Orchestra Director Stabs Drummer with Clarinet: On with the Show?

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The process of producing a student-run production is as painful as it is pleasant.

Nick Zugris | Cavalier Daily

Cavalier Daily Humor Writer Casey Breneman has always had a passion for musical theatre (if the ‘e’ goes in front of the ‘r’ you’re doing it wrong). Desiring to learn more about how U.Va. CIOs produce musicals, Breneman attended a pit orchestra rehearsal Thursday, March 3 for the acclaimed First Year Players’ spring musical “Anything Goes.” 

The process of producing a student-run production is as painful as it is pleasant. Students develop time management, leadership skills and technical expertise constructing set pieces and sewing costumes, as well as artistic abilities that include painting bricks on wood, dancing on a stage that makes more noise than a herd of stampeding elephants and singing to the back of a concrete box not conducive to vocal projection. 

“Pit is the most important part of FYP, obviously,” first-year Charles Darwin whispered to Breneman from behind his keyboard. “Without us, there’d be no music. And then you can’t call it musical theatre. It would just be...theatre.” Darwin shuddered and played a quick jazz riff with his right hand while keeping a syncopated beat with his left to calm himself down. 

A pit orchestra is often called a pit for short, because traditional orchestras for musicals, operas and ballets perform from a lower area in front of the stage, called the pit. In FYP, however, the pit hides in a corner. They meet twice a week for rehearsals in professional-grade locations around Grounds. Rehearsal space varies from a back room in Runk no one knows about, to classrooms in Maury, to first-floor Clem, to the odd broom closet in Sheetz or Qdoba; basically anywhere 23 musicians will fit comfortably with their large, expensive, highly-breakable instruments. 

During this particular rehearsal, tensions were higher than normal, according to pit director Mary Cathryn Weathers. “The Only Drummer on Grounds is late,” she told Breneman while the rest of the pit wandered aimlessly around the room, tooting on their horns, unable to be productive without a steady beat in the background. 

“This happens from time to time, but we deal with it. He’s the Only Drummer on Grounds, after all.” An anonymous trombone player told Breneman that the Drummer didn’t even bring music with him; he just jammed on his drums and hoped something good came out. After 30 minutes the ODG finally arrived. The music began, and Breneman couldn’t wait to gather interesting and highly relatable information about the joys of pit orchestras to share with her beloved CavDaily readers. What she didn’t count on was the drama … and horror … of what she was about to witness. 

Second semester is a time of stress for many college students, but no one experiences the levels of stress like that of a pit director for a student-run musical theatre organization. First Year Players’ spring production of the classic golden age romcom slightly-racist-but-they’re-working-on-it musical “Anything Goes” was well underway as of Thursday, March 3 at 9:02 p.m. They cringing-ly ran through lead character Lord Evelyn’s pinnacle song “The Gypsy in Me.” It should be noted that the character and actor portraying the character are both Caucasian. Next, they rehearsed “Buddy Beware.” This jazzy, upbeat number will get any hard-hearted musical-theatre-hater’s toe tapping. But for fear of drowning out the soloist, the director insisted the orchestra quiet down. Unfortunately, being all the way in the back and unable to hear over the ringing in his ears, the ODG continued to bang away on his snare/bass drum combo. 

Weathers’ eye twitched twice, and she growled. To Breneman’s horror, she attacked the ODG. Weathers shrieked in rage and grabbed a clarinet from professional musician Rick Ferrari, vaulted over shocked flutist Mâdélinè Røsę Márshàll and bass clarinetist Devonne Boat before viciously stabbing the drum-set player in the chest with the reed tipped point of the R13 Professional Bb Clarinet with Silver Plated Keys. 

The room dissolved into chaos; saxophonist Johnny MacDonald began to hyperventilate, violinists Bear “Crunchy” Att and Carolina Kooc cried in a corner and trumpetists Gabriel Brown and Gabriel Cook (yes they have the same first name) tried to take control of the situation. Breneman was whisked away from the scene by the guy who played the glockenspiel. [glockenspielist? Even musicians don’t know that one.] He reassured her, “Don’t worry, we’ll still have a show. FYP’s faced worst in the past.” He failed to share exactly what could have been worse than murder by a blunt woodwind instrument, as he himself was suddenly impaled by a pair of flying drumsticks. 

After these shocking events, Breneman will most definitely be in attendance at opening night for “Anything Goes” on April 27 at 8 p.m., if only to check in and see how the musicians have emotionally coped with the gruesome death of the ODG. And the glockenspielist.

Casey Breneman is a Humor columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at humor@cavalierdaily.com

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