Behind the Scenes: The Guys and Dolls Experience

Etta L-S. and Sabrina JS.

A Conversation with….A Guys and Dolls jr. Ensemble Member


TOI: What was a normal day like for you during the production? 

Usually, before Tech and Production Week, music rehearsals were pretty short (around an hour or two) and a few times a week. As the months progressed, the music rehearsals got longer and more frequent (E.g. From 2 days a week until 4:00pm to 4 days a week until 5:00pm). Dance rehearsals were sometimes a bit shorter, but were pretty much the same as music rehearsals. 

During Tech Week, things got a lot more hectic with rehearsals being everyday until 6pm. It was definitely harder to do homework between runs (a “run” is a complete run-through of a play), but not impossible. 

Things were more challenging during Production Week where rehearsals were until 8pm and we were constantly doing things. The Guys and Dolls experience was nevertheless amazing, even with all of the challenges of getting homework done. It was really fun to have dinner at OMS during Production Week with your friends and watch as the show really came together. 


TOI: Did you enjoy the production of this musical?

Definitely! It sort of felt a little weird at the start and some things were kind of confusing at first (like dances), but as the production progressed, things got so much clearer and a real sense of community was established, especially during the Saturday rehearsals. By the end of it, the Guys and Dolls show really felt like something that had been shifted and changed and made by our Guys and Dolls “family”. 


TOI: You mentioned a “Saturday rehearsal”. What is that?

Basically, it’s a rehearsal that happens on a Saturday and usually goes from 8:00am to 3:00pm (although times can change). These rehearsals only happen a few times, though, which is sort of sad because they are really fun. 


TOI: Are Saturday rehearsals hard work and tiring?

They do require quite a lot of effort because you are spending 4+ hours working on it. It can also be somewhat tiring, but they are also SUPER fun. It is also really cool because you get to see what everybody has been doing and it’s also really cool when Crew comes in. 


TOI: If students want to join cast/crew, would you recommend them doing so?

Definitely! Being in cast and crew is like a perfect mix of hard work and fun. It’s also really cool to feel you have this amazing group of people working towards the same goal!!


TOI: Is there anything especially fun about cast that you think that crew wouldn’t have experienced?

A few things, though I think crew members aren’t missing out on much. Dances are really fun to learn and practice (after you get the hang of them!), so are songs and dialogue, if you have lines. Acting is also really fun and there is a real thrill to getting on stage and sharing what you have done for the past 2+ months. I am sure that the crew probably feels the same about this [the excitement of putting on a show and sharing your hard work], even though they aren’t literally standing on the stage and giving a monologue. Another thing that cast gets to experience and some crew members might not is auditioning. While many people who did not make the cut do become crew members, some students just decide to go for crew. Auditioning is really fun because you get to prep with friends and there is that feeling of excitement, nerves, anticipation and the “will-I-get-in” feeling that is really something you can only experience with auditioning. 


A Conversation with…Spencer Carman (Sky Masterson) 

The Ottoson Insider chatted with Spencer Carman (Sky Masterson) about being a lead in the Guys and Dolls jr. production and his tips on being an actor. 


TOI: Did you have to give up a lot to be a lead, like clubs and after school stuff you wanted to do?

SC: I wouldn’t say I really had to give up that much participation. I don’t really think I really gave up anything at all because, well first of all, all the clubs I do are after and before school singing groups (which I guess are kind of related to the musical), a lot of those are before school. So I wasn’t missing those. And then, I also participate in some clubs like National History Day, but that’s like, there’s no really, not like a meeting after school. It’s more like you work on it in your free time. On top of that, the clubs that were after school that I might want to go to, they [OMS Musical directors] give you a conflict sheet so you ge to write down before [the start of the production] all the times that you would miss rehearsals for, so I didn’t really miss anything for Guys and Dolls [jr], except right before the show. But in general, not really.  


TOI: Was it harder or easier than you thought it would be? (In the sense of getting up on the stage, or anything else you expected to be difficult/easy.)

