I discovered the existence of The Naturals by accident. At work a couple of months ago, I was following along with the live Twitter feed for MU Mania, which was a showcase of all of Marquette’s entertainment groups. I was familiar with every group but the Naturals. But once I saw a friend tweet that the group was a bow tie-wearing, all-male a capella group, I was intrigued. I have always wanted to know how an a capella group arranges its songs, so I decided to look into it.
After contacting the group, one of its members invited me to sit on a practice so I could film. The practice involved all the guys running through songs in their repertoire. Many terms used in their practice were Italian musical terms. A tip for anyone who ever sits in on an a capella practice: If members of the group talk about "Barry," they are likely referring to someone singing baritone, not a guy named Barry.
Chris Hardin is one of the arrangers for The Naturals. Hardin has taken music theory most of his life, but this is the first semester he has started to arrange for his group. Once Hardin has a song picked out, he looks up other a capella arrangements of that song on YouTube. Then, he can use that version for comparison when he enters in his own version of the song into a musical arrangement program on his computer. He will often refer back to the original when writing his own version.
“[I] take bits and pieces to make something original from that,” Hardin said. He says that current computer software makes it easy for him to create his own original piece.
He compares arranging a song to writing a paper; he likes to have another arranger look over his work to see if there are any mistakes.
“It’s really like writing a paper,” said Hardin. “When you have someone else look at it, mistakes are a lot more obvious.”
At the time of the interview, Hardin was arranging a rendition of "What Makes You Beautiful" by One Direction. Hardin's arrangement was debuted at The Naturals' Nov. 3 show. Check out the final product here.
After my Journalism 1550 class last semester, it should be no surprise to anyone that I did another near-semester long project on the the Studio 013 Refugees. This time around, I decided to do an even more in depth story than last semester, if that was even possible. Here is how it was done.
I came up with the idea for this story back in May. When interviewing former Studio 013 Refugees president for my Journalism 1550 project, he mentioned attending a workshop before he auditioned for the group. After being around the group so long last semester, I had never learned what the workshops were all about. The following month, I was hired for Marquette's Student Media Interactive. Right off the bat, I had my first story idea: to find out what these workshops were all about.
I talked to presidents Bill and Charlie at Marquette's organization fest during the beginning of the semester. I pitched my idea to them – documenting the process of becoming a member of the Fugees. They agreed to it. Just like that, I was about to spend the majority of my semester with the Fugees again.
Both of my Fugees projects have lasted over the course of a couple months. I intended the first project to only involve photographing two Fugee practices and one show. But, due to circumstances in my class, I ended up photographing four practices and two shows. I was around for a good three months.
If you ever hear the term “Newgee” thrown around on Marquette’s campus, looking up the definition online will do you no good. No, the term does not belong to another language. The word is a title for the newest members of Marquette’s improv troupe, the Studio 013 Refugees, also known as the Fugees. A Newgee is created after four weeks of improv workshops and a week of auditions.
The responsibility of organizing workshops and auditions falls to the group’s presidents, seniors Bill Lacy and Charlie Mohl. At the beginning of every fall semester, the Fugees hold improv workshops to recruit new members for the group.
“Each workshop is themed,” said Lacy. “The first one is introduction to improv, the second one is characters, the third is scenes and the final workshop brings it all together.”
Before each workshop, Lacy and Mohl pick out various improv games that fit that night’s theme. Before each game, they explain how it works and have other Fugees demonstrate the game. While workshop attendees play the games, Lacy and Mohl sit up front and watch. The pair watches for people who can follow the three rules of improv. The first rule is “yes and,” which means a player must add to fellow players’ ideas in a scene. The second and third rules are “don’t negate” and “don’t ask questions,” which mean you should never reject an idea that is developed in a scene. Mohl and Lacy also look for people who can work well together in scenes.
“The real goal of improv is to make everyone you’re playing with look good,” Mohl said.
This year’s workshops had an attendance of between 12 and 18 people. It is not required that those intending to audition attend workshops, but it is encouraged. The auditions have the same basic layout that workshops have. Lacy and Mohl pick out games for the Fugee hopefuls to play. However, instead of guiding attendees like they did at workshops, Lacy and Mohl simply sit back and observe the games.
“I remember almost throwing up in every scene I was in,” Lacy said of his own audition experience. “You had all these people intimidatingly sitting in the back.”
