Load-In-- It's Crunch Time

Today we finished up the Finale of In the Heights. With opening night exactly one week away, nothing else makes me feel more like the show is really happening! So far we have finished all the major dance numbers and blocking, with only a handful of small scenes left. Rehearsals have been very productive and exhausting at the same time recently. Mr. Howard broke the numbers into sections, for example, Carnaval del Barrio had 16 of them, and progressed through them in order and strung up a complete scene.

From 6 to 8 pm tonight, we started what is called "load-in", which consisted of setting up backstage, props, costumes, hanging up posters, taping chords, safety procedures, etc. One crew arranged the hair products and posters in Daniella's salon, while the other set up the merchandise in the bodega. Some people cleaned up the green room and organized all the costumes. Headshots printed out everyone's portraits that they have taken.

Dom Sayler, our technical director, is the low-key mastermind of the backstage. He directed everyone to do their assigned crew work and made sure everything ran smoothly. Meanwhile, Mr. Howard and the stage managers have been writing light cues for the production relentlessly.

The cast and crew had our first team dinner tonight: it was a quality bonding time for the ensemble to feel more like a close group and be show-ready.

Yours Truly, from on average 6 hours a day of theater,
Maggie

Dom Sayler

Load-in meeting

Team Dinner

Friday's rehearsal was special-- we did not do any blocking, choreography, or music, but it is probably the most important thing we’ve done, even more important than the musical itself.
With opening night less than three weeks away, we are quite excited and nervous and working really hard! Watching the documentary before rehersal Wednesday on the broadway production of “In the Heights” really got everyone pumped up for some fine theater. We got to see the real actors themselves, the places they came from, and their own life stories.  More important than the musical itself is the people who are a part of it. Today, we gathered around the “neighborhood” in the set and shared our life stories to each other, circling around race, ethnicity and cultural backgrounds. I sat down with Annie, our assistant director in front of the “neighborhood salon” and chatted with her. She told me she grew up in a circus, and lived in both New York City and Southern Connecticut. As for me, my life story is very different from hers because I grew up in China and think myself as a foreigner to the United States. It was interesting to shar about our culture and the differences and similarities to the show. However, both of us connect to “In the Heights” in such a way that we all come together through a great process of a Berkshire Theater production. At the end, we all sat in a circle to share our interesting stories-- important parts that our castmates may not know yet they construct who we are. It may seem like a surprise to some that a bunch of high school kids like us would take such a deeply personal activity seriously, but we not only did it, we also are infinitely grateful for the diversity we have and the impact we will have on the Berkshire community especially through this show.


Yours truly from Rosario's fire-escape,
Maggie





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¡Hola amigos!

We are less than month away from opening night! Today was a busy but fun rehearsal. We pieced together the music, blocking, and choreography for 96,000, a.k.a. Mr. Howard's favorite number in the show. 96,000 is the centerpiece in the first act: Usnavi from the bodega announces to the neighborhood that someone won a lottery ticket worth 96,000 dollars. The people all started fantasizing what they would do with that much money and started rapping, singing, and dancing in the neighborhood. As much as the music very upbeat, it contains a bittersweet layer of reality's heavy burden mixed with the faraway hopes and dreams. "I find it very hard to get through the song without crying," Someone said during rehearsal. The cast try very hard to portray the situation and feel what the characters and feeling, and put the music and the ideas into their body, in their expressions.

We also started to design hair and makeup for the show today! Liz Wheeler, a local makeup artist who has done many shows with Berkshire Theater, came to help. Each one of the actors were called in to try on foundations and discuss their characters. Annie and Liz made a customized makeup kit for everyone, which consists of foundation, lip colors, blush, a pencil and a sponge. 

Lastly, please take a sneak peak of the video of the first band rehearsal from last week!

Video credit: Rafael Arredondo.

Yours truly,
Maggie​

Dancing continues!


Tomorrow marks one month until opening and we are already working 24/7.  Organized rehearsals run from Monday-Saturday, but we also participate in a dance review each Sunday. While many of my friends are surprised that theater is so hardcore, I enjoy meeting on Sunday for the opportunity to review and get some exercise. 
Our dance Captain, Michelle, walked us through each of the dance numbers we have learned.  First we reviewed without music and in half-time, then we danced with increased speed, and finally we reviewed in full speed adding music.  
At this point we have learned dances for three out of six dance numbers. In my view the most thrilling and the most difficult of these numbers is “The Club Scene”- when the main characters spend a night out on the town. The dance is a mixture of hip-hop and Latin moves including jumping, spinning, sambaing, and a little merengue. Because there are many variations of the same moves, Sunday dance review is extremely important for cementing the steps so that we execute them properly on opening night. Besides Dance rehersals we also have music rehersals and lots of blocking rehersals. 


