Director Spotlight: Mark Efinger

In an interview with The Phillipian, Mark Efinger, Instructor in Theater and director of “The Who’s Tommy,” reflects on this term’s production. Q: Why did the department choose “The Who’s Tommy?” as this year’s musical? A: This was a choice that came from the entire department. Mr. Murray was excited about it from a design point of view. I was actually afraid of it because it’s a huge technical production…The show created wonderful opportunities for music that kids would get excited about. It was really opportunities for singers with rock and roll music and a tremendous opportunity for design and projections…We’re going to be using the projection idea for the entire year. Q: What makes “The Who’s Tommy” unique from musicals done in the past? A: It’s probably the largest production value show we’ve ever attempted at Phillips Academy. There’s a lot of whistles and bells in the production…There’s [also] an hour and a half scenery [projection] to create different moods and basic energies. It’s kind of like MTV running from beginning to end…just different images coming at you…[with] a lot of moving scenery. Also, Tommy was the first rock opera ever written. Q: What were the most difficult and the most enjoyable aspects of putting the show together? A: The most difficult part was trying to get all of the technical aspects of the show integrated with the acting, singing, and dancing, because the technical stuff includes staircases that move around…If you are going to have actors moving on that [equipment], it’s hard to rehearse without that there from the very beginning…We didn’t have staircases initially. This set has three levels—well, actually it has more than that. It really has five levels [including the orchestra pit]…We got a grant from Abbot to bring in FOY, the [company that arranges] most of the flying on Broadway. They’ve been here two separate times and have rigged up the equipment so we can have kids take off from the floor and into the sky. This was probably also the most fun part. Q: How have you been able to coordinate the live instrumental music? A: The music director, Derek Jacoby, has been with us every rehearsal. In addition, on Wednesdays and Sundays he’s been rehearsing nine kids to play flat-out rock n’ roll…These kids are free synthesizers in the pit! We’ve got good keyboard players. Raleigh Green is playing the lead rock n’ roll guitar. Q: How were the set projections created? A: Ms. Wombwell had a class of kids in the Polk Center doing all kinds of animations…She had to teach all the kids Flash, and they made up all the animations and created an incredible mirage of visual images. Q: What has your role been in the production of this musical? A: I’m the director. I’m surrounded by a bunch of people who are pretty good at what they do and coordinate them…I work with the script to figure out what would be the best way to make physical the words on the page…As a director, I coordinate all the other people and fill in the details in between. [For example,] Ms. Strong did all the choreography for the show. She and I would talk about what kind of choreography we want for each other.