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Behind the Scenes of “The Secret Garden”

Behind the Scenes of “The Secret Garden”

: Goofing around on load-In day for "The Secret Garden": actresses in a play from this period face the challenges of working with corsets (no, you don't need a foot braced on your back to draw up the strings!). Photo by Dannul Dailey.

: Load-In Day for "The Secret Garden".

Behind the Scenes of “The Secret Garden”

: Load-In Day for "The Secret Garden": the set roughed in, waiting for the scenic painters. Photo by Dannul Dailey.

Behind the Scenes of “The Secret Garden”

: Load-In Day for "The Secret Garden" with lots of time to wait around during tech: actors Nick Watson (TH '15) and Annamarie Harris (TH '14). Photo by Dannul Dailey.

Behind the Scenes of “The Secret Garden”

: Load-In Day for "The Secret Garden": lighting batons ready to be raised above the Playhouse's Main Stage. Photo by Dannul Dailey.

Behind the Scenes of “The Secret Garden”

: Load-In Day for "The Secret Garden": Tom and the Playhouse rigging for the fly space. Photo by Dannul Dailey.

Behind the Scenes of “The Secret Garden”

: Load-In Day for "The Secret Garden": director Timothy McCuen Pigee (center left in green) works a scene with the cast. Photo by Dannul Dailey.

Behind the Scenes of “The Secret Garden”

: Load-In Day for "The Secret Garden" Amanda Clanton (TH '14) as Mary. Photo by Dannul Dailey.

Behind the Scenes of “The Secret Garden”

: Load-In Day for "The Secret Garden" music director Joshua Zimmerman at the piano. Photo by Dannul Dailey.

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Video by choreographer Dannul Dailey offers a rare peek behind the scenes as The Secret Garden is loaded into The Cornish Playhouse

It’s not something that’s normally shared, but it may contain some of the most fascinating moments of a theatrical production: the load-in. “Load in” is exactly what it sounds like, the days it takes to assemble the play’s set, hang the lights, roll in racks of costumes, and begin to get the cast out of the rehearsal hall and working on the real stage. After a week or 10 days of tech and dress rehearsals, the play will be running smoothly on opening night, the songs spot on, the lighting ideal, the entrances and exits perfected. It will all be seamless, it will all seem easy. But for now everyone is working hard. Stand around the theater in these days and you’ll see the everyone thinking their way through the various problems that invariably crop up in a large production like The Secret Garden. It’s fascinating. Yes, it’s fantastic to sit down at the table to enjoy a marvelous meal — to spin a metaphor — but it’s even more fun to hang around the kitchen and see it prepared.

The Secret Garden opens on April 9 and plays through April 12 at the Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center. Ticket information for The Secret Garden.

For The Secret Garden, load-in had an embedded reporter. Dannul Dailey has been documenting the putting-together of the show, video camera in hand. (The video is embedded above) He is also an interviewer, having done segments with costume designer Andrea Phillips, published on the Cornish site in recent days, and director Timothy McCuen Pigee. Dailey is, more importantly, the production’s choreographer. Working in collaboration with his wife, Tinka Gutrick-Dailey, and director Pigee, Dailey charts and shapes the complex movements of a large-cast musical.

During load-in and tech, the hours are long, and Dailey has been at the Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center from 7:00 to midnight for the last several days. “There’s a lot to do,” he says. “It’s a big difference for the cast, being on the ramps of the finished set after working on the flat studio floor.”

For those who have been waiting expectantly for this musical adaptation of the classic children’s book, the exhaustion shouldn’t be taken as frustration. Dailey may be weary, but he’s upbeat:  “We’re in a pretty good place for the show.”

The Secret Garden
Book and Lyrics by Marsha Norman
Music by Lucy Simon
Directed by Timothy McCuen Piggee
Choreographed by Dannul Dailey
Dance Coaching by Tinka Gutrick-Dailey
Music direction by Joshua Zimmerman

April 9-12, 8:00 p.m.; April 12, 2:00 p.m. matinee.
Cornish Playhouse at Seattle Center, 201 Mercer Street, Seattle 98109

RSVPs are being taken for a “Backstage Benefit” surrounding the April 11 performance of The Secret Garden. All proceeds from the event will benefit the Cornish Annual Fund.


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