Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan

Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan

Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan

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Footloose Gets Loose: Behind the Scenes of the Upcoming Musical

Winona+State+University%E2%80%99s+Theatre+department+is+showing+their+production+of+Footloose+from+Oct.+11-14+at+7%3A30pm.+Their+rehearsal+process+has+returned+to+5+weeks+for+the+first+time+since+COVID.
Heidi Hanson
Winona State University’s Theatre department is showing their production of Footloose from Oct. 11-14 at 7:30pm. Their rehearsal process has returned to 5 weeks for the first time since COVID.

Putting together a musical involves a large variety of moving parts, most of which can take weeks upon weeks to work on and perfect. Lighting, costumes, blocking, choreography, vocals
and the overall memorization and refining of a university-level production takes time and involves a lot of dedication. This fall, Winona State University is putting on a production of Footloose the musical, all within a five-week rehearsal process.

Footloose follows Ren McCormack, who moves to the small town of Bomont, where dancing and rock music have been banned after a family tragedy in the town. While rallying to bring dance and joy back into the community, he falls in love with Ariel, the daughter of the town pastor, Reverend Shaw.

This year is the first year since COVID that the cast and crew have only five weeks to memorize and perfect their performance.

In the last three years, musicals have had almost twice that time
to run through their performances and work on characterization and behind-the-scenes processes. The return to this short amount of time to reach show-ready performances has shown to be a challenge for many of the cast and crew members.

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Joshua Harrison, a second year playing the role of Reverend Shaw, commented on this change and
the difficulties that come with a shorter rehearsal time. The number of responsibilities that come with a musical like Footloose do not decrease with a shorter rehearsal process.

“Last show we had a much longer rehearsal process, almost twice as long,” Harrison said. “The most difficult part of this year is how fast deadlines are popping up. There is a lot of stuff to figure out in a much shorter time frame.”

Eli Ammons, a third year computer science major who plays both Cowboy Bob & Coach Dun- bar, said that he spends about 45 minutes daily outside of rehearsal practicing his lines and choreography. Blocking is one of the only things cast members may have to change when they get to scheduled rehearsals, as it’s difficult to know exactly how a scene will play out when everyone comes together.

“Less time in rehearsal doesn’t mean less rehearsal,” Ammons said. “It just means more time rehearsing is spent in my room trying my best to respect my poor neighbors hearing me step through choreography throughout the weekend.”

Jensen Drake, a third-year public relations major playing Ariel, also stated that the quicker rehearsal turnaround means more work outside of scheduled rehearsals. With such a big character role and a lot of stage time, Drake spends multiple hours a day perfecting their role.

“I love theatre so much that the work I put into rehearsal and outside is such a joy for me,” Drake stated. “I put in at least one to two hours outside of rehearsal working on how I can make my character more alive and real; I also work on the dances because I want them to be as amazing as possible.”

A rehearsal two weeks before opening night includes a lot of quick run-throughs and refining of both big and little details. For example, the vocal inflection of lines are refined to perfect the exact meaning of the line in relation to the character saying it, the characters around that character, the location of the scene at hand and the overall scene in relation to the musical as a whole.

Along with the corrections of vocal inflection that director Heather Williams gives to the cast members, blocking and physical actions made by the cast are perfected as well. These corrections can be regarding entrances, hand movements, stage location changes and many other little movements that come with making a scene come to life.

Off the stage, crew members have a large number of behind-the-scenes responsibilities that transform the scenes through lighting, transition music, sound effects
and other details that truly make a musical a work of art.

Third-year Kendall Rolland, Economics major and double minor in Theater and Arts Administration is the stage manager for Footloose, and is responsible for keeping the cast and crew on top of their various responsibilities during the rehearsal process.

“As the Stage Manager I’m in charge of making sure everyone knows where to be, when to be there, and what’s happening when they get there, and that they get there on time and ready to work,” Rolland said.

Rolland and the other assistant stage managers also fill in for crew members that don’t start until dress rehearsals, taking rehearsal minutes and following along with the script to help with any corrections. Rolland specifically will call all of the lighting, sound and technical calls during the Footloose’s performances, which will keep the show’s intricate orders and moving parts moving.

“This is my first time stage managing, so I’ve been learning a lot about that role; I’ve had a lot of responsibilities and challenges, but I’ve had very supportive faculty and a very enthusiastic crew,” Rolland said. “The 5-week process feels more compressed and a little more hectic, but the cast and crew have been doing great.”

When asked what the cast and crew are most excited for, many of them said the singing and overall sense of musicality throughout the show. With complex vocal arrangements and some actors responsible for their own vocal part, Footloose has a star-musical quality and arrangement.

“It’s a musical with a lot of really great numbers, catchy songs, heartfelt songs, and songs that are both. I’ve really been enjoying the music and choreography, and I know the audience will too,” Rolland said.

Hannah Hills, who plays Eleanor Dunbar in the show, also commented on the music of the show.

“The audience will definitely love the dancing and music,” Hills said. “It’s super fun and upbeat and energizing to see and sing along to.”

Footloose is an upbeat and inspiring show to watch, and it’s coming up fast! WSU’s theatre department will be performing Footloose from Oct. 11-14 at 7:30 p.m. in the Vivian Fusillo Mainstage Theater. You won’t want to miss it, especially considering the amount of work each and every cast and crew member have put in a short but action-packed and fulfilling five weeks.

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About the Contributor
Heidi Hanson, Features Editor

Heidi Hanson (she/her/hers) is the Features Editor for the Winonan as of fall 2022. She joined the Winonan during her first semester at WSU, back in fall of 2021. Hanson is currently a third year at Winona State University, majoring in Communication Arts and Literature Teaching with a minor in Communication Studies Teaching.

Besides writing for the Winonan, Hanson is a Resident Assistant at the East Lake Apartments and is a member of the National Residence Hall Honorary (NRHH). She also works as a research assistant for the Communications Department.

For fun, Hanson enjoys reading mystery novels, watching horror movies, and enjoying music from all genres. She also enjoys journaling and exploring the surrounding area of Winona.

Hanson hopes to be a middle or high school English teacher after graduation to spread her love of literature and provide a safe space for future students who go through her English Literature classroom. Before that, however, she hopes to have a fulfilled four years at WSU and grow through work and social experiences.

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