Set-sitting: A behind-the-scenes look at AST’s production of ‘Young Frankenstein’

| Staff Reporter

Since starting work for All Student Theater’s (AST) production of the Mel Brook’s musical “Young Frankenstein,” cast and crew members have continuously monitored the set. School policy requires 24/7 supervision of the set, located on the Beaumont Pavilion Stage in Brookings Quadrangle, to ensure that none of the tools or props get taken or defaced. Every participant in the musical is required to spend some hours “set-sitting,” including the night shift, which runs from midnight to 8 a.m. and is spent in a tent adjacent to the stage. Some of the people who have recently spent nights in the tent set shared their experiences with me.

brainBecca Christman | Student Life

“Sleeping in the tent varies depending on how many people are there, what kind of night it is and the weather,” sophomore Zach Hyams, one of the assistant stage managers for the show, said. “It tends to be cold and then hot in the morning, but it’s a good time.”

“It’s basically a mosh pit of blankets,” junior Hanna Lillioja, another assistant stage manager, said. “You just lose track of everything, basically; everyone is everywhere.”

In past years, the nightshift participants have been threatened by heavy rain and potential tornado warnings. This year has been no exception. When things look dangerous, the watchers opt to follow protocol and run inside the nearest building. Otherwise, they stick it out in the tents.

“I was actually here during the torrential downpour last week,” sophomore Danny Marshall, who plays Igor in the show, said. “I was up every hour and a half starting at 3 from the wind and the rain and the thunder, so that was eventful. That was a rough night but it was [still] pretty manageable.”

Besides less than ideal weather conditions, there are a variety of inopportune circumstances that can arise on set.

“If it’s a weekend and you’re sleeping in, you can have tour groups walking by sometimes, and that’s obnoxious,” Hyams said.

“You also get the drunk people walking by at 2 a.m.,” Lillioja added.

The need to regularly be on set can also make maintaining a balanced lifestyle difficult.

“The worst part is the fact that you are a full-time student and you’re still an actor in the show so you have to go from a full day of classes, to doing your homework, to going through rehearsal, and then you have to sleep in a tent. It’s doable but it’s not ideal,” Marshall said.

Although the experience can be trying at times, everyone agrees that it’s an important precaution to take, since the set and props need to be protected in the case of inclement weather. It’s also a safeguard against the same inebriated students who now just loudly walk by, but could easily cause damage if the set was left alone.

In spite of the challenges of sleeping in a tent on a school night, the cast and crew members note how many great experiences have come out of set-sitting, and how it has ultimately brought them closer together.

“I would be really sad if they took it away,” Lillioja said. “There was that one night where there were like nine of us in the tent…that night was so much fun because everyone is there and it’s an awesome time. It’s a giant cuddle puddle. I slept in it last night and it was great.”

“I had a really good set-sitting experience,” freshman Hannah Marias, who plays Elizabeth Benning (Frederick Frankenstein’s fiancee), said. “It was me and three of my friends and we ordered pizza, and we sat in the tent and talked and hung out and it was like a slumber party, and then we went to sleep and I realized I sleep better in the tent than I do in my own dorm sometimes…I was just really comfortable.”

“You get to hang out with your friends. It’s fun,” Marshall said. “AST becomes a family from set-sitting. I became best friends with people last year just from hanging out on the set.”

Members of AST do not limit themselves to the human race when it comes to building friendships, however.

“There’s a squirrel,” Marshall said. “Last year, the squirrel came and always went through the trash. And apparently she’s back this year and she keeps coming at the same time this year again too, so I see the same squirrel every day.”

“I’ve been trying to tame it,” Lillioja said in reference to the squirrel. “Someone had cupcakes on stage and this squirrel, who is a crafty little bastard, got in the plastic and stole an entire cupcake and dragged it off.”

Eating is no longer allowed on stage.

Cast and crew members are confident that all the time they’ve spent on set will be worth it come opening night. After all the work they’ve put into the production, they’re ready to give the Washington University community a killer performance.

“It’s a hilarious show,” Marshall said. “It’s a Mel Brooks comedy, so you’re guaranteed a good time. It’s just a way to escape the stresses of Wash. U., to enjoy a fun musical that everyone worked really hard on. You’ll have as [much] fun as we’ve had putting it on.”

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