On a sunny and windless Sunday afternoon, while most other people in Hawke’s Bay were outside enjoying the first real warmth of spring, down a side street in the small town of Waipawa, forty or more musicians and dancers were crowded in to a shed, singing about, amongst other things, the wind.
At least that’s what I thought they were doing.
People were milling around, some were laughing and chatting, others were playing music, two or three were singing, a woman was calling instructions, my sister was earnestly writing down each of those instructions. Someone wandered across the room with a drink and a biscuit.
A few people were sitting outside, enjoying the sun, a more usual Sunday activity in the Bay. Some of them were knitting. I thought they were the parents or grandparents of the children involved in the Waipawa Musical and Dramatic Club’s production of Whistle Down the Wind.
But, no. Suddenly, they filed inside, formed a group in the middle of the floor, and began to sing and dance.
How did they know to do that, I asked my sister.
They just did, she said. Humph, I said, not believing her. And then she added a bit more helpfully, Someone was probably keeping an eye on where we were up to.
Up to??? There was a pattern to this?
And then as I watched, I saw it. There were scenes, characters, an emerging story-line, and the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber binding it all together.
A stool and the bare floor were transformed with the wipe of a rag into a motorbike workshop,
steps became a barn where a wounded murderer was hiding out,
and then the same space, with the addition of a few chairs and a small table, turned into a kitchen.
What struck me as I watched was the high level of cooperation from the youngest (eight years old) to the oldest (over eighty), and their shared focus on achieving the task at hand. A focus that involved accepting direction, taking risks, and recovering quickly from mistakes.
No-one was just sitting around watching—apart from me. Everybody had a particular job. In the photo below, from left to right, are two of the band members, the musical director, the stage manager, the choreographer, the director, the production secretary, and the prompt.
Come and look out the back my sister said while Wynne, the director, was working with a small group. I stepped through a door into a space packed with clothes—dresses, dungarees, and check shirts abounded.
The setting for the musical is rural Louisiana. The cast already have the accents. Soon they will all be kitted out in the clothes to match. Yesterday “Poor Baby” got his dungarees.
I imagined for a moment I had stepped into Narnia—it was that kind of wardrobe, one that goes on and on. In fact, it was better than that.
Wait, is that possible?
Yes! This wardrobe has supplies. And by supplies I mean food. Yesterday afternoon it was chocolate afghans and cake. In the interests of research I had to sample both. And, I can tell you, those who supply the afternoon tea know a thing or two about the importance of sustenance, especially when it comes to the business of keeping people on task.
Dragging myself away from the food, I stepped through another door into a place which really could be described as Narnia. A place where there’s some serious magic happening. Where bits of plywood and a few nails create a kitchen and a barn, a truck, a bar. You name it and they make it, with a smile. A smile that only seemed to get wider when the stage manager declared: That bar will be on wheels won’t it?
It’s all about the transitions, she told me. They’ve got to happen quickly.
This week the rehearsals move next door, to the theatre. The cast are ready. But there’s still much to be done. They need to adjust to the extra space on the stage, then there’s the lighting, the set design and painting.
But wait there’s more: we’re back to the matter of food. An entire team of people will be preparing meals for the dinner nights. And I can tell you from past experience, the meals are delicous value for money.
Two weeks from now the show opens. Then everyone will be working together to ensure those smooth transitions, the polished performances, the magic of the set, the lighting, the music, so that you and I, the audience, will suspend our disbelief and allow them to transport us to the land of make believe.
What: Whistle Down the Wind, a musical
Where: Central Hawkes Bay Municipal Theatre, Waipawa.
When: September 30th – October 10th, 2015
Book now: through TicketDirect or phone the theatre on 06 8578117
Dinner nights: 2nd and 3rd of October.
Matinee: Sunday 4th of October
A disclosure: In case you didn’t pick it up, my sister is production secretary for Whistle Down the Wind. This post was her idea. But the experience and the opinions, they’re all mine.