Hi theater-lovers, this is Maggie showing you a little sneak-peak of In the Heights! This Thursday was a set-build day: in addition to the basic platforms we built last time, we constructed more elaborate pieces that are specific to the show. One crew painted a giant load of foam bricks to decorate the backdrop, which featured a latte-brown shade that set the color tone for the neighborhood. The backdrop is made of big boards of wood, painted in the same color as the foam bricks. We used cutters to cut out the windows, which will all be found in the background. In the picture below, you can see a group of students working on a few pieces of planks painted white-- we were assembling the counter for Daniela's salon, which required some drilling and sanding of the surface. Along with the counter, the sign for the bodega was built and painted in bright blue, and a shelf for the bodega was also assembled. You can see in the second photo that most of the basic features of the neighborhood are already outlined. On the farthest stage right, you will find the Rosario's dispatch window. Immediately to the left is Abuela Claudia's stoop. The platforms in the middle are for singing and dancing, and to the left is Usnavi's bodega, from where everyone buys coffee and groceries. On the farthest stage left is Daniela's salon. The cast and crew are doing a great job, and the spirits are high. On Friday night, the band and the singers met for the first time to rehearse the music, and it is getting us all pumped up for the show in February!

Thanks,
Maggie



Dance Rehersal

"In The Heights” contains fast pace music and dance numbers to accompany
the intense scenes. Recently we have just started choreographing for the song “96,000”; a number in which most of the cast is on stage dancing to a rapid tempo with a very significant
message in the play. Nicole, our choreographer came in last week to teach us
choreography to this song is much faster than the songs we had been working on so far, so the cast was very focused and determined to execute the moves correctly.
As always,we started with our active warmup to prepare our muscles for the dancing. Nicole starts by showing us a brief combination then breaking down each step.Once every could
nail that, she will continue to add on.As one can imagine, as we start to connect more and more
combinations in a proper order, it becomes more difficult. However, this cast was productive and maintained a positive mind set to continue trying. By the end of the rehearsal we were able to execute the dance thanks to everyones encouragement and Nicole’s incredible patience and
skill. This week we will continue to learn the rest of the choreography for this song along with continuing to practice the moves to other dances.


Introducing Michelle-interview

Hey all! Andrea from the Bio's crew here:

Just wanted to share my interview of Michelle, an awesome new member to our group and this shows Dance captain!


This is Michelle…

What is your role in “In the Heights?”
I am a member of the ensemble and the dance captain.

Can you tell me about your role as the dance captain?
Basically, I observe when people have troubles with the movement and I help them when they have struggles. I am looking forward to holding individual rehearsals. Also, I have to memorize everyone’s choreography and when Nicole (Choreographer) isn’t present, I might have to come up with something on the spot.

Is this your first time doing a Berkshire Theater production?
Yep, my first time and it is pretty exciting.

What inspired you to join, especially this season being the musical?
In musicals, there are both dancing and singing, which I love. I have a lot of friends who do theater and encouraged me to try out. It is a good opportunity for me to get outside of my comfort zone because I have been doing dance forever.

What has it been like transitioning from dance to theater? Similarities/Differences?
It feels really different because theater, especially the musical, there are many people. I feel like I get to know more people. In addition, the warm-up from theater is very different from dance. I think the warm-up is really interesting and it gets me into the mindset for rehearsal; I feel prepared and ready to go--it’s fun. I am also learning new terminology some we made up like “blockeography” (a term we use for a rehearsal involving blocking and choreography) and more traditional terms such as “blocking” and how to write it on my script. (Including abbreviations for notating blocking for directions like upstage, downstage, ect.)

What has been a challenge in the process so far?
Combining singing and acting at the same time.


Intro to Bios


Hello everyone! This is Andrea, Ana, and Loso.
And we are the tech crew of Bio's!!!!!!

Our role in the production is to interview other members of the cast in order to give insight to the greater community and to add another element to the blog this show. In addition, closer to the production time, we ask the cast/crew questions about themselves and their experience in "In the Heights." The bios are then displayed in the lobby where the audience can read a biography of the cast/crew during intermission or at the end of the show.

Let us introduce ourselves:

Hi I'm Ana!  I'm a Junior here at Berkshire and I am playing Vanessa in In the Heights, (and more importantly, a member of the bios tech crew).  I'm so stoked to be spending the winter season in the theatre with so many cool people.  Come out and see the show in February!

My name is Andrea and I am a Junior. I will be playing Nina Rosario, daughter of Kevin & Camila Rosario, freshman at Stanford University. This is my 6th production in Berkshire Theater and I am thrilled to be a part of "In the Heights!" 

Hi my name is Losseni and I play an artist named Graffiti Pete in the play "In The Heights." I am really enjoying this experience of being in such a remarkable and important musical to many people. I think that this will be a great and new play to present to Berkshire community. I am confident that this cast will do an amazing job.

