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Q&A: Rachel Marchant and Brandon Johnston, Dolphin Show executive producers

Sarah Rense, Reporter

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It’s been 11 months in the making for Communication seniors Rachel Marchant and Brandon Johnston, the executive producers of this year’s Dolphin Show. Eleven months of designing, marketing and “greening” in preparation for this student-produced performance, a massive feat that monopolizes the lives of all involved until closing night. And although past Dolphin Shows have showcased more traditional musicals, this year’s show is a throwback to a favorite childhood classic: “Shrek.” The Current caught up with Marchant and Johnston during final preparations for the show, which opens Friday and runs through Feb. 1 in Cahn Auditorium.

The Current: Why “Shrek?”

Rachel Marchant: We wanted a show that would appeal to all ages and all the different types of people on campus. It’s not just a theater person’s show. It’s “Shrek.” It’s everyone’s show. It’s a story that we know and love.

Brandon Johnston: It was a really exciting show for designers too because literally every single design area is challenging. You’re creating a whole new world. … It gave each designer a big chance to show off what they can do.

The Current: How did people react to “Shrek” as this year’s Dolphin Show?

RM: “Shrek” is interesting because it’s so unexpected. It’s very silly. When I say we’re doing “Shrek the Musical,” people are like, “What? That’s a musical?” But I’ve fallen in love with it, and I think that once people get into the theater and hear the first number, they’ll be like, “Oh my god, this is a musical. This is incredible.”

The Current: Is it closely based on the movie?

BJ: I would say there are some things you can’t change.

RM: Right. Shrek is going to be green.

BJ: But in terms of design, no.

RM: How are we portraying the dragon? In the movie, it’s animation. It’s easy. We have a 20-foot puppet. How do we do the gingerbread man? It’s an actor who is doing the puppet herself and singing there right on stage with it.

The Current: So is “greening” literally … greening?

BJ: Yes. It is literally painting on this green makeup. … You take thick paint brushes and slop it onto them. So think about your own daily makeup routine but contouring with different shades of greens and greys.

The Current: What has been the most challenging aspect of this production?

RM: To get people to be excited for five nights and fill a 1,000-seat auditorium is so crazy. It’s like I’m marketing a Broadway show. But that’s also exciting because it means 5,000 people can see the show, and that’s incredible.

BJ: The hardest part, I think, is the same thing that is the most exciting part, where everyone has so much they’re doing that it’s really just super ambitious in every design area.

The Current: What has been the most rewarding aspect?

BJ: It’s really rewarding seeing each step and seeing all the hard work these people are putting into their designs coming to life. … I’m sure I’ll be bawling my eyes out all of opening night.

RM: It’s so rewarding to see the freshmen. We can see ourselves when we were freshmen, and it’s like, ‘I know you’re going to do big things.’

The Current: What do you think the audience will respond to most with Shrek?

RM: Everyone’s hilarious. … Every single actor makes (the character) their own. I think that’s what is so special about this production in particular. It’s just so much fun.

The Current: Any final comments?

BJ: We think it’s a really fun, exciting show, and that’s why we are so passionate about it.

RM: It’s theater for all.

Email: sarahrense2016@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @Sarah_Rense

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