Behind the Scenes: A closer look at the most remarkable moments in Wait Until Dark

As anyone who viewed the production of Wait Until Dark last weekend can attest, the show employed many special effects to keep the audience on edge. Between starting fires, turning out the lights, and having a blind character, the cast and crew had to stay on their feet to be able to produce such realistic and seemingly impossible scenes in front of the audience.

Nerinx senior Maclean Blanner. Photo: Luke Duffy.

One early scene featured an apparently small detail that took a lot of behind the scenes work to bring to life. Sam Hendrix, played by junior John Madalon, lit a cigarette and then put it in an ashtray, where it continued to smoke during the scene. Pulling off a complicated scene like this involved a lot of practice on Madalon’s part and some special effects on the part of the crew.

“The idea behind the cigarette was to give the people the feeling of being in the same room as us,” said Madalon. “The seats were up on the stage, super close, so we wanted you guys to be immersed in the 60s feeling that the play was supposed to bring and the cigarette smoke brought the scent element.”

Madalon used an herbal cigarette containing herbs without nicotine. This way, the cigarette produced a tobacco-like scent but was safe to use. When he set it down in the ashtray, the tech crew took over to create the illusion of burning.

“We took these micro foggers and we put a little quarter inch hose on it, drilled a hole through the safe and drilled the hole through the ashtray and covered the hole with some trash in the ashtray so the audience really couldn't see it,” said Director of Theater Operations Tim Moore. “When the stage manager called the cue, the guy backstage hit the remote and smoke went through.”

Another memorable scene that came later on was the namesake of the play. When Susy Hendrix, played by Nerinx Hall senior Maclean Blanner, had to fight off Roat, played by senior Donovan Meachem, at the end, she used darkness to her advantage. She turned off the lights in the scene, and all of the lights in the theater turned off. For a few tense minutes, Susy and Roat had to duel in complete darkness.

“Even though all the clutter was set the same way every time you practice, it still took you a while to get used to it,” said Meachem. “Our stunt coordinator, Sean, he's saying you need to act like you're in the darkness, literally. So we practiced in the dark, but it was still just hard to just feel around and get around.”

Luckily, if any audience members did notice the actors stumbling, it would look natural since their characters in the scene were supposed to be feeling their way around the dark room.

“It was really helpful to just practice in the dark so we could kind of get used to ourselves, but there were still some surprises at it,” said Meachem. “Even sometimes when I was in the dark I would hit something when I didn't think I was going to. But it just adds to the scene because it's more believable.”

For Blanner, it was more difficult because she had to act like she was in the dark for the entire play since Susy is a blind woman.

“We did at some points put a blindfold on her because she was supposed to be super familiar with the space on top of being blind,” said Whitaker. “She worked that way on occasion. Most of what we worked with on her had to do with how an actor can kind of alter the focus on their eyes.”

With such an ambitious play to recreate, it came down to practice and teamwork to pull it off. The cast and crew were in constant coordination with each other before and during the show so as to place the audience in 1960s New York City and tell the harrowing story.

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