A behind-the-scenes look at Oxy’s “Urinetown”

Costumes for Urinetown await their actors in the costume shop in Keck Theatre at Occidental College. Friday, Apr. 5, 2019. Flora Villalobos/The Occidental

Members of Occidental’s theater department debuted Greg Kotis and Mark Holman’s “Urinetown” in Keck Theater. The production ran April 12–14 and will run April 26–27 and May 18. “Urinetown” is a musical satire of capitalism, social irresponsibility and musicals themselves. It takes place in a time when a 20-year drought resulted in the taxation of urination and the rise of corporate rule.

Isabel Schwartzberg (senior) is stage managing “Urinetown” as part of her senior comprehensive project. She said this is her first time stage managing a musical.

“The biggest challenge with ‘Urinetown’ is the fact that it is a musical,” Schwartzberg said. “Music is its own beast because once you have music, you have to deal with musicians and a music director — and in our case, a choreographer — so there are all these other people in the room that need to give input. All communication has to be a lot clearer.”

Despite the many challenges of being a stage manager, Schwartzberg said she finds her position rewarding and feels close to her cast and crew.

“Stage management is really about taking care of people,” Schwartzberg said. “It’s an incredibly rewarding thing, but it’s also such a beast of a job with 1,000 different things that you need to do every day. I’d say the best part is really interacting with the cast and just watching the rehearsal process.”

Jane Crosby-Schmidt (junior) has the dual experience of working behind the scenes as a dance captain and on stage as the character “Roberta the Stockfish.”

“Most of my work has been on the stage, but being dance captain gave me an opportunity to do a little bit of extra work behind the scenes,” Crosby-Schmidt said. “[As dance captain I met] up with people to go over choreography after our choreographer taught it to us and to figure out what things needed to be clarified in rehearsal. Roles like this are fun because they give you a different sense of ownership over the show.”

Professor Laural Meade said she is excited to be directing “Urinetown.” According to Meade, the best part of the rehearsal process has been watching the cast become triple-threat performers. Meade and Crosby-Schmidt said managing such a large cast had its challenges during the rehearsal process.

“‘Urinetown’ is a big and complicated show,” Meade said. “Almost all of the numbers are ensembles, so there is quite a bit of collaborative work that everyone has to do to make every scene function. The second thing is all of our students are very busy people, and dealing with everyone’s schedules to rehearse consistently has really been a massive challenge.”

“Some of the numbers in the show are really fast and complex,” Crosby-Schmidt said. “We have a big range of dance experience in our cast, so we all worked with each other to make sure everyone felt comfortable and confident with their choreography.”

According to Meade, the content of the show speaks to current anxieties and tensions present in the Los Angeles area regarding corporate greed and drought, conflicts which she feels the student body will relate to.

“[Urinetown] feels like it was written today,” Meade said. “The antagonist, the villain of the whole thing is this corporate CEO who is essentially the president. Ironic, right? It’s not its primary focus but the play does have a lot of things about environmental degradation.”

Jenny Foldenauer, the costume shop manager, is in charge of making the costumes worn in the show. During the weeks leading up to the show, her costume shop is bursting with vibrant fabric, recycled materials and colorful wigs, which she displays on a set of mannequins by the costume shop’s front door.

Jenny Foldenauer, costume shop manager, designer, and theater professor, explains the design process for Urinetown’s costumes in Keck Theater’s costume shop at Occidental College. Friday, Apr. 5, 2019. Flora Villalobos/The Occidental

“We decided [to set this production in] Los Angeles and that it’d be post-apocalyptic,” Foldenauer said. “If we were in this world where there is a drought, and the one percent controlled that water and they are taxing people to use the restroom, what would that world look like? How would they clothe themselves? So I landed on trash.”

Foldenauer gestured to the mannequins, one of which was wearing a corset made out of potato chip wrappers.

Urinetown costumes are fitted on mannequins Keck Theater’s costume shop at Occidental College. Friday, Apr. 5, 2019. Flora Villalobos/The Occidental

“Each character has kind of a personal trait with their trash,” Foldenauer described. “Pennywise has a bunch of potato chip bags attached to her corset because she used to do cabaret, so it’s kind of linking to her previous life before this drought occurred.”

Foldennauer said her favorite costume is the one she created for the character “Little Sally,” which features a red skirt speckled with projector slides and Skittle wrappers.

“Costumes should tell a story before the actors even open their mouths to tell the story,” Foldenauer said. “Little Sally loves candy and loves to find interesting things. She has slides on her, which are actually slides from community art, which Jenny Low, the sustainability coordinator, sourced for me.”

Costumes for Urinetown are constructed of vibrant recycled materials Keck Theatre at Occidental College. Friday, Apr. 5, 2019. Flora Villalobos/The Occidental

“Jenny did an absolutely amazing job with the costumes,” Crosby-Schmidt said. “Adding the costumes gave an extra little bit of physicality to the characters, and for me, that made it even easier to really get into the dances and use them to tell the story.”

During its opening weekend, “Urinetown” drew in audiences both from within and outside the Occidental community. Addy Nunn (sophomore) and Emma Yudelevitch (senior) both attended “Urinetown” April 13.

“The show was high-energy, funny, satirical, poignant and generally fun to watch,” Nunn said. “The conclusion sent an important message about respecting our environment, while the comedy and music of the show put a smile on the face of pretty much everyone in the audience.”

“I had no idea what the musical was about and I think that was the best part because it is full of surprises,” Yudelevitch said. “The amazing cast will keep you laughing the whole time and you will not be able to stop thinking about it once you have left the theater.”

“Urinetown” has three more performances in Keck Theater: April 26 at 7:30 p.m., April 27 at 7:30 p.m. for Keck’s 30-year anniversary, and May 18 at 8:30 p.m. for senior week.