The Survival Guide 2011

The Survival Guide for
The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company’s
Production of The Pirates of Penzance
January to April 2011

A Word of Welcome!

Welcome to the Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company and to our production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance.  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 sometimes unique 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 to make you feel very much “at home” in the Company.

A Word About Our Company

The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company (or the GSVLOC) was organized in 1979 as a community-based, volunteer-run theatre company.  In its thirty-plus 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 third time that the Company has produced The Pirates of Penzance.

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.  This year, we will present The Pirates of Penzance for two performances over a weekend in July.  We hope that you will be able to join us this summer for this event.

The hallmark of our Company has always been to have as much fun as possible while producing as fine a show as possible.  The Company has always been run by volunteers 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 people who aren’t in the show to help out behind the scenes.  We will be inviting 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, plus set-up and clean-up of the dressing rooms during the run, and we strive to make these activities equally fun and productive.  If your schedule is not flexible enough, we do understand and will not, by any means, insist that you participate, but we do have a degree of expectation that everyone in the cast will work behind the scenes to put the show together and to help it run smoothly.

Our Philosophy

While our Company has a rich tradition of presenting delightful shows of the highest quality, we choose to remain an amateur company … and by that, we mean “amateur” in the best sense of the word … a company of people who do what we do for the love of it. 

This choice has fostered a unique culture in our Company, one that you are not likely find elsewhere.  It is a culture 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.  Other “newer” members of the company joined as long ago as the early 1980s and as recently as those who were in 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 Pirates of Penzance

After the sensational success of Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore, many American performing companies presented unauthorized versions of that opera.  Gilbert and Sullivan decided to prevent that from happening again by presenting official versions of their next opera, The Pirates of Penzance, simultaneously in England and America.  The opera premiered on December 31, 1879 in New York with Sullivan conducting, but a single performance had been given on the previous day in England, to secure the British copyright.  The opera officially opened in London on April 3, 1880, and ran for 363 performances, having already been playing successfully for over three months in New York.

As Sullivan described the operetta in a letter to his mother, “I think it will be a great success, for it is exquisitely funny, and the music is strikingly tuneful and catching.”  Over the years and around the world, audiences have agreed!  The Pirates of Penzance was an immediate hit and takes its place today as one of the most popular and enduring works of musical theatre.

In The Pirates of Penzance, Frederic was as a child apprenticed to a band of tenderhearted, orphaned pirates by his nurse who, being hard of hearing, had mistaken her master’s instructions to apprentice the boy to a pilot. Frederic, upon completing his 21st year, rejoices that he has fulfilled his indentures and is now free to return to respectable society. But it turns out that he was born on February 29 in leap year, and he remains apprenticed to the pirates until his 21st birthday, which won’t happen for over 60 years!  By the end of the opera, the pirates, a Major General who knows nothing of military strategy, his large family of beautiful but unwed daughters, and the timid constabulary all contribute to a delightful cacophony that can be silenced only by Queen Victoria’s name.

Stage Director Lesley Hendrickson
Music Director Marina Liadova
Stage Manager Laura Bidgood
Set Designer Larry Rostad
Costume Designer Sonya Berlovitz
Lighting Designer Andy Kedl
Audio/Visual Technician Bob Johanneck 
Orchestra Manager Ann Marie McIntire

As Stage Director, Lesley 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, Marina Liadova 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 winds up on the stage in a wonderfully creative way!

Our Company Board 

Our Company is an organization run by its members, and you are very welcome to become a member!  Once a year, at an 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 Pirates of Penzance are:

Producer Stephen Hage
Secretary Rhea Sullivan
Treasurer Richard Rames
Labour Pool Coordinator Eric Pasternack
Publicity Waldyn Benbenek
Women’s Chorus Representative Mary Gregory
Men’s Chorus Representative L. Peter Erickson
Orchestra Representative Barb Hovey

The Chorus Representatives, Mary Gregory and L. Peter Erickson, will be the primary persons to assist chorus members with questions or concerns.  Mary’s phone numbers are 651-429-8459 (home) or 651-239-2250 (cell), and her email address is:  L. Peter’s phone numbers are 612-926-9328 (home) or 612-2054935 (cell), and his email address is  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. 


Chorus rehearsals will begin promptly at 7:15 PM and run until 10:00 PM, on Mondays, and 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM on Thursday nights.  Principal rehearsals will be scheduled by the Directors, and will generally occur on Tuesday evenings from 7:00 to 10:00 PM and Saturdays, from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM.  The Directors can decide to call the Chorus to rehearse on Tuesdays, if necessary.  A complete rehearsal schedule has been prepared by the Stage Director.  Prompt and consistent attendance and attention at rehearsals is crucial.  The Directors have made every effort to call people only when they are needed and to use their time well.The general rehearsal schedule is as follows:

Full Cast Introductory Rehearsal:  Monday, January 24th, from 7:15 to 10:00 PM,

Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, from 7:00 to 10:00 PM (7:15 on Mondays),
and Saturdays, from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM, January 24th to March 17th.

Tech Week:  Monday, March 14th through Wednesday, March 16th.
Estimated call:  6:30 to 11:00 PM.

