A day in the life of the Hippodrome's ‘Carrie, A Comedy'
Published: Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 1:53 p.m.
Usually, there's not so much blood.
"Carrie, A Comedy"
What: Erik Jackson's comedic adaptation of Stephen King's novel about a bullied teenage girl with telekinetic powers.
When: 7 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 5 and 8:30 p.m. Saturdays, and 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 4
Where: Hippodrome Theatre, 25 SE Second Place, downtown Gainesville
Tickets: $30-$35, $25 for senior citizens, $15 for students
Note: The production contains language and content not suitable for young children.
Info: 375-4477 or www.thehipp.org
But it's "Carrie" the Hippodrome Theatre is presenting all month, and those familiar with the Stephen King story of the shy girl with creepy powers know a LOT of blood is important to the "money scene" near the end.
"We've used blood before. I've done a bunch of ‘Draculas' or shows where there's a gun shot," says the Hipp's artistic director Lauren Caldwell.
But not this much; we're talking amounts that put some front row seats in a "splash zone," much like those at Sea World's Shamu tank. To be clear, this stage adaptation of "Carrie" is a comedy, a horror spoof. In that, the copious amount of blood is just part of the gag.
The show's production staff has wrestled with recipes to get this blood just right. It can't stain; costumes must be laundered after each show. And it can't contain soap, in case some runs into actress Chelsea Sorenson's eyes.
Yet it's got to look like, well, real blood.
The recipe finally right, a vat of the stuff is created and stashed in the bowels of the Hippodrome for use throughout the play's run.
This bloody task out of the way, one more chore is checked off the "to do" list in the typical workaday world of bringing words to life at Gainesville's professional theater.
This rehearsal day begins on the third floor, the administration realm where bills are paid, shows selected and promoted, education and youth programs arranged, technical systems maintained, independent films scheduled, facilities for weddings and meetings leased.
Artists share the floor. This is home to Emmy Award-winning costumer Marilyn Wall's shop, overstuffed like a store on Black Friday eve. Also on this floor, the next-up cast rehearses; blue tape on a hardwood floor marks main stage dimensions.
Caldwell has an office here, too. "I call this trying to find some structure amid a whole lot of chaos," she says.
It's a week from opening, and she's just getting a final rewrite of the end from playwright Erik Jackson. Also: "Trying to do a photo shoot on the day we're not even fully blocked."
But she loves it. This is her 20th year with the Hipp, and, she contends, "if I had outlined what my life would be, I can't imagine any way it would change."
For a century the building at 25 SE Second Plaza has dominated downtown Gainesville. An example of Palladium classical revival architecture, it opened in 1911 as a Post Office and Federal Courthouse; when those moved in 1964, the Alachua County School Board leased the building, according to a history of the building.
In 1974, notes the Hippodrome's website, city leaders decided the old building ought to be a performing arts complex. In 1979 — a year after it was decreed a National Historic Place — the Hippodrome moved in, and the conversion into an arts hub began.
"It took a long time to get the School Board green off the walls and the linoleum off the marble floors, about a year and a half," says General Manager Rocky Droud. The Hipp christened its new home in January 1981 with "The Elephant Man."
Droud credits Mary Hausch, co-founder and producing director, for the Hipp's success. "Mary's got kind of a super financial brain," he says. She helps select each season's shows and occasionally directs. But without her "financial guidance," Droud adds, the Hipp might not be so hip.
On this day, Caldwell meets with production staff to set the work schedule for technical weekend, when sound, light and fog cues are set, props are tested and placed, and the blood bucket gets its final check.
"I love tech weekend," she says. "It's exciting to see it all come together."
But the gathering starts with chocolate cake to mark a couple birthdays the day before. "Let us eat cake," Caldwell says — before getting down to business.
"Rocky brings in a cake for everybody's birthday," explains Marketing Director Jessica Hurov. "We have a cake about once a week."
Droud shrugs when asked about this. "It was going to be another career," he says. "But bakers get up way too early in the morning."
The meeting's first order: planning a blood dump test on Friday! "Let's start with that," Caldwell says.
Technical Director Michael Eaddy notes "we'll need at least a gallon and a half" to fully determine its effect and how many front-row seats might be splashed.
"Sounds like fun," says Sorenson, the actress playing Carrie — who's on the business end of the blood bath. "I'm excited. I expect to be pink for a couple of weeks. But I've got my Carrie survivor pack with my shampoo and face soap so I can shower right after."
It's noon. Cast members arrive for photos and trickle down narrow stairs to their dressing rooms in the basement. This was where defendants were held; despite bright lights and easy banter among the cast, there lingers a sense that this once was a dungeon.
They don costumes and climb the stairwell two flights back up to the stage, where the photographers await. Wall hovers nearby, appraising her costumes: sewing on a button, noting one character's skirt is nearly too tight for climbing stairs.
"There are nine actors and each has four wardrobes," Wall says. And not just shirts and skirts. "We costume them from the skin up."
Meanwhile, all's quiet in Eaddy's scene shop behind the first-floor cinema screen. Set pieces for "Carrie" are in place, hoisted through a trap door in the ceiling to the main stage above.
"Once we tech open a show, we get about a week for shop maintenance and to resupply," Eaddy says, "then we start to build for the next show."
Photos done, the cast scrambles for a quick bite. "I'll go back to tell them where we are," Chase Milner (who plays Tommy) tells Filipe Valle Costa (Billy) as they await burgers at Relish a few steps from the theater. Costa collects both bags and hightails it back himself.
Rehearsal runs smoothly with few stops, even for line prompts; these are, after all, professionals, Caldwell says.
She finishes blocking the lines Jackson faxed earlier. Choreographer Ric Rose drops by to polish the prom dance, a run-on anthology of '70s disco hits.
"A huge day," Caldwell says. "We put a lot of ownership for this show on the actors today.
"I think it's funny," Caldwell tells her cast, "Your commitment to this show is terrific. So go home, look at those lines. We're that close."
And she's so bloody right.
Contact Rick Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 867-4154.
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