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The Survival Guide

The Survival Guide for
The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company’s
Production of
The Mikado
January to April 2019


A Word of Welcome!

Welcome to the Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company and to our Fortieth Anniversary production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado.  We are very excited to have you with us!

We have prepared this Survival Guide to help orient you to the company and to our policies, practices, and procedures as we begin our work on this production.  While we try to be as complete as possible, there is much that this Guide does not cover.  Please don’t hesitate to ask any questions that you might have of the Production Staff, the members of the Board, or any other member of the company.  We will do all that we can to answer your questions, address your concerns, and make you feel very much “at home.”

A Word About Our Company
The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company (or the GSVLOC) was organized in 1979.  In its forty year history, the company has presented fully staged productions of all thirteen of the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, as well as shows by other authors and composers. This is the fourth time that the company has produced The Mikado!

In addition, for several years our company has appeared with the Minneapolis Pops Orchestra at the Lake Harriet Bandshell in the summer to present a concert version of one of the better known Gilbert and Sullivan operettas.  The concerts will be on a Saturday and Sunday in mid-July.  Participation is only to all who’ve performed with us in the past and we hope that you will be able to join us this summer for this event.

The hallmark of our company has always been to achieve the highest production values in our shows and to have fun doing it!  The company has always been run in a very “hands-on” manner.  We rely on the members of each year’s cast to share in all aspects of the production.  We also welcome other volunteers to help out behind the scenes.  We will ask all cast and crew members to assist in set construction, props gathering, load-in, and, particularly, with the load-out of the set at the theatre, as well as set-up and clean-up of the dressing rooms during the run.  We strive to make these activities both fun and productive.  

Our Philosophy

While our company has a longstanding tradition of presenting delightful shows of the highest quality.  Our company’s culture is exemplified by camaraderie, warmth, and a spirited loyalty to the organization.  A few of the cast members for this show are founding members of the company while other cast members joined as recently as last year’s production.  All are welcome, and it is our sincere hope that many of you joining with us for the first time this year will come back and join us again in future productions.

Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado

The Mikado remains the most frequently performed Savoy Opera, and it is especially popular with amateur and school productions.  The work has been translated into numerous languages and is one of the most frequently played musical theatre pieces in history.  The Mikado was featured in Mike Leigh’s 1999 film, Topsy-Turvy, an award-winning depiction of Gilbert and Sullivan, the world of Victorian life and theater, and the story of the creation of this operetta.

Setting the opera in Japan, an exotic locale far away from Britain, allowed Gilbert to satirize British politics and institutions more freely by disguising them as Japanese.  Gilbert similarly used foreign or fictional locales in several other operas, including Princess Ida, The Gondoliers, Utopia, Limited and The Grand Duke, to soften the impact of his pointed satire of British institutions.

In recent years, however, theater companies including the Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company have become more fully aware of the controversy regarding The Mikado and the negative racial stereotypes which the work has perpetuated.

While some theater companies have responded to the controversy by choosing not to perform the piece, the Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company believes that The Mikado is an extraordinary, classic theatrical work that should be performed, with the firm conviction that that which is best about the piece … its beautiful music, its delightful dialogue and hilarious storyline … can be preserved while that which is inappropriate can be removed.

Director Rick Shiomi shares this conviction and we are thrilled that he will be directing this production, using his reimagined version of the operetta.  In describing his vision for his retelling of this classic operetta, Rick says, “Our re-imagined production of The Mikado will deconstruct the unfortunate stereotypes while still retaining the humor and classic music; getting at the heart of the universal human experience through the lens of our diverse contemporary American culture.”