SC: I don’t think it was that difficult for me. Because I had parts in previous Ottoson Middle School shows, and while none as big as this one, I think already having the smaller parts really gave me a good, kind of understanding of the kind of work I had to put in. So, while there was definitely more work, I think it was just the same kind of things I had to be doing, just more of it. So I had to learn more lines, I had to memorize more things, but it was more songs, but I still memorized all the lines in the same ways that I had before and I think that it, while it was definitely harder, it was not too challenging. 


TOI: What kind of theater experience have you had prior to this? Was it what led you to this or did you not enjoy it so much?

SC: So I actually hadn’t done that much theater up until 7th grade. I had done some singing before, I was in chorus(s) in 6th grade and I think even a little bit in 5th grade, but my elementary school (Dallin) didn’t have any plays or musicals or anything like that and I didn’t really do anything outside of school because I had other commitments or interests. Then, I was virtual in 6th grade so I didn’t really get a chance to do that [school plays]. But, in 7th grade, I auditioned for the [OMS school] musical Annie Jr., which was last year, and I got a role in that and it was a ton of fun. I loved doing it so then I did the following Ottoson Drama Club plays so then I did the student directed One Acts at the end of my 7th grade year and the fall show at the end [start of] my eighth grade year and had parts in both of those. After doing all those shows, and seeings what a positive community the Ottoson Drama Club was, I thought that it was a no-brainer, really, to go out and audition for Guys and Dolls [jr] and I think that I really enjoyed it, I had a ton of fun. I think that three great things that helped me was that, of course, is that I really enjoy singing and acting, so I loved to get a chance to do that up on the stage. But, I think in addition to that, I met new people and became friends with new people [as well]. But, also people that I knew, I got to know them better and build stronger relationships. So I think that it was quite an enjoyable experience. 


TOI: Was the production of the musical better or worse than you expected it to be?

SC: I didn’t really have much of an idea of what it would be like before, but I think that it was definitely a lot better. I would say that it was better because everybody in the show made considerable improvements throughout the entire rehearsal process. Not only on the specific material, but as singers and actors in general and I think that from the time of auditions to the show, there was just so much improvements made. So I would say that the show greatly exceeded my expectations. 


TOI: Does acting come easy for you or was it difficult to adjust to being someone completely different than you?

SC: For me, personally, I wouldn’t say that it comes too easy to me, I have to practice a lot. But, I guess I probably understand the kind of theatrical elements and things like that pretty well. So I think that it’s not like I’m having to practice 3 hours a day, but I wouldn’t say it’s super easy. I definitely have to read lines, work on expressions, things like that. It’s kinda similar to a lot of other things, similar to say math. In school, I have to do my homework and work on understanding the material, I don’t instantly get all of it but it’s not too hard. So, I’d say acting is not all too different [from other subjects].  


TOI: So stuff like theatrical “tools” such as facial expressions, tone of voice, you get it? 

SC: Yes, I think a lot of the really good baseline for acting is you want to have a strong “base” or foundation: Understanding where you are in a show, emotions that should be expressed at that point, how to build intensity, things like that. 


TOI: What did you feel when you found out you got one of the leads?

SC: I was certainly excited when I found out that I got one of the lead roles and I was happy to play the part. And, I think that it helped me get a lot of good experience in singing different styles styles of music, like Guys and Dolls is pretty heavily jazz musical. So, it definitely helped with that. 


TOI: What was a normal day like for you? Did anything change drastically for you (having to leave a sport, etc)? 

SC: I did miss in the final two weeks, in the tech and production week right before the show where the rehearsals go until 6 or 8, respectively, I think I missed some soccer practices, perhaps but not that much. 


TOI:: What did you think of playing a character so different from you? 

Obviously, Sky Masterson, the character I played, is very misogynistic [having a prejudice towards women] and kind of a “player”, and not really a good guy. But, I think that Sky Masterson is, while I’m a lot different from him of course, in those kinds of ways, I think that there are also some ways that I’m similar to him. The overall kind of personality, of really thinking things through and planning things out, it’s different from a character like Nicely Nicely Johnson, who’s a heavily comedic character. In terms of personality, I’m actually kind of similar to Sky. 


