Mark Baer, who directed City Circle’s wildy successful production of Sweeney Todd last year is returning this year to direct CHESS. So why is Baer, a faculty member at Indiana University Northwest in Gary, Indiana coming all the way from Indiana to direct what he calls a passion project?
“CHESS is a piece so seldom produced that it is worth the drive and the time away from my family, even my daughter who will turn five just after closing. The opportunity to direct this show with a full orchestra and the amazing vocal talent here is one I could not pass up.” Baer who is an Associate Professor at Indiana University Northwest went on to say, “CHESS is a beautiful score with a unique mix of musical styles and coral arrangements including the pop hit ‘One Night in Bangkok’. I think every audience member will find something to love in this show.”
Usually the director of a show is at almost every rehearsal and meets regularly with the production team. So how does it work with a long-distance director? The City Circle production team is using meticulous scheduling, video conferencing and a shortened rehearsal process to make it work. CHESS was cast in November and rehearsals didn’t start until early January which gave the actors a month to work on their own and come as prepared as possible once rehearsals started.
Music Director Jessica Palmer will run most rehearsals until the last two weeks before the show opens. “Mark and I are working tirelessly to make sure our performers are supported by both of us through the process, ” said Palmer. “We have a very specific rehearsal schedule so that our volunteers know exactly when I will be working with them on the music and when Mark will be here to work on staging.”
Jessica and Mark are not new to working together from a distance having worked together last year on Sweeney Todd. “I love working with Mark and was ecstatic when he asked me to work with him on this project,” said Palmer. “Even though I knew it would be an enormous amount of work, I knew it would be a tremendous learning experience for me and everyone involved in the show. And the music is so stirring and masterfully written that is is an opportunity I never thought I’d see in the area, especially with a full orchestra.”
The show features 24 actors, a full orchestra, and dancers from the Nolte Academy of Dance. “I am so impressed with the calibre of talent in the Corridor, “says Baer. “Our team is working hard to put together a show that will engage and captivate Corridor audiences and bring the story of CHESS to life.”
CHESS In Concert runs one weekend, February 9-11 at the Coralville Center for the Performing Arts. Get your tickets today for what is sure to be a memorable show.