Our Production Staff  

The staff for this production of The Mikado includes:

Stage Director Rick Shiomi
Music Director Dr. Randal Buikema
Stage Manager Erin Green Vita
Choreographer Penelope Freeh
Set Designer Larry Rostad
Costume Designer Barb Portinga
Lighting Designer Alex Flinner
Props Designer
Katie Philips
Set Builder
James “Jay” Scoggin
Audio/Visual Technician
Bob Johanneck
Orchestra Manager Ann Marie McIntire
House Manager Julia Ockuly
Assistant Stage Manager Malka Key
Assistant Stage Manager Brianna Sullivan
Asst. Stage Manager / Webmaster  
Follow Spot Operator / Lead Set Builder Jack Kravik


As Stage Director, Rick is responsible for the overall concept of the show and for bringing that concept to life through the sets, costumes, and cast!

Our Music Director, Randy, will lead the music rehearsals for both principals and chorus and will conduct the orchestra in rehearsal and performance.  

The directors and all staff will work together to ensure that what begins on the page ends up on the stage in a wonderfully creative way!

Our Company Board of Directors 

Our company is an organization run by its members, and you are very welcome to become a member!  Once a year, at the company’s Annual Meeting, the company elects a volunteer Board from among its membership to facilitate the production of the next show.  The members of the Company Board for this production of The Mikado are:

Producer: Stephen Hage
Secretary: Shawn Holt
Treasurer: John Orbison
Labour Pool Coordinator: Malka Key
Publicity: Waldyn Benbenek
Women’s Chorus Representative:
Mary Gregory
Men’s Chorus Representative: Alexander Gerchak
Orchestra Representative: Barb Hovey


The duties of the various members of the Board may be summarized as follows:

The Producer is the Board of Director’s representative to the production staff.
The Secretary handles company correspondence, keeps minutes and acts as company historian.
The Treasurer handles money, collects dues and keeps financial records for the company.
The Labour Pool Coordinator recruits workers to make materials and handle them at show time,
         including sets, props and costumes.
The Publicity person plans and handles publicity for the company and manages correspondence with
         the news media. 
The Women’s Chorus Representative represents the female chorus to the Board.
The Men’s Chorus Representative represents the male chorus to the Board.
The Orchestra Representative represents the orchestra to the Board.

The Chorus Representatives, Mary and Alex, will be the primary persons to assist chorus members with questions.  Please feel free to talk with them during the production process if you have concerns or input that you would like brought to the Board.

Mary’s phone numbers are: 651-429-8459 (home) or 651-239-2250 (cell), and her email address is: mj.gregory@usfamily.net.

Alex’s phone number is: 701-799-8076 (cell), and his email address is: agerchak01@hamline.edu.

The rest of the Board members will make periodic announcements about production details and company information and will be available to field questions about the production as we go along.  

We are always looking for new people to run for Board positions.  If you think you might be interested, please talk to a current member of the Board about what we do.

Our Rehearsal Space, Lake Harriet Methodist Church  

Our rehearsal space for the first six weeks of rehearsal is at Lake Harriet Methodist Church, located at 4901 Chowen Avenue South, in south Minneapolis.  The church is three blocks east of France Avenue, one block north of 50th Street.  It is easily accessible from the west off of Highway 100 and the 50th/Vernon Avenue exit, as well as from the east, heading west from Lyndale Avenue on 50th Street.

We will rehearse at Lake Harriet Methodist Church from Monday, January 21 through Saturday, March 2, after which we move to our theater, the Howard Conn Fine Arts Center, located at 1900 Nicollet Avenue South, in Minneapolis.  We begin rehearsing in the theater on Monday, March 4.

As a courtesy to our hosts, Lake Harriet United Methodist Church, we encourage you to bring a second pair of shoes for rehearsal in order to keep the floors clean in the rehearsal space.


All rehearsals from Monday, January 21 through Saturday, March 2 will be held at Lake Harriet United Methodist Church.

Full Cast Introductory Rehearsal:  Monday, January 21, from 7:00 to 10:00 PM.  Subsequently, the chorus generally rehearses on Mondays and Thursdays.  Those rehearsals begin promptly at 7:00 PM and run until 10:00 PM on Mondays and Thursdays.  The Directors will call the Chorus to rehearse on Tuesdays and Saturdays, as necessary.  

