When attending one of ACT of Connecticut’s Broadway caliber productions, it is hard not to think about all the detailed work and planning that must take place behind the scenes in order to achieve the magical results on stage. From casting, staging, choreography, scenery, lighting, sound; one would think that the theater’s rehearsal period must be several months long. In fact, there are only four weeks between the first day of rehearsal to the first public performance.
The meticulous planning of each production actually begins six months in advance of actors’ arrival for day one of rehearsal. “Pre-production is the term given to all of the planning leading up to our rehearsal period,” says Daniel C. Levine, ACT of CT’s Artistic Director. During this time, Levine selects the design teams including the scenic, costume, lighting, props, and sound designers. The music director, choreographer, and stage management team are also hired. “We’ve been fortunate to have employed some of the theater industries most skilled and talented artists, designers, and musicians for our productions. It is thrilling to collaborate with such remarkable talent,” he says.
During pre-production, the selected creative team works with the show’s director in order to bring his/her vision to life. “Each season, I direct 1-2 of our mainstage productions – generally the larger musicals,” says Levine. This season, Levine directed Guys and Dolls and will be directing the highly anticipated The Secret Garden, which opens in May 2023. “It’s important for me though, to also hire guest directors for some of our productions to introduce new design teams to the theater with different aesthetics. I want all of our productions look and feel different so that our audiences will continue to expect the unexpected,” says Levine.
After all designs are approved, the scenic ground plans are sent to shops for bids, costumes are sourced or built, and lighting plots created. ACT’s music department also begins their work on customizing the show’s instrumentation. Casting sessions are held (both in NYC and CT) and actors are selected. One week before rehearsal begins, the set is loaded into the theater. After six months of planning, the cast arrives for their first day of rehearsal. The show’s music is taught the first two days and staging and choreography after that. Just one week before opening night, the show’s technical elements are added and the band joins. I’ve often heard Daniel C. Levine talk about “theater magic” during his pre-show curtain speeches. After discovering how a production is created, I’m a believer in that magic. •