“And all of them with notebooks!” Mohl interjected.
As soon as auditions are over, Lacy, Mohl and the rest of the Fugees discuss their options. They pass around each application they receive and look back on each individual’s performance. If needed, they discuss the strengths and weaknesses of particular applicants. Deciding on a Newgee has to be a unanimous decision. Even if only one Fugee strongly feels that a person is not right for the group, that person is immediately out of consideration.
Once the group decides on their Newgees, a list is posted outside of Helfaer Theatre’s Studio 013, which was the original practice space for the group years ago and its namesake. This year, the group acquired four Newgees: freshman Connor Welch and sophomores Ciara Collins, Liz Formella and Hannah Klapperich-Mueller.
The Newgees were introduced to the crowd at the end of the Fugees’ October show. Welch, Collins, Formella and Klapperich-Mueller will be fully immersed in the Fugees show, “Debate Cheetos,” this Friday at 8 p.m. in Marquette Hall 200. Check out the show for some laughs and to see some real-life Newgees up close and personal.
*Story appeared on www.marquettetribune.org
After about 20 hours at play rehearsals, over two and half hours of interview footage and probably nearly 15 hours of editing, my video is finally done. Now, if you are intimidated by the half hour-long video that lies above these lines, never fear. I also broke down my video into a nine-part playlist which you can view here.
So, a few days ago in a journalism class, a guest speaker mentioned a behind-the-scenes article he did for another article. He had some sort of term for it... something with "nerd" in the title. I liked the idea, and decided to go with it. If you couldn't guess, I am a big fan of the behind the scenes stuff.
I first heard about the play back in April, when the production was cast. I had known Chris, who plays Charlie, since last year, and knew he was auditioning for the show. When I asked him what the show was about, all I got out of him was "It was an off-Broadway play that starred Matthew Broderick." Fast forward about two months, when I was hired to work for Student Media Interactive. All summer, I brainstormed ideas to work on for the upcoming school year. I came up with the idea to do a behind-the-scenes of Diederich's student film festival, which takes place in the spring. I really liked the idea, so I started to get antsy. Then, I remembered "The Foreigner" coming up in the fall.
All set up in my littler corner of Helfaer for the last night of rehearsal for "The Foreigner." I even brought dinner tonight. Can I just say the stage looks absolutely gorgeous? I'm so in awe of what the crew is capable of in just about a month. I'm pretty sure I have only been at Foreigner rehearsals for two weeks, although it feels like I have been here for the whole process, and the stage has changed so much since I first got here. The wood floor looks nicer than the floor in my house. They've made the windows look like it is raining outside. Such a talented crew.
Tonight is a five-hour dress rehearsal. It is now six minutes into the first hour, and I have not seen any sign of the cast. It seems like the very beginning part is more so for the crew. The stage manager and other members of the crew have been going over sound and light checks. The crew keeps talking to some mysterious guy who is hidden from my view about catwalks and throwing in certain numbers. Needless to say, I don't understand any of it. I just hope my tuna isn't stinking up the house too much.
Tonight I do not plan on doing too much filming. I just need to film any key pieces of dialogue that I think I have missed, and try to get a few more closeup shots of the actors. The most important part of my night is probably my interview with Director Todd Denning after rehearsal. My story is about the cast, so I wanted to get Todd's input on the cast, as well. As I may have mentioned before, Todd stepped in about a month ago as director of the show. So, Todd did not cast the actors and actresses in their roles. I think that's a really interesting aspect of this show, so I definitely wanted to learn about that. So, since I will not be filming the majority of rehearsal, I will actually be doing homework during part of the night. Oh, right...I have homework and classes....this isn't all I do. I forget that, sometimes.
Attempting a live blog again, folks. Tonight I am covering the last Fugee workshop. I am currently sitting in the back of the room watching the group warm up with a game that makes no sense to me. But they use the word "kitty" in the game so I like it...because I am pretending it's a game about cats. There's also a lot of running and yelling in this game. It looks dangerous. Maybe this is the real way the Fugees pick Newgees...the last one alive gets in the group?
I started off the night by interviewing the presidents of the group. A few days ago, I figured that it would be really easy to come up with questions for the interview. I mean, I have been around the group enough these past two semesters to learn enough about improv. Friends and family members have jokingly asked me why I don't just join the group already. I think an audience member from the Fugees' show Friday thought I was in fact with the group, since I was sitting with some of them after the show.
