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The magic through the material

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Across the many realms of high school, the performing arts tend to draw the attention of many due to their extravagant productions of classic shows and musicals. Gonzaga is one of these schools and takes pride in their performances.

Gonzaga’s Dramatic Association hosts a musical during the spring semester each year. This year, they immersed themselves in the magical world of Mary Poppins. 

To capture the magical feel of the original movie, everyone involved with the show worked hard to create the perfect set and find the best props that would enhance the show. Assistant Director Mr. Andrew Curtin ‘01 described how the crew used random and miscellaneous objects around the school within the play.

“Some of the props are neat things that our director Ms. [Kate] Griffith had found. Other pieces are very weird things that we just have lying around. Gonzaga is a very old school, so it’s got a lot of unusual stuff in it. The cannon, for example, we just like had backstage for some reason, and so we added it into the show,” Mr. Curtin explained. 

A big part of the show is finding out how to make Mary Poppins fly. This is an iconic moment in the original film, so the production crew wanted to make it happen. The producer of the play Mrs. Megan Goldsmith explained some of the journey of figuring out how to fly. 

“Initially, we knew we wanted to fly, but flying is really expensive, so there was a lot of checking to see who would be the most cost-effective one to use, so we ended up using a local company from Maryland, but that all ended up working out great,” Mrs. Goldsmith said. 

Not only was flying a magical part of the show but there were a few other nods to the original that included magical furniture.

“Some of the props we used were trick furniture that we have that breaks in and magically repairs itself. We got it from people who had built and used it before and immediately broke, so we had to retro-engineer it and figure out how it works and how we could re-rig and redesign it to serve our purposes. We installed a bunch of extra pulleys, and we weren’t sure it was going to work, but it did and it has done well throughout all of it,” Mr. Curtin elaborated.

Of course with live performances, you’re bound to encounter some mistakes that you can’t fix on the spot but that’s all part of theater.

“The fun thing about live theater is that it never goes entirely according to plan, right? If you want to see something that goes exactly right every time, you watch TV or a movie, because they could do a million takes until they get it right. With live theater, there’s always a little something, but it’s our job to make that invisible to the audience if possible, and the audience is part of that equation in that they kind of agree to suspend disbelief,” Mr. Curtin said. 

The audience is the biggest part of each play. The way they respond to the show inspires the crew and gives them ideas to integrate into the next show. An engaged audience also helps with garnering more of a crowd day by day.

“I think that the audience’s experience watching the show has encouraged more people to want to come to GDA shows, and more kids to want to participate in them. I think it’s been really good for the program just to have a lot more happening on stage,” Ms. Goldsmith said. 

The GDA puts a lot of effort into each one of their shows and all of the performances, so for them, it is always great to see a good crowd turnout for each show. Hearing the great reviews from audience members also inspires them to work even harder during next school year’s fall play.

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