Indiana Daily Student

'South Pacific' opens tour, IU Auditorium season

Company practices in close confines, chaotic conditions before opening national tour in Bloomington

From the elevators to the stairwells, to the empty seats inside the house, every part of the IU Auditorium was bursting with preparations for "South Pacific" this week. Actors and actresses stretched, sang, played cards and read newspapers in the orchestra lobby. Bright yellow tape, stretched across the colorful carpet, marked out a stage. \nMusic from the show, that begins its national tour with performances tonight and tomorrow at IU, floated down from the mezzanine lobby. The orchestra was crammed into the narrow space along with trunks and stacks of chairs. Sound and set crews worked to rig lights, sound boards and backdrops for the performance.\nIn the corner of one stairwell sat three large, bright-colored plastic balls. Auditorium General Manager Bryan Rives explained the staff kicks around the balls when they need to let off steam. But during final rehearsals they are relegated to sitting untouched in the corner -- there's no time to let off steam.\n"South Pacific" is kicking off both the Auditorium's 2001-02 season and its own national tour. The show is using the Auditorium to rehearse for the tour, one reason IU was able to bring the show to Bloomington.\n"When tours like this are getting ready to go they need a location to do the final technical rehearsal and have the final full rehearsal," Rives said. "They rented the Auditorium this week to do that and we were able to negotiate to present two full performances here."\nThe practice arrangement is not a first for the auditorium (a touring company of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" had previously prepared for its tour at IU), but it will give audiences the chance to see a show they might not have come to Bloomington otherwise. \n"Normally, shows of this size want to perform in a city for a minimum of a week at a time," Rives said. "Bloomington doesn't have the population to support a full week of a Broadway show."\nPreparing the show for opening night (and months of touring) means a hectic couple of days for the "South Pacific" company and Auditorium employees.\nAuditorium stage manager John DeLong has been preparing to put on the show for months. It's his job to make sure the Auditorium meets all requirements to put on the large show.\nThings change constantly and DeLong is ready to send crew members for emergency runs to Lowe's or a local lumber yard. Five semi trucks full of equipment come through the building's doors, along with 50-odd local stage crew and about 15 road crew members from the tour.\n"There's a lot of people working in a fairly small space," DeLong said.\nThe statement is most apparent backstage, where electrical wires in large bundles snake along the wooden floor. As backdrops come down, members of the crew shout to warn everyone. \n"It's dangerous," said Don Oard, the Auditorium's master electrician. "There's all kinds of things going in and going out and they're all heavy and they all hurt."\nAs stage hands work to raise several wires attached to a pipe, Oard said about 8,000 watts of power are going to be used for "South Pacific." The production crew is using the time in Bloomington to plan set up for all future shows. Although Oard has been involved with theater for a long time and knows the secrets to how the things that appear onstage are done, he never gets sick of the experience.\n"I enjoy it all," he said. "It's a part of my blood, a part of my life."\nGetting the actors and production crews safely to Bloomington was an ordeal. Because of the terrorist attacks that hit New York and Washington, D.C. last week, performers took buses from New York, rather than flying. Others drove from as far away as Los Angeles and Seattle, stopping along the way to pick up other company members. Julia Bond, the tutor for the children in the production, was one of the few people who flew to Bloomington. Two flights she was supposed to take from Denver were canceled and she had to check another bag because the airlines didn't permit her to take toenail clippers with her on the plane.\nA table full of fruit and frosted donuts line the hall on the bottom floor of the auditorium. Baby gates block one of the rooms. Behind the gates, a small black and carmel terrier -- the pet of the company manager -- dances on her hind legs while Carl Pasbjerg, "South Pacific's" general manager, talks on his cell phone. Pasbjerg describes the rehearsal time like he's creating something new.\n"This is always the craziest time," he said. "It's a new product and we want it to be perfect"

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