The relative silence at William & Mary in the weeks following the New Year may have led most passersby to assume that the campus was nearly devoid of students. Though winter break did clear the College of most of its student population, one look in Phi Beta Kappa Hall would have revealed students galore -- singing, sewing, acting and scheduling, all by themselves and all in a mad rush to bring a Gilbert & Sullivan classic to the stage.
The Sinfonicron Light Opera Company, a 46-year-old student organization that spends two weeks of winter break each year putting together a full-scale show, will open its production of “Patience” Jan. 20 in Phi Beta Kappa Hall.
According to a press release from the organization, the musical focuses on a milk maid named Patience who is “caught between aesthetic poets and strapping dragoons in the nineteenth-century English countryside.”
The 80 students involved in the production began their sprint toward opening night the week after New Year’s Eve. They worked every day, from at least 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. for most and longer still for others.
Though some of the students did the same job full-time throughout the two weeks, most of them were assigned to rotating crews. For instance, when Chris Richardson ‘13, who plays one of the main characters in the show, was not rehearsing his scenes, he was assigned to the costume shop where he assisted costume designers Ruth Hedberg ‘13 and Nick Martin ‘13 do things like transform red chef’s jackets into British military uniforms. This all-hands-on-deck approach is necessary for everything to get done in such a short time frame, said Jarrett Ley ‘13, publicity director.
“It forces everyone to work together at every level,” he said.
These students may not have a chance to work together otherwise. The timing of Sinfonicron makes participation possible for students who may not be able to participate in theater productions throughout the year due to other engagements. Additionally, students involved in theater have the chance to work with students in the music department, something that doesn’t necessarily happen otherwise, Ley said.
Though the long hours and hard work may be challenging, Ley said the experience brings everyone together.
“It’s a big family,” he said.
Nora Face ‘14 plays Patience, the title character, in the production.
“It’s really fun. It’s a great group,” she said, adding that it is also a lot of hard work.
To relieve the stress and add a little fun to their days, the students rely on some Sinfonicron traditions. For instance, in a nod to the all-consuming nature of the experience, the participants often turn words into some variation of Sinfonicron – coffee turns into Sinfoni-coffee and love is Sinfoni-love.
Because the campus is closed, the students stay in the homes of local volunteers. Each of the 12 houses comes up with a name and, on a night that’s been dubbed Sinfoni-ween, they dress up according to the names of their houses. Additionally, in order to ensure students are on time each day – something that’s vital in the two-week production process -- a “house” cup is presented to the house with the most points for punctuality. And to ensure good morale throughout the day, “acts of awesomeness points” are doled out, with the winner receiving a spray-painted golden axe (note the pun) at the end of the production. Sinfonicron members also look forward to Nerf wars and dessert Olympics amidst the two weeks of preparation.
Although it may seem silly to outsiders, the little traditions help the students stay motivated throughout the demanding two weeks, according to Ley. In fact, for the students who hope to make theater their careers, Sinfonicron can be a very serious test of their abilities.
“There are no professors to fall back on,” said Ley. “If you want to get a sense of whether you can work in the professional theater world, this is the best way to find out.”
In the end, the two intense weeks of fun and hard work create a love for Sinfonicron for life. The company has a very active alumni guild, which provides support and financial assistance for the productions.
Talking with Ley, it’s easy to see why so many still feel the “Sinfoni-love.”
“It’s the best experience I’ve ever had in college,” he said. “It’s this magical world of real theater but with all your best friends.”
Patience runs through Jan. 23. Tickets can be purchased at the Phi Beta Kappa Box Office. For more information, visit http://sinfonicron.tk.