The second installment of the Archives will go behind-the-scenes of last year’s sea faring adventure, The Princess and the Pirate. How do you bring the sea voyages of a band of pirates to life on the stage? The stage manager, design teams, and director describe their process as well as playwright, Luke Gomez, in shaping the world of The Princess and the Pirate.
Stage Manager: Megan O’Connor
1) How is stage managing for a studio show different from a mainstage production?
Megan: There are a few differences when working on a studio series show. The first being that it’s a completely brand new work, which means that everything we do is wholly original. We’re the first group to bring these shows to life! The way the director decides to tell the story, every choice the actors make, the way the designers choose to portray the story all helps to bring this new world to life which is really exciting! And maybe for this reason, I’ve never found a studio show to be less work than a MainStage production. The actors are just as dedicated, sometimes even more so, to finding ways to embody their characters, and the directors and designers are just as dedicated to making the shows to be of a high quality. We usually have smaller production teams, and depending on the script, a smaller cast, but the effort and heart that goes into a studio show is exactly the same as a MainStage.
Megan: I have two favorite memories from this show. Studio shows run for one weekend, Thursday through Sunday, and on Saturdays we have two shows, a matinee and an evening performance. Jordan Davis played Princess Jamie in this production and on Saturday had to shave between performances. I walked backstage to check on everyone and saw Jordan in his Princess dress, including the wig, shaving, and it was delightful. It’s not unusual to have an entire cast break into spontaneous dance during the preshow time, and David had included some great songs in our preshow music, so I would frequently be running around and out of the corner of my eye see a small group of actors pantomiming being a folk band and playing invisible fiddles. But, my second favorite memory was right before one of the shows, I came backstage and saw the entire cast engaged in a group hug, swaying along to one of the songs in the preshow. It was just nice to see them all getting along and enjoying their time together as a cast.
3) What lessons did you take away from your experience with The Princess and the Pirate?
Megan: This was the first show that I was the Stage Manager, not the ASM, and I didn’t have an ASM, so I learned a lot about how to talk to actors, how to help a director, how to run and operate the boards and call a show, how equally stressful and wonderful creating a new work can be. I had a great time working on this show and it will always be one of my favorite memories from season 6.
Sound Design: David Magadan
David: This show was an excuse to play Pirate Shanties, Muppet Treasure Island, and Assassin’s Creed music. I also got to create a lot of different ambient sounds to help build the environment. Creaking ships, deep jungles, and epic sieges both on and off the sea.
2) What did you enjoy the most about designing for The Princess and the Pirate?
David: I love everything about it. I think out of the 7 shows I’ve sound designed this is my favorite. I put a lot of work into it and loved every minute of it. My favorite thing is watching people dance to music I’ve picked while they were back stage. It feels good to know you helped pump someone up before they go on. I think about how much I miss this show at least once a month.
Property Design: Jamie Terran
1) What inspirations did you draw from in creating your designs for this production?
Jamie: For the props I designed, I drew a lot of inspiration from old pirate shows I used to watch as a kid like Veggie Tales, Sinbad, etc.
2) Was there a certain design that gave you trouble initially during the design process?
Jamie: The prop that initially gave me a lot of trouble was sketching out the boat #somanysails, but eventually I figured it out.
3) What did you enjoy the most about designing for Princess and the Pirate?
Jamie: I enjoyed the fantasy world we all created with that show. It felt so real and I am glad I got to be a part of it!
Director: Brian Maticic
Brian: A pirate adventure is a unique opportunity to flex creative muscles that you don’t always get to use as a director. There’s battles at sea, exotic locations, over the top characters, action, and adventure. Shows like this are rife with opportunity.
2) What is different in directing a studio show in comparison to a MainStage production?
Brian: I love the Studio Series. So, the studio series are intentionally limited in their production scope to force the team to solve challenges creatively. It’s an environment I thrive in. For this production, we used ropes, fabric and the actors themselves to create all the setting and create some truly beautiful pictures on stage. The studio series emphasizes that while spectacle is enjoyable, focusing on story, performance, and creativity can make a production just as enjoyable or impactful.
3) What did you enjoy the most about working on The Princess and the Pirate?
Brian: This is a difficult question. I had an incredible team and there were many fantastic moments. But that said, the castle siege sea battle was incredibly unique and so much fun to pull together. I also loved how versatile the rope and fabric became. From arrows striking trees to a waterfall, to a throne room. This show definitely holds a special place in my memory.
Playwright: Luke Gomez
Luke: Lots of stuff: The Princess Bride, Twelfth Night, Final Fantasy 5, Swiss Family Robinson, Django Unchained, Treasure Island, and Louis CK’s stand up. Those are stories that shaped the way I viewed the characters and the world. She Kills Monsters was a big encouragement to think about theater that could be epic on a small stage. Also, the idea first came about when the first Brelby Writer’s Circle was working on Alice’s Canvas so that probably affected it too.
2) What scene in the show was your favorite to see come to life on the stage?
Luke: Definitely the ship wreck. It was difficult to really take in all the way because I was also acting in it. So, to a point, I never really saw the full thing in action with an audience, but the shipwreck was a heck of set piece. The chase scene through the island was just as good for the same reason. Brian really added a lot of small, but effective moments to make the show so much more epic on stage than I’d originally conceived when I wrote it.
Final mention goes to Princess Jamie’s reveal as a girl, because it was only until after we got an audience that I realized that I’d written a scene full of pirates making dick jokes, which is a bucket list item I never realized I always wanted.
3) Was there a certain scene that was hard to write initially?
Luke: Nothing initially, but everything was a challenge the second time around. Small non-secret, I used to drink a lot when I wrote my scripts, and while it helped me push through the over-thinking, it also pushed away things like grammar and story logic. The scenes one-on-one with Jamie and the pirate Belial were probably the toughest. The moments where the two just sit and open up to each other is basically the emotional core of the story. That was also where the ideas of identity and family come out strongest, so they had to be the most honest, but, also, the most interesting. I don’t know if I accomplished that, but I can say that I’m happy the way these two characters came to life.