‘Noises Off’: See the story behind the curtain this month

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Story by Lauren Scott

The set is put together, the lights are warmed up, the actors are in their dressing rooms preparing for the show, and props are being set by crew members. The audience walks in, excited for a good laugh from a new show called “Nothing On.” The excitement is palpable as the lights dim in anticipation of the first actor’s entrance and the ensuing events soon to unfold. The audience believes this just may be the greatest show they’ve ever seen. Little do they know that the real show, full of absurdity, drama and hysteria, is happening just off stage.

Backstage shenanigans are truly a show in and of themselves, but Noises Off by Michael Frayn takes it to a whole new level.

It’s a typical Monday in 1980s London, and a dress rehearsal is under way for “Nothing On” – the play that is the subject of Noises Off. As an observer, however, you would never believe “Nothing On” is just hours away from dropping the curtain to an audience. Actors are honestly baffled by what they bring onstage and off – “I take the sardines. No, I leave the sardines. No, I take the sardines” – where they enter and exit, and even what words they need to be putting together, or as Dotty puts it, “I open my mouth and I never know if it’s going to come out three oranges or two lemons and a banana.”

"Noises Off" at Colorado State UniversitySomehow the show must go on, but, unfortunately for this show, a whole month quickly passes and the performance is still in shambles; however, the show backstage is just starting to heat up. Will each actor’s drastically contrasting personalities on and off stage continue to bring “Nothing On” to a messy end, or will the cast finally pull it together?

It’s up to you to see the CSU production of Noises Off in order to find out how the cast of “Nothing On” finishes its 10-week run.

“Play within a play”

Zack Rickert, a junior theatre major who plays “Nothing On” director Lloyd, describes the show as “a play within a play where everything goes wrong.” Given this, Noises Off is fast-moving and keeps actors and audiences on their toes. Frayn’s work is certainly a test for these university actors. As director Eric Prince explains, “The play is a wonderful vehicle for ensemble acting. It is a real tribute to the art of the actor.”

This style of farce is often neglected in university settings, so it’s an important test for the cast, designers and crew. As costume designer Dani Crosson says, from a technical standpoint, “the farce is incorporated really well with both on- and off-stage action.” She said she was excited for this opportunity to “mix comedic farce with historic costuming.”

It is a very special piece of theatre that should not be missed. There are six chances to see Noises Off in the University Theatre, showing Nov. 11, 12, 17, 18 and 19 at 7:30 p.m., and Nov. 13 at 2 p.m.

And be sure to keep an eye out for the sardines!

Ticket information

Tickets for the performance are no charge for full fee-paying CSU students, $8 for youth (under 18) and $18 for the public. Tickets are available at the University Center for the Arts ticket office in the UCA lobby Monday through Friday, 3:30-5:30 p.m. and 60 minutes prior to performances, by phone at (970) 491-ARTS (2787), or online at www.CSUArtsTickets.com.

Additional information

For a full event calendar, more information and to sign up for a free event e-newsletter, visit UCA.Colostate.edu. For an in-depth look behind the scenes of everything happening at the University Center for the Arts, read The Green Room digital magazine. Sign up for free here.

Tony, Emmy, Critics’ Circle and six-time London Evening Standard award-winning writer Michael Frayn’s plays include Donkey’s Years, Alarms and Excursions, Democracy and Copenhagen. Noises Off was awarded the British Olivier and Evening Standard Award for Best Comedy when first presented in 1982.