Behind the scenes of the theatre department musical

“Urinetown,” UIndy’s fall musical will appear on Oct. 16-19 and 23-25 in Ransburg Auditorium. The musical is directed by Assistant Professor of Theatre James Leagre. While many people are aware of the work the cast puts into the show, there are also the demands on the technical crew. Besides acting, other things that go into putting on a show include set construction, lighting, costumes, directing and more.

Leagre described “Urinetown” as “high-comedy,” but also as having an ecological perspective.

“The essence of this story is about this huge company called UGC [Urine Good Company], who mandates that everyone has to go to the bathroom in public amenities that they have to pay for,” Leagre said. “If you get caught going to the bathroom in the woods, or anywhere, you basically get arrested and sent to Urinetown.”

Freshman theatre major, Kelli Danz, freshman music major, Ivy Bott, and freshman nursing major Shelby Hock battle each other in slow motion in a scene for the upcoming musical “Urinetown” that will open this month. Photo by Laken Detweiler
Freshman theatre major, Kelli Danz, freshman music major, Ivy Bott, and freshman nursing major Shelby Hock battle each other in slow motion in a scene for the upcoming musical “Urinetown” that will open this month. Photo by Laken Detweiler

One of Leagre’s favorite lines from the show is “expect the expected,” which means that what you expect is going to happen, will happen, but not in the way you expected.

“[‘Urinetown’] keeps the audience on its toes, and it really is a fun piece,” Leagre said.

Being a director of any play or musical offers the opportunity to be creative with the interpretation.

“One of the things I love, as a director, is when I can approach a show that I don’t really know that well … and build it from the ground up,” Leagre said. “I feel like we found some new things in the show that maybe other productions haven’t done.”

Getting everyone to work together to come up with creative ideas for the musical is an important job for directors.

“One of the things that I love about directing is the creative collaboration,” Leagre said. “That’s everything from scenic design, lighting design, sound design, costumes, as well as the actors. Seeing all of those elements come together… and being able to sit back and know that it all works well together [is] what excites me the most.”

Associate Professor of Theatre, Jim Ream, designer of the sets and shop supervisor, works with his team to create and build the entire set within five weeks. This particular set for “Urinetown,” will contain one large unit that spins to reveal  a shiny, new corporate office and the entrance to public amenity #9. A separate section contains a boiler room with a secret hideout.

According to Ream, the way something is portrayed on a set can greatly influence the audience’s perception.

“The desk [in the office] is made a little bit lower than normal,” Ream said, “… And the desk is smaller. So we’re trying to make him [the business executive] look looming and larger. He’s kind of a larger-than-life character.”

A lot goes into building the set of a play, but one of the most crucial steps is designing it.

“You’ll meet with the director and the other designers, and at that point you try to remove the filters. You’re just dreaming,” Ream said. “That’s how creative things happen. You don’t have to worry about what doesn’t work or how you’re going to make it work. You just have to say, ‘We want this to look like it’s suspended in midair.’ Then you’ll worry about it later.”

For many of the students and faculty working on “Urinetown,” has become a key aspect of their lives.

“Anybody in the creative field—whether you’re a sculptor, a painter, a theatre artist, a director or a set designer—you’re always working on it in your head,” Ream said. “When I drive here [to UIndy] in the morning, in my mind, I’m putting those pipes up 20 feet in the air and figuring out how I’m going to do that.”