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Behind the Scenes: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

(Posted October 24, 2013)

Kate Clarke, director of 'Dirty, Rotten Scoundrels' Photography by Kelly Russo, '14

Last weekend the first performance of "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" took place in Suzanne Von Liebig Theater. The comedy is based on a film that was made in the '80s directed by Frank Oz and starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin. The play was written by Jeffrey Lane and the music and lyrics are by David Yazbek. "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" will be also be performed on October 23, 24 and 25. Kate Clarke, director of the musical and assistant professor of theatre arts, talks about the performance behind the scenes.

Q: How many people work on the musical?

A: There are just so many people who work on it. Students do everything in our department. Students build the set, hang the lights, create the sound and build the costumes. There are a lot of students in the orchestra. They are mentored by professionals, but really the main labor is on the students. The backstage crew are all students. There are 13 people on the cast, and there are a lot of people from outside the department, too.

Q: How long does it take to prepare for the performance?

We have been working on it now for about two months. We started in early September.

Q: Which was the hardest part of putting together the performance?

The hardest part happened before we created the cast. We had to figure out how we would solve the problems of the set. It is a very complicated script, and different scenes happen every second in different locations. We have to solve what we would do with the set. Our senior designer, the technical director, and I did a lot of work to figure out how we would create a hotel room. We need stairs, doors that close, outside and inside spaces, train stations, and airports. And it all has to happen very quickly. We have seven people in the ensemble and they all play at least five different characters. They are changing costumes constantly, so costume tracking took a lot of preparation. The rehearsal process has been fine. We have a great cast, wonderful people, two great music directors and It has been really fun.

Q: Why you decided to stage this performance?

A: I thought it would be a very good fit for the people that I have right now. I knew I had certain people who could potentially play some of these characters. I also knew it was time for a comedy and I knew people would really enjoy it. It's the kind of play a family can go to. It's a little saucy. I would call it PG-13, if you are going to give it a film rating. But we are basically doing the high school version, the cleaned up version so there are fewer spicy words and innuendo. We took out the stuff that would bother people. People can bring their kids and have a very good time. It's really funny.

Q: What do you want to transmit with this performance?

A: I want to entertain and give people a wonderful evening. The music is great, the dancers are great, the costumes are beautiful and all the set is beautiful. I am not trying to convey a big message. This is just a fun story. When I look at doing a season, I usually look finding a good balance for the people who will come and see performances over the year. I want to have something in different categories. We had an intellectual drama with the last big main stage show and we had a Shakespearean tragedy the fall before. It is time to change the energy a little bit and bring some comedy.

Q: What will come next?

A: The next thing we are doing is the new play development. We have a series of small-scale stage readings about a New York playwright by Peggy Safford, and a new adaptation of an Oscar Wilde play "The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Neal Utterback.

Katherine Tobar, Juniata Online Journalist

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Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.