Then, I realized that this was more of a problem then an advantage. Most of the questions I would need to ask have become common knowledge to me. So, in my mind, these would be boring questions. I had this realization when I was sitting with three of my roommates. So I asked them what they would want to know about the Fugees and their audition process. One of my roommates, who is a senior, responded with, "Uhh...what are the Fugees?" After that, I knew the really simple questions were to way to go. I decided to include informational questions about the Fugees, as well, to try to inform Marquette students who have not heard of the group before.
Tonight is the last workshop. They have been running the same as the three weeks beforehand. The only difference is this workshop is used to tie everything together that workshop attendees have learned over the past few weeks. For example, the first two workshops introduced the beginning steps of improv and character based games. Now, all of these lessons are being tied together in the games played tonight. For example, right now the Fugees are going over the game Parallel Universe. One player leaves the room and the remaining three players on stage are given suggestions for objects or events that don't exist in their universe. The player who left comes back and guesses the suggestions based on context clues during the scene. The game is repeated with different players until every attendee gets a chance to play.
The group is near the beginning of what I assume will be their last game of the night. There have only been three or four games during the workshop, but the games have lasted longer each week. The dynamic has been different in every workshop and, in my mind, the standout performances have changed week to week.This may be my last night covering the workshops, but I will be back for auditions next week. I'm really curious to see how auditions will go and excited to see the work from the past workshops come together next week.
A poster for the show hangs outside of the theatre.
Since I have been with hanging out at play rehearsals for two days in a row, I've decided to do one post on both nights. I am also giving myself more work to do at rehearsals and have decided to blog while I am at rehearsals. We're doing live blogging y'all... get excited.
Last night, the cast did not do a run, but worked on individual scenes. Instead of working on filming scenes, I tried to capture individual moments from the actors and actresses. Due to copyright laws, I cannot include too much spoken dialogue in my video. So, along with interviews with the cast, I can include small bytes of scenes and actions shots with no dialogue. So, for my scenes without dialogue, I am trying look for particularly funny or emotional reactions from actors and actresses to pair with voice overs from their interviews. For my small bytes of scenes, I have been filming key lines in the show that introduce the plot. I have seen the show enough and read through the script enough times to know when key scenes, or potentially funny improvised reactions will be happening. This has been a huge advantage - so happy the crew was kind enough to give me a script!
6:39 - The Run Begins
Tonight is a run of the show, which means the cast is putting on the show in its entirety. There are a lot of faces here tonight that I do not know. From what I overheard, students involved with costumes are here now. Members of the deck crew are here as well. I am not quite sure what that means...I think they actually do work underneath the stage? I'm staring at an opening underneath the stage right now, I can't tell if there is actually room for a fully grown human to fit under there. Maybe they slide around like snakes underneath the stage. Who knows. But Todd told the deck crew that this is probably the only time they'll see the show from "sea level." So clearly these folks are up to something during the performance. I think there is another journalist here tonight, as well. Oh, man...competition.
The is the second time I've seen a run of the show. The last week, I saw the cast do a run along with working on particular scenes that needed work. These scenes were in the beginning of the show. This is the part of the show I am watching right now. A lot of the notes Todd gave the cast in these scenes were based on very technical things, like changing the position of a hug, put a different emphasis on this word, etc... It's great to see that Todd's notes have now become second nature for the cast in only six days. The set is also coming together more and more each time I come to rehearsal. Tonight, the stage itself is almost completely finished, lighting has been added and various decorations have been hung up on the walls.
7:58 - Act I Ends
The cast is given a ten-minute break before they start up Act II. During these breaks, they get an opportunity to hang out for a few minutes or run lines before their next scenes. Or sing and dance on stage...as one of the cast members is doing right now. I really wish I didn't have to conserve my camera battery. The only difference I have noticed from the last time I saw Act I in its entirety is that a few more moments here and there have been subtly added to scenes. My favorite scene of the play, which I have referred to many times, has gotten funnier in my opinion. The cast added a few more exchanges between Charlie and Ellard at the breakfast table to add more humor.
