Fordham Mainstage, From Play Selection to Opening Night


Fordham theatre students strike the set for Fordham University Theatre Company’s Mainstage production of “The Rover.”(Craig Calefate/The Observer)

Published: November 13, 2008

Theatre. A simple term, yet an interestingly complex idea. Actors, costumes, sets, lighting, sound; playbills, squeaking seats, applause, occasional whispered comments between friends that are sure to aggravate any fellow theatregoer. All are aspects of any theatrical environment—aspects that are inevitable and, for the most part, enjoyed by the majority of theatre frequenters.  Here, at Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC), theatre is an important component of the school’s community and reputation. Each semester, the Fordham University Theatre Company presents two exceptional mainstage productions, providing entertainment and unique educational experiences for not only Fordham students, but also for residents of New York City and beyond.

After communicating with Katelynn Schneller, FCLC ’09, the stage manager for the upcoming production, “Tales of the Lost Formicans” by Constance Congdon, I now possess a solid knowledge of how a Fordham play is cast, rehearsed and produced.  Fordham productions involve both students and professionals from companies outside of the university.  Students have the unique opportunity to work with professionals that have a great deal of experience and are willing and eager to share their talents. Specifically for “Tales of the Lost Formicans,” students hold numerous positions, including those of actors, stage manager and assistant stage managers, designers, assistant director and members of the crew.  With the exception of one student designer, all of the designers for this upcoming show are professionals from outside companies. The production manager is a staff member, Kai Brothers, and the director is an artistic director from the Public Theatre, a well-known and praised theatre company in the city.

Collaboration is key when working on a production, and at Fordham, that is no exception. In fact, theatre majors are required to take courses in collaboration. The following is a basic sequence of events explaining the process of putting on a Mainstage production.

1. To begin the process of putting on a show at Fordham, the director, designers and stage manager all meet long before casting and rehearsals begin to discuss the show and how all elements should be brought together in order to create an outstanding piece of theatre.

2. Casting is an intricate process as well. At the beginning of the Fordham Mainstage season, students (with the exception of first-semester freshmen) have the option of auditioning for one or both of the shows that will be presented that semester.

3. After the first round of auditions, callback auditions are held.

4. After callbacks, the director, assistant director and stage managers cast the shows, which usually entails lengthy discussions and compromises.

5. Throughout the rehearsal process, the show’s director and designers continue to work together to ensure that lighting, sound and costume designs all coincide, as well as the use of props. Changes are constantly being made, as are compromises between the director and designers.

6. Actors rehearse their scenes, experiment with blocking and essentially learn how to transform into their respective characters.

7. Rehearsal reports are prepared by the stage manager in order to track any changes made concerning blocking, lighting and sound cues and other design changes. They also serve as records of what was accomplished at each rehearsal.

Putting on a show is never an easy task, as evidenced by the complex processes detailed above; however, in the end, it is worth the diligent work. Theatre is essentially a gift to others, and at Fordham, it is part of the school’s culture. With that said, don’t take my word for it. Go see “Tales of the Lost Formicans,” which opens Nov. 20.