By Tim Wheeler
Backstage Monday, November 4 at Spectrum Theater here at Grand Rapids Community College during show week is a place full of anxiety, excitement, and joy. While the public will get to enjoy the fruit of their labors onstage, backstage is where you can really find the reason for the passion.
Amid the exciting conversations in the small room behind the stage with scattered snacks and props, the director, Sammy Puebles, says “20 minutes to walk the stage, you have 20 minutes.” The conversations immediately cease, out of respect for the director, a common practice in theater that does not go amiss at GRCC.
“This cast has had a better understanding of backstage etiquette” says Sky Rodriguez, 18. The Collegiate last spoke to Rodriguez a few weeks ago during the beginning rehearsals of “Welcome To Arroyo’s” a play by Kristopher Diaz.
Not only do they respect etiquette but Rodriguez said, “this cast is more diverse in more cultures and ideas… this show brings everyone together.”
Most of the cast members in “Welcome to Arroyo’s,” a play about Hip-Hop’s impact on a small group of people and the community surrounding them, have never been in a production before, let alone a production at GRCC. Jasmine Gerard, 18, spoke on the mutual respect every actor has for each other on and off stage despite most being new to the process.
“We all have each others backs,” said Gerard, who plays a chorus member.
Not only do they have each other’s backs, but they also enjoy their time together. While backstage, Gerard said they are known to “lip sync” the rap battles in the show.
“It’s all I do backstage,” said Gerard.
Tensions can be high before a show opens, but this cast seems to be taking it in stride. They spoke of “Hell Sunday,” a long rehearsal where they run the show several times to work out any and all issues the Sunday before opening.
The cast laughed as they shared ways they coped with the long, grueling schedule.
“We had it from noon to 11p.m. and I was sleeping on the floor at one point,” said Rodriguez. “It can be a blast, but it can be really intense,” he said.
“We were all united in being tired” said newcomer to GRCC Theater, Antonio Aguliar, 19, who also plays a chorus member.
Aguilar spoke about how in his first show at GRCC he has made deep connections with his castmates.
“If I ever need help in the future, I know I can ask these people,” Aguilar said, “These are my castmates, these are my friends.”
Trent Woodman, 20, spoke of his admiration turned friendship with some of his fellow cast members.
“Oh my gosh, we are in a show together now!” he said, remembering meeting someone he had seen in a GRCC production last year.
Woodman wasn’t the only one to share compliments to his castmates turned friends. When speaking about Gerard’s role as a chorus member, Rodriguez said, “she is a beautiful dancer.”
All four chorus members spoke on their love of theater at GRCC and the backstage atmosphere. They love the show, too. They love it so much that Rodriguez said “we know this script so well that it hurts.”
“Welcome to Arroyo’s” open this Thursday, November 7 at 8 p.m. at Spectrum Theater and runs through Nov. 9. Tickets are $12 but only $5 for students with their Raider Card. GRCC is also providing live audio description for audience members who are blind or have low vision.
This cast has had a blast on and off stage, having formed strong relationships rooted in their love of theater. Many casts have a backstage atmosphere that is a safe place where one can truly express themselves, and this cast is no different.
Gerard looked back at her time with this cast, saying, “I am just so happy with these people.”