Act II is starting up again. The stage manager tells the actors to get to the appropriate place and then cues the scene by announcing "Lights up!" During Act II, I have to cool it with filming. I want to conserve at least an hour of my battery for my interviews tonight and tomorrow morning. I also need to use the remaining hour and 45 minutes of rehearsal to go over my questions and mark my script for scenes to be used in my video.
9:32 - The Show is Over
I am pretty sure that I'm up to three full views of the show now. The show is great and I cannot wait to see what this cast will be capable of in a week. The cast is on break right now, but will return back in a few minutes to get last minute notes from Todd. They are almost done for the night, but I am not. I have my third cast interview directly after rehearsals, followed by three interviews tomorrow. I believe I will have one more rehearsal left with the cast until I start putting my video together!
My week of marathon journalism has started to catch up with me. Yesterday, I was ran around campus balancing my open laptop as I attempted to load something onto my external hard drive. Earlier today, I decided to bypass the last stair as I walked out of my ethics class (that's just a fancy way of saying I slightly wiped out while balancing all of my equipment and backpack). And, as predicted, I am slowly losing the ability to speak coherent sentences. The most recent addition to this list: I forgot how to spell the word addition. It took about 5 times typing it to get the correct spelling.
Amidst losing my sanity, The Fugees held their third set of workshops last night. I wish I could tell you what the theme was for last night's workshop (I.E. basics of improv or character based games) But, due to the slight crisis I was facing, I wasn't quite listening. I was setting up my filming equipment and, as I turned it on, the video camera screen said it there was no SD card inside the camera. Hence the panic. Without an SD card, I could not film. We almost had a repeat of me running out of a Fugees practice in a panic, along with plenty of curse words whispered at my camera. Turns out, the SD card was just placed in the wrong slot. Just another case of Brynne overreacting too quickly.
With last night's practice, I decided to take pictures on top of filming. I forgot how hard it was to photograph in Humphrey Hall. The horrible lighting makes for very washed out backgrounds. Now I remember why I took black and white pictures for my last project with the Fugees. But these pictures were not so much for the quality but to document what I have been filming and blogging about these past few weeks.
The workshop has run the same as the previous two. Instead of attempting to film all of the workshop attendees' scenes, I finally figured out a pattern to my filming. Now, I'm trying to film every other scene. The only exception is when someone I consider to be a standout in a scene. Besides interviews with the Fugees and clips of them explaining/demonstrating games, I've decided to focus on clips of the soon-to-be Newgees in the workshop and audition process. I believe I will be interviewing a few members of the Fugees before next week's workshop. The video is starting to come together, you guys!
The Fugees did not end the workshop with a game of Mafia, as usual (until next time, Mr. Lacy). They went straight to their post-workshop discussions. It's interesting to see how their opinions have evolved and changed over the past few weeks. The group then transitioned out of workshop mode to film a promo for their upcoming show. See below... it's definitely the best promo they've done for any of their shows.
Also, if anyone is wondering, the title of this post came from a line from one the scenes at the workshop. I really, really hate naming articles. It may be my least favorite part of writing. So thank you, workshop attendee, for making my job a little easier.
Let me tell you a secret: I did not know the Naturals existed until a few weeks ago. Many of Marquette University's entertainment groups came together on August 28th to put on a show called "MU Mania." This show featured improv troupe, The Studio 013 Refugees, hip hop dance team Hype and acapella groups The Gold 'n' Blues and The Naturals (sorry if I missed a group!). Unfortunately, I had to miss out on this show because I was working. I had seen all the other groups in the showcase perform, so I followed along with MU Mania's live Twitter feed while I was at work. This tweet is when I decided I had to learn more about The Naturals:
It is not secret that I love bow ties. But i also really love acapella music. I have always been curious how acappella groups arrange their songs. So, I decided to take on a third story this week and sit in on a Naturals practice.
I thought I was out of place when listening to the lingo used in theatre rehearsals, but acapella practices are a whole different thing. I mean, a lot of their terms are Italian musical terms. So they were literally speaking another language. I played the piano when I was younger, but I still struggled to remember the terms they were throwing out. I have a tip for anyone who ever sits in on an acapella practice: If members of the group talk about "Barry," they are most likely referring to someone singing baritone, not a guy named Barry. That one took me a bit to figure out.
