Stage makeup litters the table down in director Annie Barney’s classroom. High school students from around the area rush to have their fourteenth century up-dos and heavy makeup finished by their pre-show meeting. Hairspray is thick in the air, and curling irons steam against the newly sprayed hair. Upstairs, people are beginning to file into to Rockhurst High School’s Rose Theater, but downstairs, the cast is still a whirlwind of activity. The Romeo and Juliet cast members help each other out, putting makeup on each other and finishing curling each other’s hair. A handful of mothers were even sewing last minute tears and fixing seam rips on costumes.
“There was chaos between the changing, finding props, holding back laughter, running into techies and looking over and seeing someone just sitting among the set.” junior Kate Sanders, who played the Capulet nurse, said. “It was crazy, but it was a bunch of fun.”
Freshman Ellen Weitkamp helped with hair for the show.
“Backstage can be hectic, especially with such a big cast, but if everyone is calm and staying in one place, [doing] their hair is fun,” Weitkamp said.
Any cast member will tell you that the last minute details are important, but it’s the little traditions that make being backstage one of their favorite parts. Between the random show quotes and millions of inside jokes, pranks are quite common backstage at Rockhurst.
“Backstage was really just a lot of fun,” said senior Christie Fletcher. “One of the funniest pranks that happened was [when Rockhurst junior] Lorenzo Gatapia’s hid throughout the backstage area in the dark in his priest [costume] and when someone got close [to him], he would pop out of nowhere. It seriously looked like a scary scene from ‘The Exorcist.’”
“We tried to keep quiet, but ended up clutching our sides, falling on our knees and even rolling off of [our] chairs as we laughed,” Sanders recalled.
“We had a hard time being quiet backstage,” Fletcher said.
Despite the chaos around them, the actors found time to sit and chat quietly and laugh at countless inside jokes before going through their per-show rituals. After the cast members had gathered around in the backstage “band-room,” the cast listened as Barney ran a few last minute notes and [said] her emotional “thank-you”s to the cast “for their hard-work.” They formed a tight circle, holding hands right over left, and hopped away from the circle, untangling themselves. Finally, they preformed the “shake down” to warm up one last time, and ran up the stairs to take their starting places.
All the girls enjoy their time up onstage, but the best part is being backstage bonding with the cast.
“It felt like pretty much everyone got along and just cared about doing what we were all there to do and have fun,” Fletcher said.
As for why they are so interested in theater?
“My cast mates and I have been in a lot of other shows together,” senior Rosemary McGraw said. “And we also share a sincere and insane passion for theater.”
Despite the chaos that goes into the production, the actors agree that being part of the show is definitely a great experience.
“There’s a different world behind the curtain.” Sanders said.