Letters from Backstage: Haley Mankin

We are so excited to be working on our fall show, The Shadow Box! To celebrate, we’re kicking off a new series of posts to give you a sneak peek into our weird and wonderful world of theatre. First up, Haley Mankin, our freshman props designer!

Hi there!FullSizeRender

I’m Haley Mankin, your friendly Front Row props designer! My job consists of procuring everything that you see on stage that isn’t part of the set. In fact, anything that the actors interact with on stage—whether to take out of a bag, write on, or throw at one another —is my responsibility. At the first read through, I underlined everything in the script that needed to appear on stage. Cookies. Medicine. A giant ham. The task seemed overwhelming at first, but with the help of Front Row’s amazing cast and crew, the props began to coalesce.

The first resource I was excited to discover was the PAC shop. I expected a storage room where I might be able to salvage a prop or two. I was mainly hoping to happen upon one key prop, Felicity’s wheelchair. The staff helped me find the wheelchair within minutes, and proceeded to give me a tour of the expansive warehouse. Over the course of three visits, I was able to find almost all of the props I was looking for. These ranged from a checkers game, to milk glasses, to a 90’s style tape recorder.

FullSizeRender 2Most of my other props came from one very strange trip to CVS. I probably looked like I was preparing for a hurricane as I stocked up on jarred goods, office supplies, and several large weekly medicine cases. Some may have been curious as to why a girl could ever want so many tic tacs. I began to question some of the convenience store’s organization methods, but eventually I was able to find almost everything I needed.FullSizeRender 3

The last step of my props quest, and perhaps the most gratifying, was creating the googledoc for contributions from the cast and crew. I posted a list of the remaining items that I couldn’t find in my own basement during fall break, and requested help from everyone involved in The Shadow Box. Seeing the offers appear, along with thoughtful questions and suggestions, was yet another sign of FTC’s kindness and tight knit feel. I can’t wait to see what these props look like in the talented hands of our actors!

Hope to see you at the show!



Come see The Shadow Box on November 6-8! 
Stay tuned for more updates as we get this show on the road!

FTC Proudly Presents the Cast of The Shadow Box!

Front Row Theatre Company is proud to announce the cast of its Fall 2014 show, The Shadow Box!

Maggie: Jillian Karande
Beverly: Angel Chapman
Felicity: Victoria Sutherland
Agnes: Tess Speranza
Brian: Jordan Miller
Joe: Adam Mansell
Mark: Zach St. Louis
The Interviewer: Gray Stanton
Steve: Derek Arbige

Want to get involved? Please come out to our tech interviews on Monday, September 8th from 7-11pm or Tuesday, September 9th from 7-11pm in the Harrison Upper Lobby! No experience necessary – we’d love to work with you!

Auditions and Tech Interviews for The Shadow Box!

This fall, FTC is excited to produce The Shadow Box!

We need talented actors and committed techies! Auditions will be September 2nd and 3rd in the Harrison Basement from 7pm to 11pm each night. Tech interviews will be September 8th and 9th, also from 7pm to 11pm in the Harrison Mezzanine. You don’t need to bring or prepare anything for either auditions or interviews – just stop by at some point on either of the scheduled days!

RSVP for auditions and tech interviews here!

The Shadow Box
Written by Michael Cristofer
Directed by Mira Taichman
Produced by Jessica Schwarz

September 2 and 3
7 to 11pm
Harrison Basement

Tech Interviews:
September 8 and 9
7 to 11pm
Harrison Upper Lobby

No experience needed!

FTC Presents… EDGES

Music and lyrics by JUSTIN PAUL and BENJ PASEK
Music Directed by ERIC LIFLAND
Produced by GRAY STANTON
Assistant Produced by GREG OLBERDING

Edges is a song-cycle musical about growth: growing up, growing older, growing apart, growing together. Every song is its own story with its own unique characters, collectively describing the emotional ups and downs of our late teens and early 20s. Through learning to love, learning to let go, learning who they are and learning who they want to be, the characters in Edges reflect the pivotal moments in our lives that help create the people we will become.

RSVP on Facebook!

Saturday, August 23 @ 10 pm
Monday, August 25 @ 8 pm

Heyer Sky Lounge, Harrison College House

Free for freshmen, $8 for everyone else

Edges Poster

FTC’s 2014–2015 Season!

Front Row Theatre Company is excited to announce our 2014–2015 season!