Principals generally rehearse on Tuesdays and Saturdays.  Those rehearsals will be scheduled by the Directors and occur on Tuesday evenings from 7:00 to 10:00 PM and Saturday mornings from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM.  Principals will be added to the Monday and Thursday rehearsals, depending on the scenes being rehearsed.

While these are the typical times cast members are usually called, all cast members should understand that they might be called and should be available all Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. A rehearsal schedule with reasonable lead time will be provided to help with your personal scheduling.

Prompt and consistent attendance and attention at rehearsals is crucial. The Directors make every effort to call people only when they are needed and to use their time well.

The Understudy Rehearsal is scheduled for Sunday, March 10, with an estimated call of 6:30 PM.  This is a mandatory rehearsal for everyone.  All understudies will go on for a run through of the show, all other chorus members and those in comprimario roles will join them on stage.  All principals will attend to assist their understudies as necessary, both with blocking and adding their vocal support.  There will be a small invited audience in attendance.

The rehearsal schedule will change during the first week in the theater, the Howard Conn Fine Arts Center, at Plymouth Congregational Church, beginning Monday, March 4.  Rehearsals will begin earlier and end later.  The same will be the case for Tech Week, Sunday, March 10, Monday, March 11 and Wednesday, March 13 (Tuesday, March 12 is a night off).  The estimated call is likely to be 6:30 to 11:00 PM.  The Preview Performance / Final Dress Rehearsal will take place on Thursday, March 14t, with an estimated call of 6:30 PM.


All cast and production staff members are expected to arrive as early as necessary in order to be in the rehearsal space and ready to rehearse at the start time for all rehearsals.  Rehearsals begin promptly at 7:00 PM on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 10:00 AM on Saturdays.  It is our expectation that all cast members will be at the rehearsal space, as called, ready to begin on time.  Please give yourself enough time to arrive, take off your coats, socialize with others, take care of any show related business, and otherwise prepare, so that you are able to begin rehearsing with the rest of the cast on time. 

If you have a scheduling conflict with a rehearsal or performance, or if you are going to be late for any reason, you should notify Erin Green Vita, the Stage Manager.  Her phone number is 612-360-0237 and her email address is egreen562@gmail.com.  If you must speak with someone immediately and are unable to reach Denise, you may call Malka Key, Assistant Stage Manager, at 612-999-5271.


All cast members are expected to attend every rehearsal to which they are called, unless their absence has been approved in advance or due to illness or emergency.  We are, however, aware that, with an extended rehearsal period such as ours, people will have unavoidable conflicts and may miss a rehearsal or two.  By understanding that cast members may be absent for a rehearsal or two, we are not, however, giving anyone “permission to take two nights off.”  Indeed, it is our hope that the majority of the cast will not miss any rehearsals at all.  Those who miss more than two rehearsals may expect a significant reassignment of blocking and business on stage.  

Scheduling conflicts were solicited at auditions and have been recorded.  Any additional conflicts require the approval of the Stage Director and require you to notify Denise Brophy, Stage Manager, as noted above.  In particular, if you are ill and believe that you may be contagious, please contact our Stage Manager and stay home.

It is our sincere hope that everyone will understand the importance of being on time and at rehearsal.  Our ability to stage a production of the highest quality depends on every cast member’s reliability.  

It is with regret that we say that if a member of the cast’s tardiness or absenteeism is deemed to be excessive, the Directors, with the support of the Company Board, are authorized to dismiss that person from the cast.  Let us all see that this never occurs.

Attendance for Tech Week rehearsals and all performances are  mandatory, except for only the most serious circumstances of illness or emergency, or in the very exceptional event that the role has been cast with the understanding that a person will be missing a specific performance.  Without any exception, however, the Directors or Stage Manager must be notified by the cast member of a pending absence.  Failure to do so may result in dismissal from the cast.  Once again, we all hope and expect that this will never occur.


