The cast and crew of Backbeard: The Musical on the stage at the Acorn Theatre in Manhattan’s Theatre Row.
Sage Theatre Institute’s Backbeard: The Musical, based on Graphic Design Professor Matthew McElligott’s popular children’s book series, was selected from hundreds of entries for the 2017 New York Musical Festival.
McElligott and Creative & Performing Arts Professor Michael Musial collaborated on Backbeard, which premiered at Sage in 2016. Fifteen students and alumni were part of the cast and crew for Backbeard’s New York City run in August. Read on for reaction from the young performers making their New York City stage debut.
From the Cast and Crew
Comments have been lightly edited and condensed.
Taylor Fuld ’19, Musical Theatre Major, Ensemble
“My family was almost more excited than I was when they learned we would be taking Backbeard to New York! My whole family will attend and they are extremely excited and proud.
I love seeing children’s reactions to Backbeard but what is really great is seeing adults laugh just as much!
NYMF is the highest level of theatre I have performed so far, and I hope it brings many more opportunities for me and my cast and crewmates. The best part of this experience for me has been bringing this piece of theatre from Troy, New York, all the way to a theatre in New York City! Even just thinking about it is amazing. It just shows that really quite anything is possible as long as you’re determined and pursue what you love. As for my next theatre production, I will be playing Sally Bowles in the Theatre Institute at Sage’s production of Cabaret this fall. We hope you can make it!”
Taylor Hoffman ’17, Musical Theatre Graduate, Scarlet Doubloon
“Scarlet is this book-smart know-it-all who has a lot of energy and passion. She even has a bit of a love interest that I like to believe happens at the end but you never get to see. I loved Scarlet because she has a very clear love for the pirate handbook and she’s kind of like the mom of the group. She has a soft side while being a totally rough and tough pirate who isn’t afraid of anyone or anything, which is kind of like me, ha ha!
My family is so happy I am in NYC performing. My mother is coming to every single show and is dragging different people every time. They really want me to chase my dreams of being a musical theatre actress and they know that this is a great first step.
Kids really love this show and react to it very clearly. A lot of our jokes are palatable to both children and adults so it’s been going great! I see a lot of smiles when I look out into the crowd.
This is my NYC debut and, wow I am so happy to be here. This has been a perfect end to my amazing time with the Theatre Institute at Sage.”
Samantha Tirell ’17, English and Theatre Graduate, Stage Manager
“Stage management is an all-encompassing job, and it changes depending on the show. A stage manager is the point person to communicate with the director and designers to plan rehearsals; during the rehearsal period, I am responsible for schedules, sending out daily reports to the designers and production team, writing down actors’ blocking, tracking props and scenic elements, and other acts of peace-keeping. In tech, I work with designers to put cues in my prompt book. This can include lights, sound, projections, spotlights, actors’ entrance and exit cues, etc. In performance, I call the show, which means that I verbally execute all of the production’s cues over headset to operators using a system of standbys and ‘go’s. For Backbeard, I am executing the sound and projections with my own hands, but I have a light board operator, two spotlight operators and an assistant stage manager.
I can hear laughter throughout [the performance] and that is always a sign of an engaged and committed audience. Backbeard is a musical for children but it has a lyrical poetic quality to much of it that makes it really enjoyable for families as well. It’s witty and smart, and paired with a memorable score.
Backbeard is very, very special to me. I have seen it grow and change through workshops, rehearsals, performances, and other various periods of construction. When I joined the Backbeard team, it existed solely on the page, and now it is a living, breathing piece of theatre, and the best part of this experience is to know that part of me exists within it.
My MFA at Yale will take three years, so for now, I am trying not to think too far past it. I love to stage manage, and I know that I will have opportunities to stage manage professionally after graduation in 2020. I eventually want to end up in academia.
NYMF is fantastic on any resume, but I hope that in the future, potential employers can recognize the very specific and momentous challenges that this festival presents for stage management, like fitting a set/props/costumes in a 4x4x8 storage unit, among other things. It’s a pretty significant feat for the production team and I feel like it has made me a better stage manager.”
About Backbeard: The Musical
This rollicking musical tells the tale of the hairiest pirate who ever lived, and his quest to answer the question “How should a pirate look?” When a rowdy birthday party ruins his clothes, a pair of persuasive tailors convince him to try a vibrant new outfit of patterned trousers, a colorful coat and a pig. Now the fearsome pirate must face his greatest challenge: winning the acceptance of the Pirate Council, the townspeople and even his own crew, in a high-spirited story of courage, acceptance and standing up for who you are.
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