PLAYBILL VIP SPOTLIGHT: Stanford Students Are On a Roll With Violet, Staged on a Moving Bus

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14 Nov 2013

Arianna Vogel, who plays the title role, rehearses on the bus.

Safety was an obvious concern for the creative team of Violet, since the production would travel around campus while a cast of 12 would sing (and dance) in the aisles of the 34-seat bus. But, with the help of the bus company, the theatre department at Stanford and the show's original creators, the Violet creatives found the issues less "troublesome" than expected (and no additional safety insurance was needed, since all of the action occurs on campus).

"We've been very fortunate to have tremendous support from many of the original creative team," said Cannold. "[Composer] Jeanine Tesori, most notably, has been very integral in helping us develop this concept. I was fortunate enough to be able to observe on the Encores! production that happened at City Center this summer. It's through that I got the opportunity to talk to [director] Leigh Silverman, Sutton Foster, [music director] Michael Rafter and a whole bunch of other people who were working intimately on that production… They were all — Jeanine and Leigh Silverman, most especially — tremendously helpful in the development of that concept."

The concept behind At the Fountain Theatricals' Violet allows the story — of 25-year-old Violet, who hops a Greyhound to a televangelist in Tulsa, OK, in hopes to clear the scar on her face that she's been living with for over a decade — to be seen from the perspective of the passengers on Violet's journey.

"The buses we have are 34 seats. Six of them are filled by actors at any given time, and the rest of them are audience members, so they see the show from seats on a bus that you'd normally sit in if you were going somewhere — to give them the idea of being travelers," explained Cannold. "The show happens around them…so you're seeing a different story depending on your seat."

"A lot of the songs happen on the bus while it is stationary, and a lot of the scenes happen while it is moving, so characters are getting on and off the bus," added producer Brandon Powell, a senior English major. "There is a point where everyone — audience included — gets off the bus to walk into this chapel-looking lounge that we're using for the church." In keeping with the production's realism aesthetic, scenes in Violet that aren't actually set on the bus will take place in different locations on campus.

The biggest challenge in staging a full-length musical on a bus? The music, admitted Powell. "A lot of ideas were toyed around with," he said. "Could we have just a lone guitarist with some sort of accompaniment? Can we get a whole orchestra on a bus? We recruited one of our friends, [Makulumy Alexander-Hills], to be our music director, [and] over the summer, he worked to create instrumental tracks only for our usage that are true to the original score and sit as background for us."


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