A woman is standing in front of a mirror in the Ring Theatre, worried that her nipples are showing through her costume. But there’s no time. She darts to the stage, only to return to the dressing room five seconds later.
“Shit, shit, shit,” she says, realizing that she has forgotten something.
Within one minute, the scene changes, the orchestra plays, and so continues the first dress rehearsal for the University of Miami Theatre Department’s production of “Guys and Dolls” last Saturday night.
While cast members strip down to their underwear to change for the next dance number, director Vincent Cardinal sits in the audience, whispering notes to his assistant. Cardinal, chair of the Theatre Department, has grown accustomed to dress rehearsal jitters in his 29 years as a director.
“It’s always very nerve-racking,” he said. “Think about getting yourself ready to go out and how long that takes. And then put yourself in a situation where you have 30 seconds to accomplish that and then walk out in front of 400 people.”
But if the cast of 35 is nervous in the dressing room, they certainly don’t show it on stage. In the second act, an ensemble of men in the “Crapshooters’ Ballet” dance in seemingly flawless unison. And then, a shout from the audience: “Okay, let’s hold please,” Cardinal says. The house lights turn on, and he addresses the cast as they stretch in relief – perhaps an indication of how grueling the five weeks of rehearsal have been.
“There’s no time for anything fun,” said Brendan Maroney, a senior who plays Nathan Detroit, the leading man. “I can’t go to the Rat after class. I can only work certain shifts at the restaurant I work at. It’s kind of cut into my financial life.”
But the cast isn’t complaining.
Sarah Biggins, an exchange student from England who hasn’t had time to do laundry in two weeks, said the dynamic between the cast and director in “Guys and Dolls” is worth the sacrifice.
“Back in England, we don’t really have the opportunity to work with teachers and do a big-scale production like this,” she said. “So it’s very exciting for me.”
But while professors oversee the production and guide the students, Cardinal said that everyone from the assistant director to the performers to the stage managers are all undergraduate students.
“At most research institutions like ours, there’s a graduate program where older people are running the show,” he said, adding that any student at UM can audition for theatre productions. “I think the assumption is that everybody is a conservatory student. The truth is they’re from all kinds of backgrounds. You’re as likely to have a neuroscience student on stage as you are a musical theatre major.”
After the run-through ends at 11 p.m., actor Ken Clark tells The Miami Hurricane he was so ecstatic and appreciative about getting the role of reformed bad boy Sky Masterson that he couldn’t stand up when he found out.
“The day of the auditions I had ankle surgery,” he said. “I came back the next day on Percocet and crutches with a huge cast on my foot, and with a smile a mile wide. I go in and I sing. And I got really lucky. We go in and see the cast list and I fell on my ass. I was on crutches and still on drugs.”
Clark, a sophomore, is the only lead who isn’t graduating next month – a rarity for shows at the Ring. But despite the competitiveness for roles in “Guys and Dolls” (more than 300 students are in the Theatre Department), Clark said he doesn’t feel anyone is jealous of his early success. “It’s not an issue here,” he said. “The level of professionalism is absolutely unbelievable.”
Cardinal echoes the sentiment.
“These students are very professional when they walk into the theatre and it’s really all about their work,” he said. “I’m sure there’s a lot of drama offstage, but it’s outside the theatre and they leave it there. All that sort of backstage drama that you see in the movies, there really isn’t time for that.”
Just shy of 11:30 p.m., the cast has changed out of their costumes and gathered in front of the stage, waiting to hear Cardinal read them his notes.
“You weren’t ready for the daytime rehearsal earlier today,” he said. “You showed up tonight where we should have been today.”
The student performers take the critique in stride and depart through the exit doors. They will return to the theatre the next day, ready to do it all over again.
Earlier, Cardinal sat in the Ring’s modest costume shop, sequestered from his students and colleagues.
“I expect them to behave as if they’ve been doing it for 50 years,” he said. “And so, I’m probably tough. I keep the bar pretty high. But they know that I want to see them succeed.”
Nick Maslow may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Guys and Dolls” opens Wednesday at the Ring Theatre and closes on Saturday, April 26. Tickets can be purchased at the Ring Theatre Box Office from 12 to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. For more information call 305-284-3355 or visit http://www.as.miami.edu/theatrearts/ring/.
Weeknights & matinees:
Regular admission: $18
Seniors, UM faculty/staff/alumni: $16
Friday & Saturday nights:
Regular admission: $20
Seniors, UM faculty/staff/alumni: $18