The Never-Ending Task of Preparing for Songfest 2006
Songfest 2006. To a large portion of UC Irvine students and faculty, this is the opportunity to see some of their favorite Broadway musicals performed by their peers. But for the eight members of the Songfest Executive Board and the 18 to 20 directors of the shows performing on that night, Songfest means much more than a single evening of entertainment. To them, it is the culmination of their hard work, planning, sleepless nights and hours of rehearsing.
The preparation for the Songfest production begins almost directly after the closing night of the current year’s show with the selection of the Songfest Executive Board. The board consists of eight positions: executive producer, assistant producer, executive director, assistant director, business manager, marketing director, promotions director and philanthropy director.
Each of these members meets after the selection process and begins to make plans for the following production almost one year in advance. It is the job of the eight members on the board to make sure that all of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into the show makes it a success. One of the most pivotal decisions that the Songfest Executive Board makes early in fall quarter is determining the pairing of each chapter (fraternity with sorority). In order to make the process as fair as possible,
the executive board creates a way of determining pairings to ensure that the winners of previous years are not matched up with each other, and that the same sorority and fraternity are not paired together year after year.
Once the chapters are all notified of their pairings, it is up to the chapters to determine who is going to be the director. It is then up to the directors to choose a show to produce for the year.
Other than the shows performed in the last year’s production and the top three winners of the previous two years, any musical is fair game. For the directors, this is one of the most difficult decisions they will have to make. Because each cast is only given 11 or 12 minutes in April to perform their show, it’s important to choose a show with a relatively simple plot, likeable characters and catchy musical numbers that work with the talent of your cast, all while keeping in mind the rules laid out in the Songfest bylaws that outlaw any Disney shows.
In order to find a show that is appropriate for their cast, the directors have to spend hours listening to musical soundtracks, reading plots and weeding through the Kander and Ebbs, Hammersteins and Sondheims until the perfect show is realized.
After Songfest Executive Board has approved the show, the directors then set out to edit it. They select the songs to be performed and which songs to leave on the cutting room floor in order to condense a two-hour musical into 12 minutes.
The editing process involves hours of sitting at a computer listening to each song, determining which are crucial to the plot and which would be crowd-pleasing numbers. After the initial cut, the directors submit their sheet music to the executive board, and finally begin rehearsals with their casts.
The rehearsal process is unlike anything you could possibly imagine. The directors are given almost nothing to work with except the soundtrack. It is up to them to form a plotline, develop the characters, choreograph and teach eight sorority women and eight fraternity men how to successfully sing in harmony.
While some might think that the shows performed in Songfest are relatively simple and probably easy to pull off, in reality each minute in the show is the result of hours and hours of rehearsal. Most shows rehearse multiple days a week, meaning the cast is working on the show collectively for about 15 to 20 hours a week—ultimately the same amount of time one would spend at a part-time job.
For the directors, it is almost a full-time job. When they aren’t actually at rehearsal, they’re thinking about rehearsal—what you need to clean, where you should add or take away harmonies, what choreography looks good and what you still need to work on. Although it’s a lot of work, the experience that comes from being a cast member and a director makes all of the time and effort put into the show completely pay off. Whether your cast wins first place or doesn’t place at all, the moments, the laughs and the incredible bonding shared by the 16 people on cast is something that is irreplaceable and makes the entire process something I wouldn’t give up for the world.
While the competition makes Songfest a bit more fun and makes everyone work just a little bit harder, Songfest has always been a production for charity. Last year, Songfest 2005 raised $10,000 for its chosen philanthropy, Camp Footprints. Though each show last year was impressive and memorable in its own way, the children of Camp Footprints do not remember who had the best solo, the most impressive costumes or the most entertaining show. Instead, they remember spending an entire Saturday in Arroyo Vista at the ‘Songfest Playday,’ where they were invited to play carnival-style games with UCI students and members of the participating chapters. They remember how some very talented sorority and fraternity members poured their souls into their music in order to change their lives.
Even if you have never liked musicals, Songfest 2006 is guaranteed to consist of entertaining performances unlike anything you have ever seen. It is a production that takes almost a full calendar year to successfully plan and pull off, and months and months of practice and sleepless nights to make it entertaining for all. However, Songfest is not a success every year only because of the hard work and dedication of the executive board, the directors and the members of each chapter. It is successful because of every person at UCI who contributes and those in the community who give money to the cause.
Help us support the Mercy House Foundation each week by eating at Gina’s Pizza on Tuesday nights, or simply by attending the show in April. You’ll be glad that you did.
2006 Pairings & Shows:
Alpha Chi Omega & Sigma Chi: Moulin Rouge
Alpha Phi & Sigma Nu: Thoroughly Modern Millie
Delta Delta Delta & Lambda Theta Delta: The Wiz
Delta Gamma & Sigma Phi Epsilon: Fosse
Gamma Phi Beta & Alpha Epsilon Pi: Footloose
Kappa Alpha Theta & Sigma Pi: Smokey Joe’s Cafe
Kappa Kappa Gamma & FIJI: Rocky Horror Picture Show
Pi Beta Phi & Sigma Alpha Epsilon: Movin’ Out
Kappa Sigma & Pi Kappa Alpha: Newsies
2006 Greek Songfest Executive Board