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Julian Wiles, Founder and Producing Artistic Director
Marybeth Clark, Associate Artistic Director

September 8, 2008

West Side Story-My Space! by Director Marybeth Clark

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 4:02 pm

This weekend we began spacing rehearsals where the actors get to use the set for the first time and we adjust their spacing.   For this show it is a really a challenge since this set has fences to climb on, sewer pipes to dive into and balconies to climb—none of which we had in our rehearsal hall.  Though we lost a rehearsal due to Hanna, the cast worked diligently for 16 hours this weekend to get their spacing right—a challenge since some of the rousing dance numbers have upwards of 30 dancers onstage at the same time. Many of our costumes include knee pads, but there were still a few bumps along the way.  Set designer Stefanie Christensen promised me an “urban playground” and with over 100 feet of chain link and even more steel pipe she really delivered. That’s all for now, there is a can of spray paint calling my name. What’s an urban playground without a little graffiti?!


(Actors rehearse for the first time on stage at the Sottile Theatre while Director Marybeth Clark and Choreographer Kevin P. Hill work with spacing)



(Actors dance and rehearse for the first time in costume while staging the big dance off at the gym.) 

West Side Story First Tech

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 3:21 pm

Next up are tech rehearsals which also began over the weekend.  Here we added sets rolling on and flying in and out, spectacular lighting cues,  wireless microphones, and over 150 costumes.  Just getting a cast of 33 dressed in time for each scene requires incredible coordination and planning backstage.  And just to add to the fun, for the first time, the cast would be singing and dancing to a live orchestra.  Though they’re playing the same music actors heard in rehearsal, tempos and rhythms have to be carefully coordinated so everyone’s on the same page.  Bernstein’s jazzy score, while brilliant makes this very challenging.  Choreographer Kevin P. Smith and Music Director Wendell Smith had their hands full.  Still, though the show is still coming together—the set not all painted and costumes still to be fitted, the show already is shaping up into something dazzling.


(The Sharks dance in “I Want To Be In America”)



(“When You’re A Jet, You’re The Top Cat In Town”) 



(Professional Resident Actor Viveka Chandrasekaran as Maria sings “I Feel Pretty” with the Shark girls) 

September 5, 2008

Super Size Me (by Marybeth Clark, Director of West Side Story)

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 5:10 pm

Because we can not use the theatre until the week before a show opens, we rehearsed the first four weeks of West Side Story in our Mount Pleasant rehearsal studio. Our rehearsal facility has a specially built dance floor, a mirrored wall and a stage that is almost as big as Sottile’s stage.  We are lucky to have a large work space, but it is not quite big enough for one important element— the set.  The ceilings at the rehearsal studio aren’t tall enough for the twelve foot walls, platforms and chain link fences that make up the streetscape of NYC for West Side Story.  Stefanie Christensen, our  resident scene designer has designed an amazing set for us based on a dilapidated NYC playground with torn chain link fencing and grafitti-spattered brick walls in the background.  (For that we’ll paint the actual back wall of the theatre.)  To show the actors what the set will look like, Stefanie  built a  scale model  for us. (See photo below) In the rehearsal studio, production stage manager Bessie Edwards, taped the outlines of the set on the floor and I directed the actors using these marks. This is a challenge, for the fire escape balcony for instance,  all we have in rehearsal is a rectangle taped to the floor.  Actors have to use their imaginations for scaling fences, ducking under platforms and even sliding down giant drain pipes.  The cast will get to work on the actual super sized set on Saturday.  Though this will be the first time they get to work with  the full scale scenic elements  choreographer Kevin P. Hill, Music Director Wendell Smith and I tried it out this “playground” yesterday.   We had fun  but the balcony scene just wasn’t quite the same with Wendell playing “Maria”…. I can’t wait til Saturday.


(Miniature scale model for West Side Story




 (West Side Story set in progress on the stage of the College of Charleston’s Sottile Theatre.  Grafitti and chain link fence are still to come.  Photo taken on Sept. 5, 2008)

September 3, 2008

No Time For Hanna by Marybeth Clark director of West Side Story

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 3:15 pm

We are watching the weather just like everyone, but that doesn’t mean we stop working.  Last night was the first rehearsal for our West Side Story orchestra. There is just one rehearsal before we move to the Sottile Theater and work with the cast, but with twelve of Charleston’s finest musicians, even the first run thru was audience worthy.  Some of the Low Country’s finest musicians have come together for this production:  Mark Sterbank, Jon Phillips, and Cathy Ardrey on woodwinds; Chuck Dalton and Steve Berry on trumpet; Phil King on trombone; Brian Reed on French Horn; John Wiley, violin; Larry Crosswell, piano; John Kennedy, bass; David Patterson on drums; and Tim Clemons on timpani, xylophone, vibraphone, and everything else you can shake, rattle and roll.  And once again at the musical helm of the good ship Charleston Stage, Wendell Smith.  Leonard Bernstein was the ultimate composer, conductor, musicial genius, and this is one of the most challenging scores ever written for the stage.  The tunes have become such classics that it’s hard not to play them with passion and get them right.  “Maria,” “Tonight,” “I Feel Pretty”… see, even you are tempted to come sit in the pit and play or sing along.


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