Boot and Buskin presents globe-trotting adventure “Around the World in 80 Days”
James Barcomb, Arts & Leisure Editor
April 12, 2012
Filed under Arts & Leisure
From April 12 to April 21, the W. Carroll Coyne Center for the Performing Arts will present Boot and Buskin’s new production “Around the World in 80 Days,” directed by assistant professor of theater Matt Chiorini. Staged by five actors in 39 different roles, Mark Brown’s adaptation of the classic Jules Verne novel is set to be a thrilling ride.
“It’s an exciting, rollicking adventure story with plenty of room for ridiculousness,” Chiorini said. “It’s everything I love about theater. The way the adaptation is constructed, it creates so many possibilities.”
In addition to just five actors, the production lacks an elaborate set and any sort of recorded sound. Instead, it relies mostly on props, costumes, on stage sound effects and, according to Chiorini, “terrible accents.”
“We have so many great resources and talented visionaries at the PAC,” Chiorini said. “I wanted to see how much we could do with very little.
“There was this director who had eight days, $50, and five actors,” he continued. “And he said, ‘I will do Hamlet.’ I really admire that and I wanted to do something similar. The audacity of attempting to do this is what makes it fun.”
One particular element Chiorini decided to include was the employment of live sound effects. On one side of the stage, junior philosophy major Isaac Betters and sophomore theatre arts and English major Rachel McVicar create nearly each and every sound effect in the show.
“They went page by page, line by line, and invented sounds for almost everything,” Chiorini said. “Some of them are straightforward and some are shockingly ingenious. They manage to create animals, places, transportation, weather…we’re very lucky to have such clever, musical people.”
Getting into the show alone proved to be a challenge for the two.
“After we auditioned, there were callbacks for sound effects,” Betters said. “We were supposed to prepare various sounds. Some of them were generic ones like trains; then there were ones like ‘Sounds of India.’ Well, what does that mean?”
“Isaac and I got together and we thought, ‘What if we combined ideas?’” McVicar added. “The day of callbacks, we helped each other carry props in and we just played with everything we had.”
The process of creating the show’s sound has been demanding, but worthwhile.
“Getting the timing right is a challenge,” Betters noted. “We’d go over to the Honors House and practice and mess with things. But it’s fun to meet the challenge. When we get it right, it’s so satisfying.”
“For me, the biggest challenge has been getting the ocean sound right,” McVicar said, “and finding a bucket of water big enough. But we’ve had a lot of great props. The best one might be the hamster wheel that sounds like a train stopping.”
As everyone involved in the production would eventually learn, Betters and McVicar may boast enough power to steal the show.
“I play 13 instruments in the show,” Betters said. “Everyone freaked out when they learned I could play any song on the piano. Later, when they discovered I couldn’t play the sax, they were like, ‘Finally, an instrument he can’t play!’”
“It’s great to see Matt’s reaction to some of the props,” McVicar said. “We had some crappy ukuleles and Matt came over, picked one up, played it really badly and said, ‘That’s perfect!’”
“It’s a tribute to their skills that you forget it’s just two people and not pre-recorded sound,” Chiorini said. “They manage to create a whole world in that little corner of the stage.”
“Around the World in 80 Days” starts its run with a free student preview Thursday, April 12, at 8 p.m. followed by performances April 13, 14 and 19 – 21. There will also be a matinee performance Saturday, April 21, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $4 for students. To make reservations, visit the PAC office or call (315) 445-4523.