Preview Performance / Final Dress Rehearsal:  Thursday, March 17th,
Estimated call:  6:30 PM.

Our Rehearsal Space, Lake Harriet Methodist Church 

Our rehearsal space 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, and is easily accessible from the west off of Highway 110 and the 50th/Vernon Avenue exit, as well as from the east, heading west from Lyndale Avenue on 50th Street.

We will rehearse in this space from Monday, January 24th, through Saturday, March 5th, after which we move to our theater, the Howard Conn Fine Arts Center.  We begin rehearsing there on Monday, March 7th.


Rehearsals begin promptly at 7:00 PM.  It is our expectation that all cast members will be at the rehearsal space, ready to begin at that time.

Please give yourself enough time to arrive, take off your coats, to socialize with others, to take care of any show related business, and to otherwise prepare, so that you are able to begin rehearsing with the rest of the cast at 7:00 PM.

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 Laura Bidgood, the Stage Manager, at 701-371-6627 (cell), 952-997-6278 (home), or 612-973-9128 (work) or at her email address at:


It is our hope that all cast members will be in attendance for every rehearsal.  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 that 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. 

If you are going to absent for a rehearsal, you are to inform our Stage Manager, Laura Bidgood, as discussed above.

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 a great deal of 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 absolutely mandatory, except for only the most serious circumstances of illness or family emergency.  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.

Our Website

We are pleased to announce that we have a beautiful new website, launched in the summer of 2010!

The website can provide you with an extraordinary amount of information about The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company and this production of The Pirates of Penzance.

The web site may be found at:

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 “CompanyMembers” and the password is “Dean.”  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 will be available at or before the first rehearsal, and the cost is an unbelievably low $5.00!  The Company subsidizes the cost of the scores, but only once.  If you lose your score and need to purchase another, it will be at full price, $20.00 or more!  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.  Souvenirs of the show, including T-shirts and sweatshirts, posters, mugs, and other items will be available by opening night.  Sign-up sheets will circulate before then, and we’ll have the costs for those items later.

Ticket Requests for Cast Members

Tickets are available on line at our website at

We encourage you to tell your “slow-to-order-tickets” friends and family members that, given the popularity of this show, we may sell out every performance!  In other words, be sure to order your tickets early, and let people know that they should plan to purchase tickets well in advance. 

We do not give out comp tickets to cast members. 

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 $18.00 for adults and $8.00 for children 12 and under. 

The Preview Performance is $8.00.

Our Performance Space, The Howard Conn Fine Arts Center

We will begin rehearsals at the Howard Conn Fine Arts Center on Monday, March 7th.

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.  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 at the Franklin National Bank office 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. 

Our Performance Schedule 

Thursday,  March 17th,  7:30 PM    Preview Performance
Fridays,  March 18th, 25th, April 1st, 8th, 7:30 PM  Evening Performances
Saturdays,  March 19th, 26th, April 2nd, 9th, 7:30 PM Evening Performances
Saturdays,  March 26th, April 2nd,  2:00 PM    Matinee Performances
Sundays,  March 20th, 27th, April 3rd, 10th,  2:00 PM Matinee Performances

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.

Attendance Sheet

The Stage Manager will post an Attendance Sheet for dress rehearsals and performances at the theatre.  Watch for it once we get into Tech Week. 

Please make sure to check off your name when you arrive.  We don’t want our Stage Manager to have to worry unnecessarily!

Tech Week Security

During Tech Week, from Monday, March 14th to Thursday, March 17th, 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.

Costume, Prop, and Make-up Requirements

Most costume and prop items will be provided by the Company during the run.  The most notable possible exception is likely to be footwear, and perhaps leggings or tights.  The Costume Coordinator 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.

Company Photo

The Daniels Studio Company photograph is scheduled to occur immediately following the first Sunday matinee on March 20th.  The cast, crew, orchestra and production staff will all be included in an on-stage portrait.  Please return to the stage as quickly as possible after greeting anyone in the audience.  Plan on being at the theatre at least another half hour or so after the show ends.  If you want a photograph, you should bring payment on that Sunday, or in advance if you prefer.  Stephen Hage will have a sign-up sheet available before opening night.  The cost will be $15.00.

DVDs of the Show

A crew from the Minneapolis Television Network (MTN) will record a DVD of our performance, most likely on an early Sunday matinee performance.  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.  The DVDs are usually available a couple of months after the production ends, often by the time of the Annual Meeting in the early summer.

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 on line.

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!  So that’s what it looks like!

The Company Party, or “Last Gasp Cast Bash!”

Following the final performance on Sunday, April 10th, 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” will be held in the conference rooms of the Orion Associates building, at 9400 Golden Valley Road, Golden Valley, Minnesota  55427.

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 what is sure to be a wonderfully successful production.

While the Company provides some food and drink, this, like all of our parties, is a “pot luck” event.  We all make it a point, however, to bring the “good stuff” to this party!

One of the many highlights of the “Last Gasp Cast Bash” is a mini-concert of “alternate lyrics” to songs from the show.  This is a great opportunity for folks to create new lyrics for songs from the show!