Casting and first rehearsal for US musical Carousel

Penn Charter’s Morgan Lucero rehearses with Gabe Gowen ’21 outside Carousel auditions, December 8, 2019 – Yan Graf ’20

Producing a play takes teams of people to consider costumes, set design, and lighting. They must find appropriate cast members and match the content of the play to time available for rehearsal. 

     With all the effort required to put together a performance, how does one decide which play or musical to choose? 

     Theater department chair and director Mr. Darren Hengst makes the plays come together, along with Technical director Mr. Dex Woodward, who handles all of the set design and lighting intricacies, choose productions by balancing what suits students participating and what makes a good production. 

     Mr. Hengst considers cast size. Mr. Hengst had 92 students audition. He always has to find ways to include students thoughtfully. Along with finding a play that suits the actors, and adjusting the scenes to fit, along with 92 actors comes 92 costumes. This is where Mr. Hengst has to balance the budget. From renting microphones to providing costumes and building an entire set, all of it must all be calculated. 

     How does he determine what to keep and what to cut? This yearly production process starts in the summer, when Mr. Hengst, Mr. Hightower, and Mr. Woodward discuss plays. Mr. Hengst will do read throughs of plays to determine key scenes. For example, the play features a scene where all the characters are doing nothing but looking at the carousel. The carousel builds the plot, the emotion, and the vibe of the scene. 

     “That moment is really important to me, that the carousel in is on stage and working at that moment,” Mr. Hengst said. The carousel builds the plot, the emotion, and the vibe of the scene. 

     Outside of making sure the musical can contort to fit situationally, Mr. Hengst also weighs artistic merits “I always look for a musicals that story driven, where the songs really come out of the words.”

      He believes that some musicals tend center themselves around songs, leading to a weak story.

     Mr. Hengst’s operation is always adjusting.“I heard feedback from the students that they wanted more to do in the show,” Mr. Hengst said. 

     In response to this, Mr. Hengst chose Carousel because of the various dancing ensembles that incorporate all members into the scene.