Rising up to the challenge, Truman High School produced Rocky, a musical adaptation of the Academy Award-winning film.
A classic underdog story—small-time Philadelphia boxer, Rocky Balboa, is chosen to take on reigning world heavyweight champion Apollo Creed.
Harry S. Truman High School premiered Rocky in March of 2022, serving as the first production away from Broadway. We had the pleasure of working with Truman’s High’s Director, Tracey Gatte, on the design and development of Scenic Projections for this epic tale. Now that the match, err, production has closed, we sat down with Tracey to chat about her experience!
Melissa: Hi, Tracey! Congratulations on your recent production of “Rocky!” Before we dive into the details of the performance, would you mind telling us a little bit about your organization?
Tracey: Hi, Melissa! Truman Drama is a Title I public high school in Levittown Pennsylvania, just six miles outside of Philadelphia. We have two theatre teachers and our classes range from Theatre 1 - Theatre 4, plus we have an Honors Theatre Production course. Our shows are all done through a co-cirricular program, meaning at rehearsal I can just direct, there’s minimal teaching needing.
Melissa: That sounds like an amazing program, and it’s so exciting that you had the opportunity to premier Rocky! I have to ask, what led you to choose using projections for this production?
Tracey: Well, Rocky the film is widely celebrated here in Philadelphia, it is iconic and has place-attachment. With so many recognizable Philadelphia landmarks, we had to do it justice, and projections were the easiest and most impressive way to effectively tell this story.
Melissa: That absolutely makes sense, especially with the number of locations featured in Rocky.
Tracey: Oh yeah, projections were necessary with how frequently we transported the audience. I needed them to believe that they were in the Spectrum for the final fight; not to mention the running locations! During just “Eye of the Tiger,” there are NINE locations in just one musical number, so having projections for that was a game changer.
Melissa: Nine settings in one number? Wow. What other challenges, if any, did you face during your production, and how did you overcome them?
Tracey: This was definitely one of the hardest shows, as there were so many moving parts and pieces. Since it’s based on the movie, it’s well known and your audience has expectations. It was an ambitious undertaking between live musicians, the boxing elements, and all the places you transition to.
Melissa: What was your favorite moment in the show?
Tracey: Definitely “Eye of the Tiger.” It starts with him cracking the two raw eggs and chugging them. Then the song continues to build, all while seeing the animated projections take you throughout the city. The song transitions to “Gonna Fly Now,” and it ends with Rocky running up the steps.
Melissa: What an incredible moment to see onstage. Do you think it would’ve been possible to pull off that sequence utilizing physical backdrops?
Tracey: I can’t even imagine having to do Rocky with painted drops. To effectively tell the story, you need to show Rocky’s underdog story, you need to show his journey. The projections helped the audience have a sense of where they are, especially since the script doesn’t give references to place. Some of the most iconic moments from the show, like him running up the steps, like the fireworks at City Hall, those sequences just wouldn’t have been possible without projections.
Melissa: How did you run your Scenic Projections?
Tracey: We actually have a student who runs StagePlayer. It’s easy-to use and a great way to involve a student who can’t commit to the full rehearsal run; she only had to join us a week prior to the show.
Melissa: I know this wasn’t your first time using Scenic Projections. Is there any advice you would give to other theatres that may be new to digital scenery?
Tracey: Yes! Before Rocky I was able to work with projections previously for the pilot of Kinky Boots, and let me tell you, they will make your life so much easier. If you’re just getting started, look at all the samples, watch the Instagram takeovers, get an idea of how they’re used in different spaces. You have to see how they’re used, because while they may seem far-fetched and fancy, they’re really easy-to-use and approachable. Plus, they’re more cost effective and they’re prettier! Technology is embraced in so many other places, this should be no different. I’m never not using Scenic Projections again.
Melissa: Tracey, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today. To close out, I have one last question for you: Would you mind telling me about your overall experience working with the team here at Broadway Media?
Tracey: Of course, working with Broadway Media is always a pleasant experience. They are very hands on, helpful in answering questions, keep you involved throughout the process. The fact that I called at 7 a.m. and I started getting answers right away did not go unnoticed.
To learn more about Broadway Media’s resources for Rocky, click here!