Three people crowd around the small monitor of a camera, cautiously reviewing footage. On the other side of the camera, cast members mingle, waiting to hear if they finally produced a take the production team was happy with. A wave of relief sweeps over the cast as the crew announces that there will be no more takes — the final sketch of the show is done.
Saturday, Nov. 20 marks the release date for “Macaulay Night Live,” a semester-long project created by the Macaulay Theater Club (MTC) in collaboration with the Macaulay Content Creators (MCC) and the Macaulay Musicians Collective (MMC). “Macaulay Night Live” is a Saturday-Night-Live-inspired comedy show written, performed and produced by Macaulay students. Featured sketches include the “Origin of Macaulay,” “Major Swap” and “Learner’s Permit,” a parody of Olivia Rodrigo’s recent song “Driver’s License.” The show will also present a number of musical guests, as well as introduction music recorded by MMC.
“Macaulay Night Live” marks the first in-person production the Macaulay Theater Club has created since the spring 2019 semester. MTC moved online about a week before they were expected to put on their production of “The Importance of Being Earnest” due to the pandemic.
The idea for this project, which involved three clubs and a team of writers, actors, editors and musicians, began during a brainstorming session last spring.The executive board began planning logistics for an in-person production in the spring and summer, which included figuring out how many rehearsals would be in-person, what recording equipment they would need and who would be responsible for writing, acting and editing. In the end, they decided on two online rehearsals and one in-person session per week.
Mondays were dedicated to script writing. Wednesdays were devoted to editing, with the last half hour set aside for script readings of the drafts. Sundays were dedicated to in-person filming at the Macaulay building. MTC members would often split into groups to work on multiple sketches at once. If a sketch was too large to be completed in one week, one group could continue working on old scripts while another worked on fresh ideas.
Once a sketch was filmed, the footage was sent to Macaulay Content Creators for editing. Members cut together multiple takes as seamlessly as possible to create a coherent scene. For some sketches, editors added special effects or sound effects to complete the sketch. “There’s a lot of footage and ideas,” commented Producer Brie Underwood. “As much as we would love to keep the original writers’ vision and ideas, it may not always be possible or practical.”
The cast expressed positive feelings about the show. “I love coming into rehearsal and seeing everybody and practicing…that’s my favorite part, just meeting everybody and being in person,” said Royta Iftakher, one of the main cast members and head writer of “Origin of Macaulay.”
For senior Carina D’Urso, the production of “Macaulay Night Live” marks her final time managing one of MTC’s performances. D’Urso first encountered MTC as a freshman; she was cast in the Fall 2018 production of Godspell and asked to join the executive board as assistant director for the spring. D’Urso was the head director when the pandemic first struck, meaning she oversaw the transition to online rehearsals.
“It was definitely tough at first,” she acknowledged. “People were dealing with all their issues at home, and at that moment, Theater Club became less of a priority.”
MTC nevertheless stayed together through the pandemic. “It got easier as time went on,” D’Urso said. “We would check in with our group and make sure our community was staying strong even in light of the pandemic.”
Under her direction, MTC reduced rehearsal days to allow people to focus on their personal lives and reduce stress brought on by the unusual circumstances of 2020. Instead of a typical production, MTC began doing an original cabaret entitled “Opposites Attract” in the fall and virtual script readings for “Legally Blond” and “The Princess Bride” in the spring.
“I hope that Theater Club stays mission-driven and inclusive,” said D’Urso when asked about what she envisions for MTC’s future. “That’s always been my vision for Theater Club… to have an environment that is as collaborative as possible and that works to excite people who are involved in the production and inspires people who might want to get involved.”
Readers can watch the YouTube livestream for “Macaulay Night Live” here.