One of the company’s central goals is to communicate continually with the cast and production staff members. Communication is done primarily via email, followed by announcements at rehearsals.  When necessary, we also communicate via phone. Those who will communicate most regularly will be Denise Brophy, Stage Manager, Stephen Hage, Producer.  Communications will also come regularly from the members of the Board.

Our Website

The web site can provide you with an extraordinary amount of information about The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company and this production of The Mikado.

The web site may be found at gsvloc.org.

Many of you may have used this site to find information about the company at the time of your auditions.  In the weeks ahead, it will be updated to include performance information, including a guide as to which of our shows still have seats available and which are sold out.  It also provides a brief history of the company, photos from previous productions, a means for people to put themselves on our mailing list, and contact information.

A portion of this site is the Company Members Area.  To log in, click “Company Members Area” in the upper right corner of the main website’s Home Page.  

The username is “Member” and the password is “Dean” (case sensitive).

This portion of the site includes information intended for cast members and members of the company.  This includes the rehearsal schedule, company announcements, company rosters, maps, director’s notes, and many other items, including our company’s Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws.

Vocal Scores, CDs, Cast Photos, DVDs and Souvenirs  

Vocal Scores are available for $5.00!  The company subsidizes the cost of the scores, but will do so only once.  If you lose your score and need to purchase another, it will be at full price, $25.00.  The company will also provide you with a free CD of selected music from the show, if you’d like to have one!

Other items which you may want to plan for include the cast photo and a DVD of the production.  There is more information about this below.  Company T-shirts, sweatshirts and mugs, as well as show posters and other items will be available for sale in the lobby during the run of the show. 

Ticket Requests for Cast Members  

Cast and Company members can purchase their tickets on the Company Member section of the website at, https://gsvloc.org/company-members/cast-and-crew-ticket-order-page/ Doing so allows one to purchase tickets without having to pay the processing fee.

As a part of their consideration, cast members receive two comp tickets to the show, which can be used by those the cast member designates, on Opening Night, Friday, March 15 or Friday, March 22.

For our general audience members, tickets are available online at our web site at gsvloc.org.   Mail orders are also available.

Please encourage your “slow-to-order-tickets” friends and family members to buy tickets early, as production of The Mikado will likely sell out!

Sometimes cast members’ families and friends, often those with small children, come to watch the dress rehearsal on Wednesday of Tech Week, at no cost.  They are welcome to do so.

The tickets are very reasonably priced, at $26.00 for adults and $16.00 for children 12 and under.  
The Preview Performance is $16.00.

Our Performance Schedule  

Thursday,   March 14,                             7:30 PM Preview Performance
Fridays,     March 15, 22, 29, April 5,      7:30 PM Evening Performances
Saturdays, March 16, 23, 30, April 6,      7:30 PM Evening Performances
Saturday,   March       23, 30,                 2:00 PM Matinee Performance
Sundays,    March 17, 24, 31, April 7,     2:00 PM Matinee Performances


MARCH 2019
10 11 12 13 14
7:30 pm
7:30 pm
7:30 pm

2:00 pm

18 19 20 21 22
7:30 pm
2:00 pm and
7:30 pm

2:00 pm

25 26 27 28 29
7:30 pm
2:00 pm and
7:30 pm

2:00 pm

APRIL 2019


1 2 3 4

7:30 pm

7:30 pm

2:00 pm

8 9 10 11 12 13

Call is one hour before the performance, unless we are otherwise instructed by the Directors or Stage Manager.  Earlier calls often occur on Fridays, as “brush up” warm ups, or in the event that an understudy will be replacing a principal for a performance.

Our Performance Space, the Howard Conn Fine Arts Center

We will begin rehearsals at the Howard Conn Fine Arts Center on Monday, March 4.

The Howard Conn is a part of the Plymouth Congregational Church complex and is located at 1900 Nicollet Avenue South, in Minneapolis.