NSO Show: Edges

Music and lyrics by Justin Paul and Benj Pasek

Directed by Brandon Fleischer

Produced by Gray Stanton

Assistant Produced by Greg Olberding

Edges is a song-cycle musical about growth: growing up, growing older, growing apart, growing together. Every song is its own story with its own unique characters, collectively describing the emotional ups and downs of our late teens and early 20s. Through learning to love, learning to let go, learning who they are and learning who they want to be, the characters in Edges reflect the pivotal moments in our lives that help create the people we will become.

Fall Show: The Shadow Box

Play by Michael Cristofer

Directed by Mira Taichman

Produced by Jessica Schwarz

Three terminal cancer patients dwell in separate cottages on a hospital’s grounds, attended by family and close friends as they await the end. In this Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning work dealing with the challenges of impending fate, we not only discover the circumstances of the patients’ last moments, but of their entire lives as well.

Winter Show: Venus in Fur

Play by David Ives

Directed by Zach Baldwin

Produced by Brandon Fleischer

Playwright Thomas Novachek is at a loss. There are simply no actresses talented enough to play his leading lady. Then in walks Vanda, a mysterious siren with the uncanny ability to inhabit his character. All bets are off when the audition quickly escalates into a seductive power play. With loads of cheek and a hint of the erotic, Venus in Fur keeps you on the edge of your seat as you ask, “Who is really in charge here?”

Spring Show: All My Sons

Play by Arthur Miller

Directed by Alex Polyak

Produced by Carson House

Joe Keller, a successful businessman, lives comfortably with his wife, Kate, and son, Chris, in a suburban American neighborhood. They have only one sadness in their lives – the loss of their other son, Larry, in the recently concluded WWII. But when old feelings of guilt and blame get revisited, everyone in the neighborhood is forced to reassess the part they had to play in those tumultuous and unforgivable wartime years.

Stay tuned for more information about auditions and tech interviews!

Propose to Direct for Front Row!

Interested in directing? Got a thing for socially relevant theatre? Want to be best friends with Front Row Board? Here’s your chance!

Propose a show to direct for our NSO, Fall, Winter, or Spring shows in the 2014-2015 season! Submit the script and a written proposal discussing your vision of the production, why it is appropriate for FTC, and why you want to direct for FTC. You should also be prepared to discuss why your proposal is socially relevant, and if you have any ideas for related community service projects!

Send both the script and proposal to Front Row Chair Dana Floberg, at dfloberg@sas.upenn.edu by April 25th at noon. If you have any questions, feel free to send them along as well!

What kind of shows does FTC like to do? Check out our past shows for some ideas!

Rabbit Hole Chat: Meg MacInnes

Meg is a junior in the College and the Director for FTC’s upcoming production of “Rabbit Hole”!

Meg MacInnes

FTC: What is the best thing directing Rabbit Hole has taught you?
MM: I think the show itself has taught me that we all grieve differently and there’s no right way to deal with the difficult parts of life. And that even though we all experience grieving at some point in our lives, it’s still an extremely hard thing to have a conversation about.

FTC: What is your funniest TAC-e memory?
MM: It’s difficult to think of something appropriate for public audience…I think the funniest memories are usually when something goes horribly wrong. (It’s not funny in the moment, but later it’s hilarious.) We did a show during my sophomore year where everything went wrong. And it got to the point where every new bad thing just became ridiculous. The show was in like 7 different languages, and the only person in the cast who was fluent in German dropped out two weeks before because he came down with Stage 3 Lyme disease. Then another actress broke both her feet a week before and dropped out. Then at the beginning of tech week, Iron Gate Theatre flooded. Not a little flood either, there was literally a wave in the basement. Then I passed out during a line through. Then the lights didn’t go out after the first act. Add to that the impossibility of people learning new languages in a period of several weeks…and in the end, we still actually had a show. I’m not sure it was super funny as it happened, but looking back at it now, it’s just so absurd.

FTC: If you had to pick celebrities and/or super heroes to be your parents who would you pick and why?
MM: I really have no idea. I’ll go with President and Mrs. Bartlett from the West Wing, because they might as well be super heroes. And they’re from New Hampshire too!

FTC: How many FTC shows have you worked on?
MM: Rabbit Hole is my fourth FTC show! I previously performed in Zanna, Don’t! and The Children’s Hour, and I directed the staged reading of Somewhere in the Ether last spring.

FTC: What is always at the bottom of your purse?
MM: Probably various lip glosses, and lots of crumpled tickets from various TAC-e/PAC/Philly shows.