Stay tuned to more from us and from the great Blog crew!!

ITH Line-run


What’s My Line?

How good is your memory? Do remember all your passwords? Can you remember what you wore last week? If someone asked you to recall every item you bought during a recent trip to the grocery store, could you do it?

Now consider the brainpower involved in memorizing an entire script for a play, especially a musical — and retaining it for months.
Learning lines is a basic part of our job as actors in In the Heights, a job that is largely reserved for winter break. Over the two weeks of winter holiday each member of the cast took time to memorize lines, cues, lyrics,choreography, and blocking. 

Yet, experience and a number of tricks make memorizing lines much easier than it looks.  Here are some of the basic tricks I’ve learned….

1.    Cues are just as important as lines. For those that don’t know, a cue is the technical term for the line directly before yours. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that actors only have to memorize their own lines, however without a cue it’s impossible to know when to say your lines. (It really doesn't matter much if you know your lines if you don't know when to say them.)

2.   It’s easier to memorize lyrics than lines. The structure of reciting lines to rhythm actually makes them easier to recite than if you freely memorize lines.

3.   Technology is your friend. There are so many ways that technology can help someone who needs to memorize lines. Over the break each member of the cast Skyped/Facetimed with a line buddy, the person who they’re in the most scenes with.  Many cast members chose to use extra technological help by using the recording apps pre-downloaded on most phones. It’s helpful because you can record all of your cues and then recite your lines as if you're practicing with someone else. (Dr. Wu and Dr. Davis also post recordings of the piano to the songs so we can learn our parts.)

In the end though, no matter what method you use to memorize your lines every member of the cast of  In the Heights is expected to have their parts down cold by the time we return to break.  

On the first day we return to rehearsal the whole cast gathers up on stage to run through the entire musical. There is a special type of pressure and self awareness that only this first line-run can provide. Not only is it the final test of your lines but is also a mildly menacing indicator that our show is coming together and won’t be long till we open house. The head stage manager says "Go" and we all go from beginning to end through the entire show, songs and all. 


Current countdown… 7 weeks!



Fortunately this line run went great! Lots more work to do to make the show ready but we are right where we should be. 


-Noah

Music Rehersal


Despite the fact that everyone has a lot to do during exam week, we still had a very productive music rehearsal today with the cast and Dr. Wu and Dr. Davis. We went over all the ensemble numbers in the first act, and although some spots need some practice, it went really great in general. Music rehearsal was a big stress-reliever that really took my mind off of school work and everything going on in my head. 


It is usually front-loaded in the initial stages of the production, so when we block or choreograph the numbers, we will already know our parts. My favorite number rehearsed today has to be Blackout, which is the final number in the first act. It is not only pleasant to the ears, but also contains so many variations of rhythms and melodies that make it extremely interesting to learn. Check it out on YouTube if you want a sneak peek! As of now, winter break is approaching for us that means time to memorize the melodies and lyrics of the songs, and all of our lines. The show is looking great with high hopes and ardent anticipation for everyone’s performance.


Yours one and only,
Maggie

Introducing your Bloggers for In The Heights



12/11/2015
    Introducing the Bloggers!
    Maggie: Hi All, my name is Maggie Zhu, and I am an ensemble member in our winter Musical, In the Heights! I am most excited about the dancing in the show because all of it is so new and so interesting. The music is exulting as well, since I have never done a musical where hip-pop, rap, and latin music make up the majority of the numbers. As Mr. Howard said, “let the music be your energy.” The music and dancing pieced together makes rehearsals truly a stress-reliever from all the school work and the highlight of my day. 

    Izzy: My name is Izzy Maher and I’m taking part in my first theater production at Berkshire! I play the character Camila Rosario, the mother of Nina and wife of Kevin. I am most excited for music because each song is so diverse rhythmically and makes the dancing super fun. At first this concept was a little off-putting but now that I see what were doing I’m excited to dive in and get into it. I look forward to rehearsals each day because of our focus warm-up and contagious positivity. 

Noah: Hi, my name is Noah Faison and I’m a four-year senior at Berkshire.  I’ve been a part of the Berkshire Theater community since my freshman year, and I am so excited to be working on In The Heights!  I am always looking for new ways to challenge myself and improve my acting skills, and I expect both to happen in this challenging musical.  I will be playing the role of Kevin, a father figure and semi-successful car service owner. 


Auditions: Over 30 or students auditioned for In the Heights following the end of the fall season, and the cast narrowed down to 22 actors along with 3 stage managers. Everyone prepared a monologue, a song, and some brave souls presented a short rap for auditions. Nicole Rizzo, our beloved choreographer also taught a segment of highly complicated choreography for dance auditions. The most important part was that everyone had a lot of fun, whether or not they were cast. The “supportive vibe” was the number one thing that everyone loved, and it is, in my opinion, the best thing about Berkshire Theater. 

