The star of this weekend’s production of Michael Frayn's “Noises Off,” is one of the largest to ever grace the Robsham Theater Main Stage, and it’s got director Luke Jorgensen more than a little excited.
Weighing several thousand pounds and measuring more than 40 feet wide, the two-story revolving set features multiple interconnected staircases, balconies, and six working doorways. It took a team of more than 20 students and staff members four weeks to build.
It’s also critical to the performance of the classic English comedy, which follows the on- and off-stage antics of an incompetent cast of actors.
“‘Noises Off’ is thought of as one of the funniest plays and I’ve always wanted to do it here at Boston College, but you have to have a rotating set and people told me, ‘We can’t build it,’” said Jorgensen, an associate professor of the practice of theatre at Boston College. “Well, we built it."
Video by Paul Dagnello, Jen Mahon '22 | University Communications
One side of the set depicts a classic English tudor home, the backdrop for a fictional production called “Nothing’s On.” The other side shows the faux production’s backstage area, where the irate cast members engage in shouting matches and at least one altercation involving a (rubber) fire axe.
Between acts, the crew must work quickly to separate the set’s three sections, which are mounted on wheels, rotate them, and put them back together. With enough practice, the entire transition should take just 90 seconds.
“That’s the goal,” said Jorgensen.
The finale of Robsham’s fall season, which also included productions of “Murder on the Nile” and “Pippin,” “Noises Off” is unique in its physicallity—both for the crew members moving the set and the nine-person cast. Actors routinely leave rehearsals having run the equivalent of several miles, Jorgensen said, in addition to practicing how to safely fall down stairs or be thrown through a window.
“I can't think of a show that is more physically intense,” said Jorgensen. “It's been a journey and these students are exhausted from it every night.”
Two years ago, Jorgensen, a former theater major at BC, directed a student production of the Peter-Pan-inspired play “Peter and the Starcatcher.” The fact that he’s now directing scenes involving flying plates of sardines delights him.
“One of the things I love most about my job is that you’re always switching gears,” he said. “‘Peter and the Starcatcher,’ is magical and kind of melancholy. And now I’m over here and there’s no depth—it’s lowbrow comedy at its finest.”
“Noises Off” runs from November 21-24 on the Robsham Main Stage. Visit the box office for showtimes and ticket information.
—Alix Hackett | University Communications