Arts, Arts Features

Behind the Scenes of BC Theatre: A Look Into the Production Process of ‘Dead Man’s Cell Phone’

Although Boston College students fill the Robsham Theater mainstage and Bonn Studio Theater each year for the theatre department’s numerous performances, most students likely do not know about the preparation that occurs behind the scenes for each show to come together. 

According to Lily Telegdy, LSEHD ’23, there is more to it than one might think. 

“I think what a lot of people think about theatre is what they learned in high school,” Telegdy, director of the department’s next show, Dead Man’s Cell Phone, said. “A lot of that is like Shakespeare, or the Odyssey, or whatever you read in your high school. And not all plays are like that. Like at all.”

Dead Man’s Cell Phone will hold performances from March 23 to March 26 in the Bonn Studio Theater. The play follows a woman who finds a dead man’s phone in a cafe. She subsequently uses the phone to learn about the man’s life, and it leads her on a journey of self-discovery.  

Telegdy said she has been planning the ins and outs of the play since August 2022, when she sat down with all of the show’s designers—the set designer, the lighting designer, and the costume designer—and they each shared their vision for what Dead Man’s Cell Phone should look like. According to Telegdy, the goal is for the group to be on the same page as development for the play continues so that the end result is a clear and unified production. 

After making the design decisions for the show in the fall, Telegdy said she began casting the show in January 2023. 

“Something that I think is really important [in casting] is not just the way that someone says their lines, but the way that they feel like their character,” Telegdy said. “So when someone steps on stage, they’re not stepping on stage as themselves. They’re stepping on stage as being another person. They’re embodying someone else fully.” 

According to Telegdy, the job of casting falls solely on the director. Telegdy said that it is not an easy task to put together a group of actors who both fit their roles and fit within the group dynamic of the rest of the cast and crew. 

Telegdy said that following casting decisions, there is a series of rehearsals where the actors work one on one with the director to figure out and learn to connect to a character’s mannerisms and nuances that may not be clear in the script. 

While the actors and director are figuring out who their characters are, there’s an important figure behind the scenes working on the more technical side of a play—the stage manager. 

According to Molly Caballero, the stage manager for Dead Man’s Cell Phone and LSEHD ’24, the stage manager is the person who keeps track of every detail of the play. She said they are present at every rehearsal and coordinate the technical aspects of the entire performance, including keeping in touch with actors and instructing the crew on what the director wants. 

During the show, the stage manager plays a large role in queuing the lights and directing the set crew behind the scenes, according to Caballero. She said that without the stage manager, a show would fall apart, yet stage managers are rarely credited on a show’s poster. 

“You’ll know if a stage manager is doing a bad job,” Caballero said. “If I get a cue wrong, you’ll notice. But I do my job and all goes well, I’m not noticed. Honestly, my job has a lot of pressure.” 

A rehearsal for the show doesn’t have to include the entire cast or crew—in the beginning stages, it is often a carefully selected assortment of the cast. Telegdy said during this stage, the director “blocks” scenes, which means they will decide how and where the actors move during every scene. Oftentimes, a specific scene is tested countless times over to get it blocked correctly, according to Telegdy. The actors practice their lines and their mannerisms while the director gives feedback and critiques them with the goal of reaching a unified creative vision. 

During rehearsals for Dead Man’s Cell Phone, the cast begins every rehearsal with a warmup. During warmups, the cast and director do things such as stretch, scream, and hold hands in the center of their rehearsal space. It doesn’t always make sense, but for the cast, it’s a staple of any given practice, according to Benjamin Burke and Abigail Wachter, both actors in the play and MCAS ’25.

“Acting is one of those weird things where your whole mind and body’s gotta be in it,” Burke, who plays Gordon in Dead Man’s Cell Phone, said. “You do things that [if] anyone else [was] watching you … you’d be extremely embarrassed. But it allows you to really focus on yourself and connect with your character.” 

Burke plays a character who is rooted in misogyny and misdoings. When embodying such a character, he said it is sometimes difficult to have to put yourself in those shoes and come into that role.

“It’s hard to access that kind of place of actual misogyny,” Burke said. “But it’s important that there’s a level of trust, and you’re surrounded by people who you respect throughout the room.”

Wachter, who plays Jean in Dead Man’s Cell Phone, said she struggled to connect to her character, but she eventually found inspiration from her surroundings. 

“Even [with] movies and TV characters, I’m trying to find ways to emulate other things,” Wachter said. “Or just taking this persona that I’ve crafted in my head, thinking like what would that person do in these certain scenarios. I try to think like my character.”

The preliminary rehearsals for Dead Man’s Cell Phone were held in the Vanderslice Cabaret Room for the majority of February. According to Telegdy, the room is only about 75 percent of the size of the actual stage, and there is a lack of props and resources throughout the room. 

Telegdy said despite these issues and a lack of adequate lighting and flooring, the theatre department is doing the best it can with rehearsal spaces despite a lack of funding. 

The lack of resources doesn’t hinder the fun dynamic that the cast and crew have as they put together the show, which is demonstrated in the camaraderie between actors during the rehearsals.

“We got really lucky that in this rehearsal group, there’s like not one person that I don’t adore,” Wachter said. “It makes it so much more fun and fulfilling to know that you and your friends can work and do awesome stuff.”

March 22, 2023