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'Pirates' sets anchors in Freed Center spring production

With only hours left before the opening night of "The Pirates of Penzance," junior musical theater major Ben Frankart practices his lines, dances, and music one last time. The cast, under the direction of Kirsten Osbun-Manley, developed the entire show in just over six weeks. (photo/Freed Center for the Performing Arts)

This article is the second installment in a three-part series in which the cast of the spring musical, “The Pirates of Penzance,” works on choreography and staging while cleaning the music and dialogue that will bring the battle between the pirates and the policemen to life.

The Pirates of Penzance” will set anchors for a performance filled with sword fights and laughter at Ohio Northern University’s Freed Center for the Performing Arts on April 6-9.

The cast of the musical worked with director Kirsten Osbun-Manley to master the music of this comedic operetta in only two weeks.

With opening night quickly approaching, the cast has worked diligently to finish staging, or blocking, the various scenes of the show while incorporating costumes, lighting, and props. Staging involves teaching the actors where and when to enter for a scene, where to go during the dialogue, and when to leave the stage. In addition, the cast members must learn how to interact with the other characters, the props, and the set.

Pirates always carry their trusty swords with them; therefore, the actors playing pirates had to learn to use real swords.

For a couple weeks, the actors used large wooden sticks while learning choreography and sword-fighting techniques from ONU Department of Theater Arts Chair Laurie Bell and Freed Center’s Production Manager and Lighting Designer Kathe DeVault, respectively.

The real swords weren’t introduced until March 30 when the cast did a full run-through of the show without interruption.

Benjamin Frankart, junior musical theater major, said that while having a sword made the run-through difficult at times, singing wasn’t an issue.

“Being safe at all times and aware of what your sword is doing is just another thing to keep in mind while on stage on top of everything else,” he said. “In terms of vocals, most of the staging is simple enough that it doesn't complicate singing too much. We're getting into the final portion of the rehearsal process that it's really becoming muscle memory.”

The directors, like many, will go over notes made during the rehearsal regarding the actors’ individual performances.

During these later rehearsals, Travis Jürgens, the conductor for the orchestra, provided advice for the cast regarding musical and vocal technicalities.

“I think we’re in good shape—in very good shape,” Jürgens said. “They’ve been working hard. There’s a lot of music, and they been doing very well. At this point we’re putting some finishing touches on [the show] in terms of layers of things to add…things to make it even better, so we’re in very good shape. I’m excited for the show.”

Osbun-Manley, as the main director, made the most notes of all, recognizing the improvements from previous rehearsals as well as areas that still need work.

“They’re doing very well; the whole production is tough,” she said. “[They need to watch their] pacing and knowing how to pace themselves, not getting winded, and really supporting the sound is tough. They just have to build up their stamina to get through the show and [learn] how much to give in the beginning and toward the middle and then toward the end.”

For the past several days, the pirates of Penzance, Major-General Stanley and his many daughters, and the Sergeant of Police and his officers have come together to put the finishing touches on this beloved classic. Now it’s time to sit back, relax, and smile as this classic, comedic operetta returns to the Freed Center stage since 1993.

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