By: Toree Weaver
In a society where “otherness” is constantly being explored, Temple Theatres brings SIDE SHOW by Tony nominated author Bill Russell to the stage in the 2018-2019 season. The play explores the lives of two sisters who were born conjoined at the hip. As the twins Violet and Daisy Hilton rise to fame in the 1930s, they explore the importance of self love and the beauty in the things that make us different. After being offered fame and fortune, the sisters are still left questioning if they will ever find true love. Through the story of these women, we are able to understand our own uniqueness and learn to accept and love ourselves for it.
Director Brandon McShaffrey explains why a story set in the late 1920s can still speak to an audience today.
“Their struggle of being looked at as a freak is something I deeply related to and I think deep down, we are all freaks,” McShaffrey said. “When we are alone at night in the darkness of our own life, we are sitting there feeling like ‘can I meet the world’s expectations of me and who would ever love me for the flawed person I am?’ and that makes us feel outside or like a freak.”
With a story that many are able to relate to, Brandon McShaffrey expressed the importance of the actors finding themselves within the play. By using the taught styles of university theater and pushing the boundaries students have set on themselves, McShaffrey is able to create a thrilling rehearsal process.
Although SIDE SHOW has a strong plot, the book is enhanced by music that helps tell the story. With musical inferences that follow in a similar emotional set to Dreamgirls, musical director Steven Gross has worked hard to ensure the actors and musicians are able to convey their feelings through song.
“It is a mix of composed music and dialogue over music that creates a rich tapestry of sound from the orchestra,” Gross said. “It requires the singers not only to sing big emotional power ballads but converse in song and not make it sound like a power ballad over music.”
Working with both actors and a string quartet, Gross explained how he is able to create a conducive learning environment and smooth rehearsal process. When discussing his technique, Gross mentioned the use of a wandelprobe, where during the first rehearsal with the orchestra, actors walk through their blocking while singing. This is in contrast to the more traditional sitzprobe where this rehearsal has actors sitting and singing. He explains he does this in order to get everyone moving and working together from the beginning of their collaboration. He also stated the importance of understanding the score in its entirety and making expectations clear.
“It’s the type of music that musical theater singers, especially students, can take and grow with both pedagogically and dramatically,” Gross mentioned.
While the play consists of snakes, women hanging from the ceiling, and sisters attached at the hip, the theme of the story is to confront the freakish characteristics that are inside of us.
“What's even harder than looking at the flaws outside, is looking at the flaws of humanity that are inside and revealed when the stakes get high," Brandon McShaffrey said.
Brandon McShaffrey and Steven Gross believe Side Show will provide hope to those who often feel “othered” and disenfranchised.
SIDE SHOW will be playing in Tomlinson Theatre starting October 11th and running until the 21st. Tickets are $25 for General Admission, $20 for Seniors, Non Temple Students, and TU Employees, and $10 for Temple Students. Get tickets today on the TFMA website or at the box office.
October 12th, Temple will be visited by the Tony nominated author of SIDE SHOW, Bill Russell who will participate in a preshow Q&A and toast to Side Show at 6:30 p.m. There will also be a reception starting at 9:30 pm that will allow audience members to interact with Temple alumni, actors from the show, and author Bill Russell.