The Rude Mechanicals gear up for this weekend’s production of “The Last Night of Ballyhoo” at the East Quad Auditorium, knowing this is only the show’s first run.
The cast and crew will reunite on the other side of the Atlantic in August to perform the play at Scotland’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Guinness Book of World Records winner for the largest arts festival in the world.
Inspired by the Royal Shakespeare Company’s visit to Ann Arbor last March, four students formed the Edinburgh Project. The group aimed to perform a play locally and then take the production to Scotland for the festival. That effort resulted in “The Last Night of Ballyhoo,” said Megan Marod, a RC sophomore who directs the play and is a member of the Edinburgh Project’ along with two of the play’s actresses, Molly Daunt and Sara Grady.
“It’s great to see that this thing we’ve been talking about for a year is actually happening,” Marod said.
The crew chose the play for its focus on a little-known aspect of American history that they wanted to share with a European audience. Playwright Alfred Uhry’s show examines the life of a Jewish family in Atlanta on the eve of World War II and the premiere of the classic film, “Gone with the Wind.”
In this, “The Last Night of Ballyhoo” shares common elements with the April Department of Musical Theater show, “Parade.” Uhry also wrote that script about the lives of Jews in the American South.
“Ballyhoo” tells “a story dealing with being Jewish in this time period and also coming of age and the dynamics of this particular family,” said Ian Burkow, a LSA junior who plays Adolph, a member of the family’s older generation.
Between Adolph, his nieces Sunny and Lala, his sister Boo and his sister-in-law Reba, the play contains a cast of characters with whom everyone can identify, said Grady, an Engineering sophomore who plays Boo. “It’s like you’re walking into this family, and you really feel apart of it,” she said.
All the actors make special efforts to get into character. For example, Grady keeps a journal to help her prepare for her role as Boo. “I made a diary for my character, and I write in it as her,” Grady said. “It puts me in the right mindset to think it out, being her instead of acting like her.”
The East Quad Auditorium increases the effectiveness of the performances, said Daunt, an LSA junior who portrays Lala. Daunt believes the stage allows the audience to feel closer to the small, seven-person cast and the action as it unfolds on stage. “It’s a really intimate space, so it’s all pretty real,” she said.
While the cast and crew rehearse the play for the East Quad Auditorium stage, they are simultaneously preparing for traveling to Scotland and raising money for the trip. Marod said one fundraising event will consist of hosting an auction prior to one of the performances.
But for the time being, the actors are concentrating on their upcoming performances of “Ballyhoo.” “I’m sure come August I’ll be very excited, but right now I just want to focus on making this performance the best it can be,” Daunt said.