Behind the Scenes: Collage 2015


Thomas Breeden
     Staff Writer

The time has come once again for Collage.

On Saturday, Sept. 12 at 7:30 p.m., the School of Music, Theatre and Dance (SMTD) will present its talented students and faculty in its annual must-see performance. Audiences rave year after year about the production’s unique style: performances occur without break from beginning to end.

As the final chord of UNC-Greensboro’s Wind Ensemble ends, virtuosic solos from one of the jazz ensembles will begin, followed by interpretive dances, opera performances and countless other showcases of SMTD talent.

The excitement doesn’t stop there. To aid in the show’s continuity, groups perform in spaces all around Aycock auditorium. One moment the audience listens to an orchestra onstage, and then the sounds of African drums behind them in the balcony draw their attention. It’s truly an immersive arts experience. Strategic lighting design aids in directing audience attention to the source of the action.

The production design is beyond impressive. It begs the question: what goes on behind the scenes of this popular event? Planning, rehearsal, staging and lots of down-to-the-last-minute work from dedicated faculty and students are essential to the development of the production.

Kevin Geraldi and Carole Ott are two individuals responsible for making Collage possible year after year. It takes a lot of logistical work to coordinate over 300 performers into one seamless presentation.

“That includes everything from the advertising and ticket arrangements, to the planning of the music that is performed, to the logistics of how the performance will actually take place,” explained Geraldi, director of orchestras. “It’s a huge job.”

It’s a huge job that Geraldi and Ott execute to great success every year. Collage began in Fall 2008, when Aycock auditorium reopened after extensive renovations.

“This seemed like the ideal way [to] have the entire school — music at the time — celebrate the reopening of our performance space,” Geraldi said as he reflected on its conception.

The event now includes performances from the theatre and dance departments. However, the general format of the evening remains the same.

“One half starts, it runs continuously, things move around or are in different places in the hall.” Geraldi continued. “The components of each half have changed a little bit, where we kind of use the large ensembles as the pillars, and then allow other things to move around like puzzle pieces.”

Carole Ott comes into the equation as the coordinator of the performance groups. Ott contacts the director of each group to receive scores and other information. Then, she and Geraldi compile a program of the concert to ensure a smooth yet varied production. Each group director gets a typed “script” so they can get their group in place at the right time.

The third crucial piece of the Collage puzzle is Aycock auditorium’s James Goins. Goins receives recordings of all the pieces along with the event’s script. He designs creative, colorful lighting cues to compliment the performances. He’s responsible for much of the ambience of the evening.

“He’s great, and he’s super creative,” Geraldi said as he commended his colleague. “He picks the colors, and the way it’s going to look… and we see it for the first time a couple days before the concert.”

Geraldi, Ott and Goins complete the puzzle at the dress rehearsal. By that point, all the music is learned and the focus is more technical. They rehearse the beginnings and ends of pieces to make the transitions between groups as seamless as possible.

Goins double-checks his cues with Geraldi and Ott to finalize the lighting decisions. All that remains is to wait for Saturday night when they will amaze their eager audience.

This year, one of those audience members will be SMTD Dean Peter Alexander. When he came into his position two years ago, people told him, “Wait until you see Collage! Wait until you see Collage!”

Alexander was skeptical at first because he’d seen kick-off events like it before. UNCG’s take on the concept, though, particularly intrigued him.

“This notion that every piece is carefully selected to fit together [for] maximum contrast and excitement, so that the audience is really the focus entirely of the evening was different than what I’d seen before,” reflected Alexander.

That Collage can amaze even the most well-versed art lovers is a testament to the event’s excellence.

“I mean, they don’t sell out for no reason,” Alexander commented. “It’s one of the great nights in Greensboro and people flock to it.”

Kevin Geraldi hinted at a break from tradition on Saturday. “The opening of the concert this year will not be the wind ensemble. It’ll be a surprise.”

Collage has sold out for five years in a row now — so be sure to get tickets as soon as possible. Seats are tiered in pricing and range from $5 to $14 for students. At a $5 ticket, such a high-caliber experience is a tremendous value. All proceeds from Collage ticket sales support scholarships for SMTD students. Tickets are available through Triad Stage or at UNCG box offices in the Music and Brown Buildings.

Categories: Arts & Entertainment, Upcoming A&E Events, Visual & Performance

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