FTC: What do you hope the Penn community takes away from watching Rabbit Hole?
MM: I hope that Rabbit Hole helps people think about and start conversations about grieving and mental health, especially with everything that happened earlier this semester on campus. What I love about Rabbit Hole is that it deals with grief in a very real way. The family doesn’t walk around hysterically crying all the time; they are real, unsentimental people and some days are good and some days are hard, but they keep going the best they can. Sometimes they are able to deal with what is going on in their lives and sometimes they aren’t. I hope that Rabbit Hole reminds people that grief is a universal experience, and that we’re all doing the best we can, and sometimes everyone needs a little help.

Come see Meg and the rest of Front Row in “Rabbit Hole” this April 17th, 18th, and 19th!


Directed by MEG MACINNES
Produced by DANA FLOBERG

Becca and Howie Corbett have everything a family could want, until a life-shattering accident turns their world upside down and leaves the couple drifting perilously apart. A Pulitzer Prize winner for Drama, Rabbit Hole charts their bittersweet search for comfort in the darkest of places and for a path that will lead them back into the light of day.

RSVP on Facebook!

Thursday, April 17th @ 7:30pm
Friday, April 18th @ 7:30pm
Saturday, April 19th @ 3:00pm

Houston Hall, Class of ’49

$8 on Locust, $10 at the door

Trigger Warning: This show deals heavily with grief and the loss of a loved one.


Rabbit Hole Chat: Carson House

Carson is a sophomore in Mechanical Engineering and set designer for FTC’s upcoming production of “Rabbit Hole”!

Carson House

FTC: What is the job of the set designer?
CH: Not to be overly sassy, but the set designer designs the set. The name says it all.

FTC: What was your biggest inspiration for the Rabbit Hole set?
CH: Alice in Wonderland…but like, sad.

FTC: How many FTC shows have you worked on?
CH: All of them since I’ve been at Penn. So like, 6? 8? I’m tired.

FTC: What meal best describes your personality?
CH: My personal favorite meal combines my two most significant character traits: class and manliness. For manliness we have a 16oz ribeye (20oz may be more manly but it is certainly not classy) cooked so rare it may as well still be mooing. On the side some grilled fennel and roasted parsnip mashed potatoes. The classiness comes in with the wine. I am partial to a ’93 Bordeaux (preferably a Gran Cru) served in a ruby encrusted silver chalice. Class is all about subtlety.

FTC: What is your favorite tool in the shop?
CH: I am rather fond of the table saw. We are very good friends. I call him Bob.

FTC: What is your funniest PAC shop memory?
CH: This one time, in the PAC shop, the great and glorious John N. Johnston microwaved a board, bent it, and commanded it to stay bent. It did. Good times were had by all. Shout-out to my fallen (read: graduated) peeps, JJ and TaCo.

Come see Carson’s set and the rest of Front Row in “Rabbit Hole” this April 17th, 18th, and 19th!

Rabbit Hole Chat: Jordan Miller

Jordan is a freshman in the College and a brand-new member of Front Row board! He’s also the Props Designer for FTC’s upcoming production of “Rabbit Hole”!

Jordan Miller

FTC: What is the job of the props designer?
JM: I’m in charge of collecting all of the props that we’ll need for the production. It could be a table cloth, a stuffed animal or crème caramel – I’ve got to find it. I also have to decide what I want the look of the props to be, ideally without spending too much.

FTC: What bumper sticker best describes you?
JM: Something that says “take it easy”, since I have respect for people who can appreciate the little things and who can take life slow.

FTC: How many FTC shows have you worked on?
JM: This is my second Front Row show, but my first show here in a technical theatre role.

FTC: What is the funniest prop you have to find?
JM: I have to find a toy that makes an annoying noise. You know, something like a monkey that bangs symbols together or a hamster that dances and plays the monster mash. I haven’t decided which one it’ll be.

FTC: If you had to perform in a middle school talent show, what would you do?
JM: What a crazy question! I’d probably do some sort of improvisational comedy act, since that’s something I’ve been doing for a few years now. Otherwise I don’t have any strange talents.

FTC: What have you learned through this experience?
JM: It’s been cool to see a production from the other side of the curtain, so to speak. I’ve been in theatre for a few years, but I’ve always been onstage. Getting familiar with the inner workings of tech has been really great.

Come see Jordan’s props and the rest of Front Row in “Rabbit Hole” this April 17th, 18th, and 19th!