Dim the house lights, turn on the spotlight! This year St Hilda’s will put on Curtains the Musical as its annual production.
The play conveners in charge of overseeing this year’s musical, which will take place in the last week of August, are Bachelor of Arts student Erin Stephen and second year Bachelor of Science trio Ian Christy, Amy Liu and Ben Lyons.
All four were involved in last year’s College play and are excited about the prospect of putting together an entertaining adaptation of the musical mystery comedy based in the 1950’s.
Curtains the Musical received the tick of approval after a deliberation process that took into consideration a host of aspects. In the end, the decision was based on a recommendation from Stephen who had performed the musical at high school.
“We had a list of potential options and we had to take into account the number of lead roles, how many people we have, whether there are a lot of male or female leads, and wanting a good cast size,” said Stephen as the four conveners took some time out to provide an insight and update on how preparations are progressing.
“We also had to consider elements such as the costumes not being too intricate, so there were a number of different things we had to keep in mind when deciding.
“We also wanted to make sure it was something fun and not too serious.”
“I did drama in high school and we did Curtains and I thought it would match well with the size of the cast, the costumes and everything, so we had a look over it and it seemed to fit pretty well.
” Ultimately though, as Lyons notes, the most important thing to consider was “making sure everyone could be included.”
Once the decision on a play or musical is made, the conveners then appoint directors who cast and choose students to fill the lead roles.
The main lead role of any show arguably sets the standard and tone for the overall performance. The main character in Curtains is detective Frank Cioffi, meaning the person cast for this role would likely have a significant bearing on the strength of the whole performance. So what was the likelihood of finding that someone?
Enter Eamonn Shorter! The first year student from Tasmania who is undertaking a Bachelor of Music was a unanimous choice and the conveners are excited by what he and the rest of the cast will bring to this year’s musical. When asked if there are many good voices at St Hilda’s this year, the quartet’s answer was a resounding “yes”.
“We’ve got a really good cast this year,” said Liu.
“There are eight leads and a lot of speaking roles, the hardest thing is getting them to come to rehearsals. That was the biggest problem the play conveners had last year as it’s a pretty big time commitment.”
Rehearsals take place every Sunday and with approximately four months until show time, the old adage of ‘you get out what you put in’ is undoubtedly going to be relevant for everyone involved in the musical.
Another important task is sourcing expressions of interest for back stage roles and also musicians to make up the ensemble for the 22 songs.
Liu, whose one of many responsibilities is to play piano during rehearsals, says the production is coming along well but knows there is still a lot to do.
“It has been pretty smooth sailing so far. Everyone talks about the play being one of the most stressful convener jobs, and you can understand where they’re coming from because we don’t have a big team as such, it’s just the four of us,” said Liu.
“There is this book that has been the compilation of three or four years of other conveners sharing their tips and traits during their time, so that’s really helpful.
” For a production of this magnitude to come together and be a success, much comes down to the positive collaboration, communication and rapport between the conveners, something that is clearly evident among this group.
“We each have different roles but we all do work together. I do a lot of the budgeting but I also have to ask the others the best way to go about it, so having each other takes the pressure off a bit which is good,” said Stephen.
Lyons added, “At the end of last year I said to myself, I want to be a play convener and no one showed any interest, so I talked Ian into it and then the girls decided to get involved as well.”
There is also the financial side of the project to consider. Raising sufficient funds to put the show on is a challenging but imperative task. Chocolate boxes, barbeques, donations – every dollar counts.
“Costumes and props are surprisingly expensive and you also have to purchase the rights to the play in order to have permission to do it,” said Christy, who is the dedicated Stage Manager.
All up, there are over 100 people involved in this year’s production, epitomising the St Hilda’s spirit of Communitas, getting involved and having a go.
“At the end of the day we’re putting on a show for the public to watch so we want to make Hilda’s look good,” said Liu.
St Hilda’s will put on Curtains the Musical at the University of Melbourne’s Union House Theatre in the last week of August.
St Hilda's College is a living community and residential college on campus at the University of Melbourne.
We acknowledge and pay respect to the Wurrundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, the Traditional Owners of the land upon which our college is situated. We pay our respect to all the Elders of Indigenous students who call St Hilda’s home. We also acknowledge all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members of our community, the University of Melbourne, and the wider world.