The parking lot for the church and theater is available for public use, and there should be enough room for most of us to park there.  Certain spots are reserved for church staff and local businesses.  These are clearly posted, and the reservations are strictly enforced.  Your car will be towed if you park in a reserved spot.  Occasionally, another event at the church causes the parking lot to be crowded.  There is another lot available for overflow parking at Plymouth, and it is on the corner of Franklin Avenue and Blaisdell Avenue, kitty-corner from the Plymouth lot.  Street parking is also available, and meters should all be past enforcement hours by the time you arrive for rehearsals and performances.  

A parking map can be found on the Directions and Parking page of the GSVLOC website at:


It is important to note is that, with the exception of water, we are prohibited from eating or drinking on the stage or in the house. You are free to do so, however, anywhere in the backstage area, hallways, or lobby.

Tech Week Security

During our two weeks of rehearsal at the theater, from Monday, March 4 to Wednesday, March 13, please confine yourselves to the immediate theatre area and do not roam the halls.  Security alarms are usually armed at approximately 9:30 PM, and setting one off would mean a visit from the police.  Furthermore, we must never prop open the doors to the building, as that will set off the alarms as well.

Personal Security

It is best not to leave valuables anywhere backstage during performances, as there have been thefts from these rooms in the past.  There have also been occasional car break-ins in the parking lot.  Your best option is to leave valuables at home or find a hiding place backstage.  The backstage costume / dressing rooms are usually in view of the backstage crew, but we can’t guarantee that they’ll be watched at all times.

Sign In Sheet

The Stage Manager will post a Sign In Sheet for dress rehearsals and performances at the theatre.  All cast members and production staff members are required to sign in upon arrival for Tech Week rehearsals and performances.  All cast and production staff members are expected to arrive one hour before the performance, unless otherwise instructed by the Directors or Stage Manager.  

Costumes, Props, Hair and Make-up

All cast members are expected to take proper care of all costumes, including properly hanging all costumes on the racks after every rehearsal and performance.  All cast members are to report any repair needs to the costume staff immediately.  Cast members may make no unauthorized changes in costume, make-up or hairstyle.  

Most costume and prop items will be provided by the company during the run.  The most notable possible exception is likely to be footwear.  The Costume Designer will let us know what will be expected from us.  Occasional announcements will be made at rehearsals if we are searching for certain prop items, and you are encouraged to lend them for the run if you are able to do so.  The Directors will discuss the make-up needs and expectations with the cast as we draw closer to the performance dates.

Performance Expectations

All cast members have the responsibility to perform the show as rehearsed and to give the best possible performance every time.  Ad libs or changes to the blocking or choreography are not permitted.  All cast members are expected to appear and conduct themselves in curtain call as directed.

Additional Duties

All cast and production staff members will be assigned one or more nights of clean-up duty following performances and must complete all assigned tasks satisfactorily.  Whenever possible, cast and production staff members should assist in costuming, set construction and painting, props, and publicity.  All cast and production staff members are expected to participate in the strike, and are to complete their individual assignments satisfactorily.

Alcohol and Illegal Substances

Alcohol and illegal drugs, including marijuana, may not be consumed or used in the rehearsal or performance spaces by a cast or a production staff member at any time.  Cast and production staff members may not arrive at any rehearsal or performance intoxicated or impaired in judgment and/or behavior to any degree.  Cast and production staff members are to avoid the use of all such substances prior to a rehearsal or performance as it impacts one’s ability to rehearse or perform and may pose a safety hazard to one’s self or to others.


The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company maintains a standard of respect for all involved in a production.
All cast and production staff members must refrain from behavior that could be considered offensive or harassing, including, but not limited to, conduct or remarks related to race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, disability, age or economic status.  A violation of this expectation may result in dismissal from the cast.

If you feel that you have been subjected to harassment of any kind, please report the harassment to a member of the Board.

