Behind the Scenes: An Insider Perspective on Sophmen SING!

The annual SING! performance has made a comeback for the 2023 school year as performances were carried out between sophmen, juniors, and seniors on February 9. All had worked hard for months prior to the day of the show, including frequent practices throughout the week and Saturday practices on the weekends.

During these meetings, artists drew and painted props, actors memorized their lines, dancers perfected their dances, singers practiced their songs, and stage crew learned cues. Ultimately, all these roles in SING! came together, producing a musical involving humor, character development, and redemption!

Through SING!, performers overcame the fear of performing in front of an audience for the first time.

“The experience was at first really intimidating to me because I’ve never ever performed like ever when it came to acting,” actor Daniel Seog, casted as White Rabbit, said. “And my role was very small, I would say; I think I was just there for the humor. But I would say that, really, it was nice to try something new.”

“It was nice to not have such a serious role,” Seog added. “All the roles are really fun, so I think my role wasn’t very hard, just running across the stage. I had a few fears in the back of my mind, but once you get on that stage [it] just kind of melts away. You just kind of do what you’ve been rehearsing.”

Dance Director Andy Zong further discussed the beginner-friendly aspects of SING!

“Well, at first, I was a little ambitious because I had so many ideas,” Zong said. “But then I realized that because I wanted everyone to dance—not everyone’s a dancer—this is probably their first time dancing,  it also meant that I had to make the choreo[graphy] very simple so that everyone could learn. I [also] had to be very, very patient because a bunch of people were very new to dancing.”

As a result, many more students were able to participate and contribute to the look of the show, making the stage “look less empty.”

“I wasn’t actually that big of a singer or dancer, and obviously there’s a lot of people in SING! who did not sing and dance, and there were quite a few people who were on stage and did sing and dance,” Stage Crew Director Rina Lin said. “I wasn’t one of the main singers or dancers, so I didn’t have a big part. I just did my own thing and made it look more smooth.”

“He, as in Andy, wanted there to be energy and to see the spirit of the sophmen in the ending and opening songs,” Lin further elaborated. “I think [at the beginning] we only had around 7 dancers, and if there’s only 7 dancers dancing, it would have looked very empty and sad. More people, it makes the scene seem more fuller, it makes us look like we’re excited, more hyped.”

SING! allowed many students to engage in various roles outside of their area of expertise.

“You get to broaden your horizons and you get to try all these things you never knew could be so fun,” Lin said. “Trying new things is just a part of life, and SING! gives you the opportunity to be able to do that. If you confine to just one role, I feel like it wouldn’t be as fun, especially since SING! is separated into multiple different groups. If you’re working with just the writers, you won’t get to meet as many people.”

On the other hand, taking on several roles at once affected production.

“I understand that everyone wants to be a part of different things,” Art Director Kathrine Yusupov said, “but the thing is, I feel like it was ill planned in the sense that more than half or all of the art people were involved in either dancing or backstage, something like that. All at once they all disappeared, so [for] the majority of our sessions they were there, and then they weren’t.”

“Because of that, there were only a couple of people working on things because they were kinda being pulled apart in different directions,” Yusupov added. “They had to learn the dance in order to perform, they had to make sure they knew all the cues to pull up the curtains and stuff.  Because everyone was a little stretched out [and] because they were all doing different things, not everyone was focusing on the art at the same time. I feel like if more people were just focusing on the art, then maybe we could have gotten it done faster because there would be more hands on deck.”

Commitment and lack of motivation were also emerging issues in SING!

“I think it is the fact that SING! in itself is kind of an informal thing,” Acting and Singing Director Alisha Vohra said. “A lot of people may not have been there because they were fully interested or [because] they weren’t fully committed to SING!. That’s partially why some people tended to stay off track, but some people didn’t.”

Despite the lack of members and low commitment, elements of collaboration and teamwork were still present.

“I feel like we worked really well together, I feel like everyone gave a lot into it,” Yusupov said. “Like Yu Wei, she really designed the backdrop; she was kind of the main coordinator in that sense. And then Becky, she had the whole team working on the card soldier costume, so everyone had a section they were working on. I was helping in any way I could.”

“I feel like because people were coming and going, people still were able to make it work,” Yusupov added. “There was someone always helping, and they were able to problem solve and work really well together in order to make everything come together.”

