Sweeney Todd - A Cut-Throat Business (Don Ward)

By: Don Ward
By: Don Ward

I've done a lot of unusual things for my job. I've never ever before been mock-murdered.

A BEHIND-THE-SCENES LOOK AT MAKING MURDER HAPPEN

ACT 1 -  A LIFE LESSON

More than a half-dozen characters meet their makers every show at the hands of  "Sweeney Todd - The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street."  Many of them draw their final breath in his custom-made, customer-dispensing barber's chair.  Today his one and only victim was me. 

What's interesting about this is learning first hand what all the actors have to keep in mind as they lose their lives. Lesson one is how to safely slide off the chair and down the chute that leads straight to the meat pie shop below.  (Yeah, I know, gross...but it's a play..it's in the script.)   Here are a couple of pics of me making dry runs.  The trap door leads to a small compartment not too much bigger than the actors who slide into it.  It's well padded, but if you lean forward you could crack your head on the wooden edge..so the key is to remain laid-back as you die.

             

ACT 2 - BLOOD WORK

After some practice it was time for the real thing.  Director Alan Osburn also plays the title role.  He showed me how the smock was rigged with a tube full of fake blood.  He then told me the key, as he cuts, is to squeeze the rubber bulb that feeds the tube firmly but evenly for the best effect...the red blood spattering all over the clean white smock.  I think he enjoys this.  That's OK, I was enjoying it too.  Smock on, game on... almost game over.

ACT 3 FALL FROM GRACE (OR CHAIR)

I was a little nervous as the moment approached..Alan (Sweeney) had me in his 19th century version of an ejection seat.  Set designer Chris Sheley told me he spent months thinking about and planning just how to make the chair work.  As he says, "You can't just go to sweeneytodd.com and order  the ST barber's chair."  It works very well.  I wanted the blood effect to work too, so I had to focus on that.  I also didn't want to crack my head open on the quick fall. 

Finally, he sliced, I squeezed, blood flew, I fell......whew!  It turned out to be a decent descent....here's the moment right before the fall.

 

DENOUEMENT - PERMANENTLY STAINED

Well..not permanently, but that blood stuff doesn't just wash right off.  I went through the 4pm Newscast trying not to show my still-slightly-pink hands.  Bottom line, as I've said before, this is a great show.  Now that you know a little more about the staging of the Sweeney spree..check it out.  It's a the Fine Arts Center Thursday through Sunday.  Here are my blood stained hands right after the shoot.

CREDITS

A special thanks to Tim Muldrew from the Fine Arts Center for arranging this fun little adventure, and to Alan Osburn and the rest of the staffers who made it happen. I'd recommend the show even if they didn't give me this exclusive moment of mortality.  They said I was the only non-cast or crew member allowed to take a fall from the special "Sweeney" chair.  I hope this is the last time I'll be murdered. 

If you want tickets, here's a link.  https://tickets.csfineartscenter.org/public/show.asp

We'll talk again soon

Don Ward

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