Company Photo

A company photograph will be scheduled.  The cast, crew, orchestra, and production staff will all be included in an on-stage portrait.  It will be necessary for the cast to arrive early that day in order to be in costume and makeup in time for the photo.  If you want a photograph, you should bring payment on that Saturday, or in advance if you prefer.  Stephen Hage will have a sign-up sheet available before opening night.  The cost is estimated to be $20.00.

DVDs of the Show

A crew from the Minneapolis Television Network (MTN) will record a DVD of our performance, most likely on a Sunday matinee performance, early in the run.  This is a four camera production and the final results have been very nice.  It will be edited for broadcast on Minneapolis cable, and the company will make DVD copies for anyone who wants one, which will cost an estimated $15.00, when they become available.

It should be noted that Bob Johanneck, our Audio / Visual Technician, records every performance from the light booth, as a part of his regular video monitoring duties.  Bob is happy to make copies of these recordings available to company members.  As a courtesy, we encourage anyone asking for a copy to reimburse Bob for the disk, for a suggested $1.00.


The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company expects its cast and production staff members to maintain the highest standards of courteous and respectful conduct, as well as theatrical professionalism.  These expectations include, but are not limited to, those detailed in this Survival Guide.  Those who do so will receive the following consideration:

1. Two comp tickets to the show, which can be used by those designated on Opening Night, Friday, March 15, or Friday, March 22.
2. A stipend of $200.00, to be paid following Strike on Sunday, April 7.


Cast and production staff members sign a document at the beginning of the rehearsal process which provides them with the opportunity to choose to receive the stipend as noted above, or to consider their time and efforts to be a contribution to the Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company, and will not receive the stipend.


Cast or production staff members who violate or otherwise fail to meet the company’s standards, may be dismissed from the production.  Those with the authority to make this decision include the Director, the Music Director and the Stage Manager, with the support of the company’s Board, as well as the Board itself.  They may do so based on their best judgment and by no other standard.  Dismissal from the production, at any time during the production, will result in the forfeiture of all consideration for participating in the production, including comp tickets and the stipend.

Production Evaluation Survey

Once performances begin, we will announce and explain the Production Evaluation Survey, which will ask for your opinions and feedback on all aspects of the production.  While this survey will be available in paper form, most people prefer to complete the surveys online. 

The Survey helps the company to understand what went well with a production and what we need
to improve.  Your participation is encouraged and appreciated.

Company Parties

Post-performance parties are a long-standing tradition with The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company.  If you can, please make plans to come out for an hour or two, or more, after the show and enjoy the company of … the company!  

Please bring some food or drink to share, and you are welcome to bring family and friends along as well.  If you host a party, please remember to provide plenty of copies of maps to your place so we can get there.  A sign-up sheet will be posted for those interested in hosting.

Of special note is the party we have after our first Sunday matinee.  Traditionally, we have a pot luck dinner and then watch a DVD of one of the first weekend’s shows.  It’s a fun opportunity for us to see ourselves on stage doing the show!  

The Closing Night Party, or “Last Gasp Cast Bash!”

Following the final performance on Sunday, April 7, all cast and crew will be expected to assist in striking the set, sorting costumes, and props.  Plan to change into work clothes immediately after the performance and bring whatever tools you can.  We’ll have more information as the date approaches.  Remember that many hands make light work.  Once the work is done, we can commence with the “Last Gasp Cast Bash!”

The “Last Gasp Cast Bash” is a formal party.  You are encouraged to dress for the occasion.  The party is a terrific way to close out our production.  While the company provides some food and drink, this, like all of our parties, is a “potluck” event.  Yes, it’s a formal potluck!

One of the highlights of the “Last Gasp Cast Bash” is a mini-concert of “alternate lyrics” to songs from the show.  Usually these are about the production, but they can be personal or political as well.  An accompanist will be provided, and cast members can be recruited to perform the new version of the song.  You can go to our website to see examples from other productions, at https://gsvloc.org/about-us/our-collection-of-whimsy-fun/alternative-lyrics/ .