Hansel and Gretel

performed by Treble Chorus, 7-March-2008
Rogers Center for the Arts, Merrimack College

An educational performance of a condensed operatic version, produced by students and faculty of the Treble Chorus of New England.

I was asked to help the lighting staff set up for this show, and then with little else to do during the run I attempted to capture a bunch of stills of it from fairly far back in the hall. Considering that I was using a point-n-shoot and generally needing fairly long exposure times to get anything at all, some of them came out okay. I tried to anticipate and time the moments when actors would stop moving, with dubious success. Freely acknowledging the possibility that this might still be way too many pictures, here are the best of the batch.

(Photography enthusiasts may want to read the commentary scattered throughout this, particularly at the end, for more information.)

Each small picture is linked to a full-size version. And here is a convenient linear list of the large ones, suitable for input to a bulk-download handler. (About 25 Mb worth all told)

The tech booth, which is fairly spacious and well-outfitted [well, that is if you like Strand gear]. Martin is hard at work over in the far corner. The linked big picture is a fairly bad try at stitching the two together. Find the most amusing anomaly in it -- hint: look down near the edge of the stage!

The performers were trying to rehearse while we were wanking on lights and making everything go dark sometimes. We were all there semi-late that night, but it wasn't that bad and things were coming together fairly nicely.

Rogers is a pretty nice facility -- fairly new and large, with ample catwalks and galleries to get to lighting positions. There are a few odd places where it looks like construction was never really finished. That moveable orchestra shell is a weird piece of gear -- with one major disadvantage. The uppermost panel in the top piece touches the plaster line, blocking a perfect opportunity to bring in the first electric to add some real back light to a production like this set way out on the thrust. We did what we could from the box booms, but it was sort of suboptimal for really rounding out the lighting picture.

The next morning, lighting was working on cues while the performers were working on their intro speeches. I wandered around the venue looking for little things to fix, like that orchestra-shell panel hanging open and turning off the backstage worklights to get rid of that huge light leak.

The house opened, and quickly became totally packed, mostly with kids. It was evidently field-trip day for them, given that it was daytime on a Friday.

Guidance from the pit: the director/conductor, and the prompter.

All accompaniment was from the piano, as opposed to a full orchestra. Full size Steinway grand in the facility -- nice.

The director, now wondering how she was going to tell lighting to flash the house and start the show without having an intercom.

The lead cast starting things off with some brief intros.

A demo of quick costume changes, which some cast members had to do as many as four of during the show ...

... aided backstage by the costume designer, one of those shadowy people in black that you never see.

The story opens with the children doing their chores...

... and hating every minute of it.

Oy! I've got such a headache!
  [Just kidding..]

Fantasies about all the good things that can be made from milk, and wondering what to do about the fact that everyone's really hungry.

Answer: put aside that burdensome work, and dance!

That is, until Mom shows up.

What is going on here??!

Discipline is administered, a major dairy-products mishap occurs, and our heroes are sent off in search of berries.

With no food left in the house at all, she's wondering "now what?"

Until Dad comes drunkenly staggering home...
(and your humble photographer is all over the place trying to follow him...)

Ah, a classic case of an actor not finding his light. Or maybe having the lit area a little too small, or a combination of both. This is what happens when you don't make time for a full tech rehearsal and communicate freely about stage blocking.

But Dad has thought of his family first, and even while intoxicated with his success in the broomstick business has brought home lots of food.
(And lighting appears to have worked around the problem in some way.)

But soon the harsh reality of the children at risk out in the forest dawns on them. There's a witch!

Meanwhile in said forest, the children are having a grand old time.

Picking (and eating) berries, playing with flower garlands, while the forest creatures watch them ...

... singing with the cuckoo, not a care in the world...

... until they realize that it's getting late, and the basket they were supposed to bring back full of berries is empty.

And the forest can be full of scaaaaary things at night!

However, now they have no idea how to get back home. Everywhere they turn, the trees block their way (which I thought was a particularly clever way to stage it, having the wood-sprites move the trees on wheeled bases and converge in on them)

Who's theeeere...??
(... theeere ... there ... there ... air ... air ... air ...)

Ut-oh. I think we're in a spot of trouble here.

Gretel loses it at this point. However, help appears to be on the way...

... in the form of the Sleep Fairies and their magic sand that helps the children settle down for the night.

And while they sleep, they dream ... about a golden chorus of angels sent to watch them. Is it a dream? Is it real?

Just as quickly as they appeared, they disperse...

... giving way to the Dew Fairies in the morning. (And a set change.)

Gretel pummels her sleepy brother into consciousness...

... and they soon realize they're within striking distance of a curious but but clearly comestible cottage.

Nibble, nibble, little mouse...

Eep! Caught by the wicked witch!

She tries to lure our heroes in with all sorts of sweets, but soon they realize that there's something very wrong with this picture.

Which is amply proven out when they attempt to take their leave, and are instead captured by the witch's malevolent spell.

Hocus   ... pocus   ...

Hansel is imprisoned, and Gretel is trapped in the witch's thrall.

The witch tries to fatten Hansel up on cake and junk food...

... and is totally doing the happy-dance over this turn of events.

(Do we think she supported local domestic business by buying her broomstick from a certain nearby craftsman, or is it the usual outsourced garbage from Wart-Mart down the road?)

But the fattening theory doesn't seem to be going as planned...

... because the children are coming up with some clever tricks and are forming their escape strategy.

Nonetheless, the witch proceeds with her cannabilistic intentions, starting with Gretel ... if she can be convinced into just the right position during an oven status check ... but that's being a frustrating endeavor.

After all, Gretel is just a simple country girl and doesn't have the slighest idea how to deal with all this new whizbang technological stuff, right?

Well, evidently this simple country shutterbug can't deal with the whizbang technological stuff either.

At this critical moment, my memory card suddenly hit full.

Oops. As I stood there frantically deleting a bunch of old pictures to make room, a miracle happens, the simultaneous equations are solved, a loophole is found in the laws of physics, and the witch winds up tumbling into her own nicely-preheated oven with a little help from our heroes. Screeeeeeaaaamm!!

That'll teach me to head off to a possibly picture-heavy event without a ton of free storage space available. On the way home from the show, I stopped off and bought another 2 gig card, which I'd been meaning to do for a while anyways.

With the witch dead, Hansel and Gretel are released from the spell and are free to eat as many sweets as they want.

But the weirdness isn't over yet, for there comes a loud noise and the oven (in theory, but this venue wouldn't allow pyrotechnics) explodes ...

... also releasing all the other children who had been trapped and turned into gingerbread over the years.

They join H & G in celebration.

But wait, what's that noise coming through the woods?

It's the parents, who are still out searching, and everyone is happily reunited.

Everyone danced, and they all bowed for the audience happily ever after.

Question and answer time, since this was an educational production. The witch described what it was like to be, well, an evil witch in a play despite being a nice person outside the role.

The program manager went around with a wireless mic, collecting questions from the audience directed toward any of the cast or crew. (There were of course many more questions than time permitted to get to -- a forest of hands waving in the air...)

The director fielded a few.

Various comments on what was the hardest aspect of working on the production.

Some final wrapup from the leads...

... thunderous applause, and that was it.

_H* 080310