During this second article, we’ll explore why this production is something you really need to attend based upon the rich experience Hopatcong High School has in the area in producing Broadway Quality Shows.
Article #2: Behind the scenes at the Production of “All Shook Up.”
Joe Ross – Director
It all starts with Joe Ross, who has been a full-time teacher with the Hopatcong School District for the last 13 years. In this role he teaches Acting & Play Writing, Public Speaking, English and a course in American Culture in the 21st Century.
More importantly, while Joe started his career as a Drama teacher, after five years he quickly decided to start acting full time. This led to 35 years as a professional actor, where he played many major roles as Scrooge in a Christmas Carol, King Henry in Becket, George in who is afraid of Virginia Wolf, and danced in the role of Uncle Drosselmeier in Nutcracker. Joe is also a publisher of a book on acting called “The Performance of your life.”
As you notice, there are no Hollywood/TV roles in his past, as Joe indicates: “I love the live theater, with no safety net, there is no reshooting a scene, you have to think quickly and be nimble on your feet.”
Based upon his rich and cast acting experience, Joe can mentor and direct the students to Open-Up, Expand, Blossom to “Fill the Space": as they play their different roles, which he indicates is sometimes difficult for High School students.
Joe utilizes a very rigorous try-out schedule with the Drama Club members, as he looks for the right talent for the right role, versus selecting someone just because they have been with the Club for the longest period of time. “I believe it’s more important to cast the roles correctly, with the people I feel will do the best job. That’s why we have a freshman this year in one of the major roles.”
In talking to Joe about his role as both Teacher and Director, “It’s a pleasure to do what I do… I’ve come full circle as I started teaching and then became a full-time actor, and I’m now able to teach this and pass along my acting experience. Some teachers can talk about how the roles can be played; I’m able to play it in my mind and to give them additional direction based upon my acting experience.”
Nicole Schwarz -- Head of Lighting and Sound
Nicole is a senior at Hopatcong High School and has already been accepted to Keene State University for Lighting and Sound, which she has selected as her full long-term career goal.
Nicole’s responsibilities as the head of Technical are the direction of stage lighting, spotlights and sound and the special effects.
Nicole relates, “We really have to be on queue back here as we need to make sure each transition in lighting, sound and special effects happens right on cue, and while we have our standard cues, things may change in the scene, which means we have to adjust and respond quickly to the changes. The bottom line is we need to make sure we work smoothly.”
Antony Marinaro (left), who is the second in command, and will fill Nicole shoes as she leaves, added: “Last year I went through proving what I could do, and now this year everything I do this year is based is finishing my training on how to run and direct the crew under Nicole’s leadership. To prepare for each production the technical team reads the scripts at least three times to understand the play, the cues and what needs to be done from our standpoint.”
Abby Dekker – Dance Captain:
Abby is not only the Dance Captain, but she also stars as Miss Sandra during the production. Based upon her eight years of dance experience, she has helped the entire group learn their dance steps for the production.
“This production is based upon Elvis, which is fairly challenging; we had to research the moves from videos, as to how the moves and how it was originally produced. From there we get ideas, which I have to work with each group on their steps and movement.”
“Sometimes this can be difficult, so I go over the moves multiple times with each group, as we cover their movements, steps, and dance. I make sure everyone understands before we move forward.”
The picture to the right shows Abby (on the right) reviewing the dance steps with some of the major cast members.
Michael Batche – Technical Director: Set Design & Special Effects
Michael and Joe have worked together for the last ten years on set designs and special effects, and during this performance, you will be treated to some of the best multiple level designed sets, and even live motorcycles used in the production. Michael consults with the art department for assistance in the final design and production of the sets.
In speaking to Michael, “While I handle the major set design and many other aspects, my goal is to turn this production over to the students once we reach the dress rehearsal stage. As I’d like just to give them their palette, and they have create their own art for the production.”
“There are a lot of moving parts that need to be coordinated in a production of this level, but this is a passion with me!”
“I learned over the Christmas break on which production he had selected, so I just close my eyes and imagined what each scene needed, what Joe wanted, and what materials we have to work with... Based upon that vision, I was able to design the overall set, so Joe and the actors can start with the actual production.”
Michael will not only serve as the Technical Director during this production but also be featured in the Pit Band playing guitar, along with his son who will be playing the lead guitar.
Kurt Zimmermann – Head Orchestra and Band Director.
Kurt is the Hopatcong Music Teacher who also serves as the Pit Band Director for this musical.
“While I serve duo positions, I look at it as all one picture, as everyone here plays an important role. The majority of the orchestra comes from my band students, and we have several alumina students that will also be participating. That’s what it makes it a fun and an exciting environment.”
“In the early stages my team learns the music, and then during final last week, we bring together both the Band and Actors the actors together to make sure that they are all on the same page.”
“This is a challenging play; these are Broadway Play roles and music not written for students, I’m so proud of these students, who were able to expand into these roles, and to deliver such a great performance!”