TOI: Any tips for upcoming actors/actresses or people who might want to be in the next OMS musical? Anything you’d like to say to younger (or even fellow) actors/actresses? 

SC: A big part of the show isn’t actually about what kind of  role you get, what songs your singing, but a big part is the community you build with the other people you’re in the show in [with]. So, looking back, say 30 years in the future, when I’m thinking “well, when I did Guys and Dolls”, I think I’m going to be thinking less about “Oh, I remember singing Luck Be A Lady on Friday night as Sky Masterson”,  I think it’s going to be more like “I remember how much fun we had playing music right before the show” or the people I was hanging out with and I think that it was a lot of fun. But, in terms of like, acting and singing, specifically, I would say that, first of all, it’s really like any other thing in life where practicing will give you improvements on that. I think that there are some things that have a natural cap. Like if you are playing a sport, and you want to get a lot faster, you can do leg exercises, you can practice running, and you’ll gain some speed, but there is kind of a cap speed. But with acting and singing, especially when people are younger, it’s going to be a pretty big correlation between the amount of time you are spending on it and the amount of results you are getting. So I think the more you practice, the more you’ll improve and I think that, now, in the age of the internet, there’s so many free resources and you can just see all the best Broadway performers, full shows, at your fingertips. So I don’t think you need a coach or anything, I mean that certainly helps, but I think just, there is so much things if you want to learn on the internet to go and look at, and I think that there is so much to be learned there that we really didn’t have 20 years ago. 


TOI: Anything you’d like to tell readers?

SC: Guys and Dolls was a great show, I had a ton of fun. It really builds a really positive community and I think that, finally, I would urge anyone who’s perhaps considering auditioning for a[n] Ottoson Middle School play or musical to do it, ‘cause I’ve known a lot of people who were really into spots and thought “I’m not really interested in theater” but some of their friends maybe did it so they thought “I’ll give it a try” and they really enjoyed it. I would urge everyone, if they are considering it, to maybe try it. 



A Conversation with….a member of Stage Crew


TOI: What was a normal day like for you?

Well, we didn’t start “rehearsing” until late March, but a couple weeks after we did start we had to stay for quite a while. When the group was rehearsing, the cast could go to the media center while they weren’t on stage, to do homework and such. We weren’t allowed to do that because we had to be backstage the whole time, so often it was difficult to get homework in on time. But it was really fun to be able to listen to the musical from backstage.


TOI: Was anything especially hard for you and other stage crew members?

It wasn’t that hard to learn the cues and whatnot, and was definitely easier once we had lights to turn off. I think the most difficult parts were trying to get past the cast when they were coming on or off the stage; trying to be quiet, especially when the scene came where we had to set up the benches; and trying to fit in with the cast, who had been working on the musical a lot longer than we had and had a seemingly harder job.


TOI: What was something that was really fun about being in stage crew?

I thought that the community was a really fun thing to be a part of. And personally, I thought it was fun to be able to see what was happening from behind the scenes and be a part of that action. I thought it was so cool to be able to move around the scenes and see all of the cast being all excited. It was a really fun environment, even though it was a bit stressful at times.


TOI: If other students are wondering if they should join cast or crew, would you recommend them doing so? 

I would definitely recommend stage crew, it’s really fun. Contrary to what some say, it does really feel like we are part of the group, and it’s cool to make all the scenes happen. Honestly, I’m considering auditioning for cast next year, it looks really fun. It does look like a lot of work, but it seems like it would be a really great way to spend time. By the end of the year, everyone in cast seemed to have made really strong bonds with each other, and I think it looks really cool to do, along with stage crew.


TOI: Is there anything especially fun about crew that you think that cast wouldn’t have experienced?

Well, there were a lot of differences between the two. I wouldn’t say anyone’s really missing out in either sense, because they were both fun and both challenging, but I suppose it was fun to have to be swift and quick about how we moved and operated. It was also nice to be able to start later and have more chances for other things throughout the beginning of the year, but I wouldn’t exactly call that “fun”.