Producing “Mill on the Floss” has been no small feat for the cast and crew. It’s not easy to build a 16-foot-tall rotating mill wheel in the middle of Harbach.
“This is the biggest set we’ve put on the stage in a while,” said director Liz Carlin Metz.
The play is an adaptation of George Eliot’s Victorian novel of the same name. According to Metz, it explores, “one woman’s attempt to throw off the shackles of Victorian social and moral gender repression.”
Production for the play started as early as September, with various meetings with all the designers for the show. Casting occured in the first weeks of the Winter Term, and dress rehearsals were Monday and Tuesday, March 2-3.
From its huge set to its large number of doubles, lighting expectations and bouts of the Knox Plague, the play has had its share of challenges. The crew lost a week of rehearsal because of the number of cast members who got the flu. On top of it all, the cast is largely composed of underclassmen.
The work was cut out for the crew of “Mill on the Floss” but after a week’s postponement, the show opened on Wednesday, March 4 at 7 p.m.
“It’s definitely been a huge, huge growing experience more than anything. I definitely learned a lot about myself not only as a person but on stage and how I move on stage,” said Meg Tucker, sophomore and actress for the show.
Tucker plays the third iteration of the play’s main character: Maggie. The show follows Maggie from childhood –– Maggie One –– to young adulthood –– Maggie Two –– and then finally adulthood –– Maggie Three.
“[Maggie Three is] struggling with her desires and following her heart versus her mind and that internal struggle between what she wants and what she knows is right,” Tucker said.
While Tucker believes that many can relate to her character, part of her struggle was fully empathizing and understanding her. At the same time, Tucker’s favorite part about playing Maggie is that same internal struggle, and the character’s sheer will.
“It takes her a while to get there but I think she finally makes the right decisions in what’s right for her,” Tucker said.
Post-baccalaureate Peter Rule, ‘19, faced a unique set of challenges as both the stage designer and costume designer for the show. The process was long for both: starting with sketches, refining them in meetings throughout Fall term, coming up with a final product, getting everything approved by Metz and finally sending the finished products to shop. Metz pointed Rule specifically to Impressionist painters such as Matisse and Monet for costume inspiration.
For the set, Rule knew that he wanted to intertwine the themes of femininity and nature and then the way humanity attempts to confine and control nature. A mill –– a literal attempt by human kind to control and harness nature –– was a must. Metz called the 16-foot-high wooden mill “a feat of engineering.”
“I really liked being able to look at the set and the costumes side by side and coming out of my own conceptions and really being able to without a limit on me, think about how those two things would interplay just on my own. I really enjoyed being able to think deeply about the interaction between the two areas I was designing,” Rule said.
Marian Frank, junior, also juggled multiple roles in the show, being both lighting designer and an actor with a prominent role in the piece. This was Frank’s first time working a faculty directed show rather than a student run production, even though she has worked with Theater Professor Craig Choma. One particular scene was a challenge for Frank; at one point in the play there is supposed to be the illusion of water, but Metz made it clear from the start she didn’t want it to be fabric but rather soley the lighting. She achieved this by cueing: a specific setting of lights at varying intensities.
“It was a lot of new equipment that I had never really worked with personally before, but I feel really, really happy at how the show has turned out,” Frank said.
“Mill on the Floss” will show Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday March 4-7 at 7 p.m. in Harbach Theater.