The practice involved all the guys gathered around running through songs in their repertoire. They ran through about 4 or 5 songs during their two-hour practice. I absolutely LOVED the first song the guys ran through. I found every other song the Naturals ran through on their YouTube Channel except for that one, so I'm wondering if they are debuting it at an upcoming performance (Speaking of upcoming performances by The Naturals). So, I guess we will let that song be a surprise! Through this first song and the rest of the song the group practiced, the guys would sing lines or entire songs and then offer each other feedback and listen to feedback from their president.
The only issue I faced with my story was that the room the Naturals were practicing in is not ideal for filming. They were in a small room inside the Alumni Memorial Union. Since they were gathered around a piano, many of their backs were to me. Unfortunately, I couldn't move around during their practice, so I was stuck at that same spot.
Luckily, the practice I filmed is not the main focus of my story. Song arrangement is the focus of my story. The Naturals were kind enough to offer to let me sit in with one of their guys as he arranges a song for future performances. That footage will be the main point of my story, and footage from their practice will be interspersed to show the next step.
I am not quite sure when I will be sitting in on the arrangement of a song, but I am pretty excited for it. The guys told me which song they are working on next, and let me just say: girls will swoon.
Tonight I had the chance to see a run through of "The Foreigner." The first hour of the night was more practicing moments to moments, so Director Todd Denning could give his last minute notes to the cast before they began the run through. A run through is exactly what it sounds like. The cast performed the play the whole way through, without any stop and go.
This also means that I was not the only guest at rehearsal tonight. From what I understand, tonight was the first run through. The cast's dialect coach was present to make sure accents were up to par. The costume designer sat in, as well. Other members of the cast, known as "The Townspeople," were present for their scenes tonight. Someone else was filming the practice and although she told me what her job was, at this moment I cannot remember what it was. That might be because I was intimidated by her far-superior camera equipment.
This was my first of, what I anticipate to be, many viewings of "The Foreigner." And I'm already a big fan of this show. What has hooked me to this show is the amount of physical and subtle humor that is ingrained within it. My favorite scene in the show is when the character of Ellard begins to teach Charlie, who has the lodge convinced he cannot speak English, a couple of words in English. First of all, the relationship between those characters is my favorite in the show. I find it absolutely heartwarming that Ellard, often referred to as dim-witted by everyone else in the lodge, and Charlie, who is painfully shy, develop a friendship with one another. The first time Ellard teaches Charlie how to speak English they are eating breakfast together, so Ellard uses breakfast items as references. During the middle of their lesson, two other characters enter and they become the focus of the scene. I kept watching the other two, as Ellard silently teaches Charlie what to do when he has a hot piece of food in his mouth. I'm sure this was ad-libbed, but it may have been my favorite moment of the play, so I hope to see it again! (hint hint, guys).
This rehearsal ended my week of observations. For the past two nights, I've been retaining fly-on-the-wall status. I haven't had too much interaction with the cast yet. Mainly, I have been hanging out in the back row of the theatre learning the story of the play and watching interactions between the cast and crew (let's be real: I've been eavesdropping like no other). From what it looks like, the remaining rehearsals will run fairly similarly to tonight's rehearsal. Which means, I am not quite sure how much off-stage interacting between the cast will happen next week.
To quote Abed Nadir from NBC's "Community," "Some flies are too awesome to stay on the wall." This will be my mantra for the remainder of my time with the cast. Honestly, I don't know if this quote is relevant. I just really like Abed. But I do aim to use this week to get to know the cast better. I began by creepily tracking down the cast members I haven't met on Facebook and Twitter. More importantly, this week will most likely mark the beginning of my interview sessions with the cast. My biggest concern with this part of the process is finding a place to conduct the interviews. That's a surprisingly hard task to accomplish.
Speaking of hard tasks, I decided to spend the remainder of my night editing in the basement of Johnston Hall. Because technology likes to taunt me sometimes, I can never successfully transfer my video clips from my computer to a computer in Johnston on my own. The kind people of Johnston's technology center, The Wakerly, often help me out (Have I mentioned they're my new best friends?). I bought an energy drink for the first time in my life and rented a scary movie to keep me awake, as I knew this would be a long process. I can now report that I am immune to the effects of energy drinks, "Paranormal Activity 3" isn't really that scary and I have now discovered a (rather long) way to transfer my clips.
Progress, you guys. Expect to hear a lot from me next week as I will be with the cast of "The Foreigner" multiple times and spending time with the Fugees and the Naturals, as well.