Accents: One of the most challenging and fun parts of this musical is sure to be the dialect work. When the show first came out on Broadway it won the Tony Award for Best Musical in part because it represented an authentic and often underrepresented view of New York’s diverse Hispanic community.  In order to authentically recreate “el barrio” much of the cast is being trained to speak in accents authentic to their respective character’s country of origin. We've already spent a couple dialect rehearsals learning and for me, trying to develop that mix of the New York and Puerto Rican accent, and then we have to see just how much would influence my character. I’m so excited because properly mastering the accents will allow us add an additional layer of authenticity to the performance.

In The Heights!!!!!!!

Presenting...

In The Heights!

A hip-hop & Rap Musical 

From Lin-Manuel Miranda (also the writer and star of the current Broadway sold-out hit, Hamilton. )

"Winner of the 2008 Tony Award for Best Musical, In the Heights is the story of three days in the life of Washington Heights, a tightknit community at the top of Manhattan. Written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, this hip musical will win you over with its sweet story and hot tunes

This high-energy show features lovable characters, a contemporary Latin-flavored score and Tony-winning hip-hop dance moves. But it’s also very sweet and sentimental, wearing its heart on its sleeve. You may even get a little misty-eyed by the end."

-Excerpt from the In The Heights website  

Friday Night


Friday Night Blog

Hi bloggers!!
            As you guys know this weekend we opened Metamorphoses!  Opening night was a good experience for us to feel how the play would read in front of an audience.  We encountered moments of highs and lows.  And for Friday's show we took these moments and rehearsed them and made them even better.  A typical Berkshire Theater Friday show has the biggest audience and usually consists of 80% students and 20% adults.   Of course we wanted to put on the best show possible for our peers and teachers, but we faced some obstacles that proved to be harder to overcome than we thought.  For this show, we do not have the luxury of using microphones so projection and diction were very necessary in delivering our lines.  Due to nerves and the amount of people in the audience, as a cast we struggled to reach the audience with our volume.  All of the content of the play itself is very compelling, but it was up to us to draw the audience's attention to that very important content, and to do that we needed to be louder.  We still had a great show full of funny, happy, and sad moments, but our performance was slightly hindered by our lack of volume. Overall the performance went well. However, We are very excited to step up our game tomorrow!!!!

Thanks for floating with us,
Amani

OPENING NIGHT!!!


Thursday Night: Opening Night!!!

       


Tonight was a completely surreal experience for the cast. After two months of hard work on blocking, understanding our characters, memorizing lines, we’ve been preparing to share a kick-butt show with parents and students alike. Part of me was nervous that we might not have been able to pull it off, and part of me was excited that the show we had delved into was becoming a reality. In warm ups that night, Mr Howard pumped us up completely, while helping us focus on the task at hand. There was a fire inside of us; we were ready to jump in! The opening entrances gave us absolute jitters, for we were unsure of how the audience would respond to everything, but by the time we reached the final scene, there was a sense of joy and excitement among us. We had gotten laughs, tears, we even moved couples to hold hands and acknowledge the love that they had and the love that we shared. By the time we got offstage, it took all the robo in our bodies to not flip with joy before we got to the green room. But soon we were jumping, laughing, smiling and screeching with pride! Opening night had been an absolute success!

Swimming along happily,
Greer
     Sunday we spent the day using lighting and adding it to the scenes. It was really great to experience both Lights and sound. (Heads up, Mr Howard did a great job. Its all really intricate thus, amazing)
       Yesterday was Tech-Dress for Metamorphoses. After a regular rehearsal, we ate dinner and prepared for the runthrough. In Tech-Dress we use a many costumes, lights, sounds, etc. that we can. The main purpose of this is to fix the problems that arise from adding more complexities to the show. It was a long night, but we finished strong and we were content with our progress. 
        As I said, much of Tech-Dress is adding costumes to the show. I don’t even know where to begin with the costumes of Metamorphoses. The play is a collection of somewhat unrelated scenes. Because of this, each actor has several roles. Each actor also has several costumes. The entire cast throughout the show adds up to around 120-140 costumes, not sure by now, and many quick changes (even one underwater).

Oh yeah, and the whole pool thing. With a lot of hard work put in by all of us, especially our assistant director Annie, costumes may just work out.
Between Mr. Howards amazing job on the complex lighting and sound, Doms work on the set, and Annie's work on costumes We were ready to try a run through for tonight. 
        Today is Dress Rehearsal, which we like to treat as though we were opening. Tomorrow is opening night, at 730!! We hope to see you there!
Smooth sailing,
Riley