On closing night, the Black Maskers sold almost 750 tickets, making the show one of the largest ever attended at Richard Montgomery. (Shriya Kalluri)

The photographers at the Tide want to offer our congratulations to all of the cast and crew, Mr. Rodney, Mrs. Eyler, Dr. Perry, and Mrs. Davis for such a wonderful show!