From Script to Stage: The Journey of Three Days in the Country

Eva Yu, Staff Writer

November 13, 2023

Last week, behind the doors of Vinik Theatre, the cast and crew of the Nobles Theatre Collective (NTC) worked hard to bring the fall mainstage–Three Days in the Country–to life. With shows last Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, they showcased their hard work to the community. Adopted from the book A Month in the Country by Ivan Turgenev, Director of Theatre and the fall mainstage Dan Halperin said of the play: “A contemporary playwright took a meaty, but long and drawn-out, 19th-century Russian play and distilled it to an action-packed 120 minutes of dramedy.” Set in rural nineteenth-century Russia, Three Days in the Country follows the story of thirteen different characters as they navigate an entangled web of romance. 

The process of producing a NTC mainstage starts from choosing the play itself. When asked why Three Days in the Country was selected, Halperin said, “There are 13 roles, and all of them have meaning and important moments. It’s a style that we haven’t produced at least anytime recently, and there’s something about the melodrama of the characters’ lives that I think teenagers get.” Halperin not only chooses the play, but all other components of the fall mainstage. Choosing the title, the design, how the space should be utilized, moving the ideas from paper and into the room, and finally performing the show for an audience are all up to Halperin, the cast, and the crew. 

A crucial part of every production is the casting: who gets to play what role? Halperin answers this question by looking at an individual’s overall capacity as an actor. “[We consider] how prepared, courageous, collaborative, expressive, they are during auditions. This is not specific to any role,” he says. He then tries to determine how certain actors fit with the characters, and who would be better suited to play each character. 

Halperin states that casting characters is challenging because there are many students who are ready to be cast, but not all will receive a role. “You’re hoping that the people that seem most prepared can fit into the most demanding roles,” he says. Halperin also has to work within the constraints of logic because of variables such as age and height. Halperin says, “You probably don’t want a really tall senior playing the kid of a really young freshman.” Halperin laments that not everyone deserving of a role can be cast, emphasizing that even if students feel disappointed in a casting decision at Nobles, this doesn’t hinder them from being brilliant actors later in life. 

Aside from casting the characters, the crew work hard to bring the characters to life using costumes and the set. Karina Cruz (Class I), who worked on the costumes for this production, says, “The hardest part about doing costumes for this production is definitely the time constraints. Especially as a senior, time management and being efficient with our time is very important.” Because the play is set in nineteenth century rural Russia, Cruz and the costume team had to work with creating unusual pieces, such as bodices, which are the upper part of a woman’s dress popular in the Victorian era. To create the bodices, Cruz and her team drew from upper class attire for inspiration, and they strive to make the silhouettes as traditional and realistic as possible. 

Within the time constraint, Halperin and the cast and crew busied themselves with casting, designing, blocking, to moving the show into Vinik, putting the costumes on the actors, and tightening and smoothing out the entire production so that it is ready for audiences. Despite all these hardships, Halperin states that, “The most difficult part is to find the sweet spot where the students and the cast and crew are working hard to create something really special and to help them learn and grow and connect because only through big hard things do we really evolve. Balancing all of that with remembering that students have a lot of other responsibilities and this show and any show cannot take over their entire life.” While Halperin would love to work with the students for longer periods of time, he understands and recognizes the amount of academic work required of them, so he strives to find a balance between being able to produce a phenomenal performance and giving students the time to pursue other interests.

For both Halperin and Cruz, the fall mainstage production was on a tight schedule. But thanks to the efforts of Halperin, the cast, and the crew, the incredible fall mainstage is presented to our community every year at the beginning of November. Being the first production of the year, the fall mainstage sets the stage for another extraordinary year with the NTC.

(Photo Credit: Avery Winder)

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