Flexibility was observed with the writing of the script for the show as the perspectives of actors and writers came into play.

“Here’s the thing with writing a script: it’s very flexible because there are so many people that are writing it,” Lin said. “What you interpret a certain line to be, someone else may interpret it differently; with so many different writers writing these lines and then the actors themselves interpret[ing] in their own ways as well, in a way, it’s got its own feel to it.”

“What I imagined [a line to be] could be very different in an actor’s mind, and of course, no actor can memorize all their lines word for word, so on stage, they change a lot of it,” Lin added. “I don’t mind because most of the changes are really nice; they change it to suit the actor themselves, their personality.”

“For example, the biggest one was during the Alice and the Wonderland scene,” Lin continued.  “For the queen of hearts, she shouts ‘Quiet!’, the original line was ‘Silence!’. But I think it suits her personality because she’s not as demanding [since] silence is a lot more demanding than quiet.”

Issues with timing and misunderstandings regarding materials led to a “time crunch.”

“Things took a lot more time than we initially thought it would because we tackled a lot of areas,” Yusupov said.  “We had props setting up the stage, we had the big castle, we had the backdrop, we had different costume parts, and we also had the card soldier costumes. So it was a lot of planning and handling a lot at once, also since we didn’t initially start [right off] the bat.”

During this process, the communal aspect of SING! thrived as many warmed up to each other.

“You need to know how to communicate well, you need to have good social skills to connect, and you have to connect to really be a team,” Seog stated. “When it comes to relationships and community, it’s not just the project; it’s the journey that gets you there. It’s more than we’re working on the backdrop, or we’re working on the songs, or we’re acting in a few days; it’s more of like you plan this together, and you do it together.”

“The first meeting, I couldn’t talk to anyone,” Seog said. “And then, like clearly literally yesterday, we were crying together.”

Feelings of excitement buzzed as the show came together for the dress rehearsal.

“It feels weird because you’ve been working on this thing for eight weeks and you’re so numb to it, you’re just like, I know this is going to happen,” Seog said.” “You’re practicing in the auditorium, and it’s all quiet when you’re rehearsing, especially in the dress rehearsal.”

“Once you perform it, there’s an audience there that has never seen it before,” Seog added. “It’s so refreshing to have a reaction from it. I remember the first time I ran across the stage in rehearsal and practice, I got a few laughs from the fellow members; but then I go on Instagram [after the performance], and I see people posting me running and there was just a ton of laughter in the crowd. And I was like, ‘Oh, my goodness.’ I didn’t know it was that funny, cause’ I was doing it a ton.”

Although the dress rehearsal was “uncoordinated,” the actual performance came together well.

“I think there was definitely a huge difference between the dress rehearsal and the actual show,” Vohra said.  “I think people didn’t really take it too seriously [at the dress rehearsal,] but people pulled it together at the end show. I do think there were a lot of rough bumps in the road; there were some issues with the final product, [but] I think overall, I think we did a good job.”

The art department did face a few mishaps, but the details and effort put into the show came out on top.

“I think everyone was very proud of it,” Yusupov said. I’m sure there were details that could have been fixed, like while we were putting up the backdrop, we noticed that the stem was cut off at a weird angle, and it was kind of noticeable. But at the end of the day, we managed to put a lot of work and effort into production in order to create a lot of different costumes.”

“I think the sophomores were the ones that won using art for the actual performance; we ranked the highest in that category,” Yusupov added. “I think that was kind of true because we had a lot of different art elements, and they all sort of fit into the storyline.”

SING! was a new experience for many who joined but the dedication put into the show made it a success!

“Honestly, it was very good, and I’m not saying that just to you know, it was very-I was shocked,” Zong stated. “Like I mentioned earlier, [for] a lot of the people who danced, it was their first time dancing or they were not experienced.  As we progressed, I saw that everyone was trying and that everyone was putting effort and energy into the dance.”

“I feel like that is the most important thing in dance: seeing people actually try and have fun,” Zong added. “At the end, even though there were little mistakes that we could easily clean up, I was really proud seeing that everyone [was] cooperative and at least seemed like they were having fun; I think that was the best part…Everyone in SING! is amazing.”