by Patrick Garr
As a swing, each track has its own mental and physical preparation, as well as challenges that differ from track to track. I cover seven male ensemble tracks in Mean Girls and each of the performers who play these roles are insanely talented, all the while making eight shows a week look seamless.
One of my favorite aspects of our show is that each ensemble track is a named character that has been fully developed by the actor that portrays said role. Each track that I cover is similar, yet slightly differs from the others. Thus, modifying how I prepare for each role that I swing.
Our show is more of a marathon than a sprint - always high energy. Not only does Mean Girls have beautifully calculated athletic choreography, but also many of the set pieces are moved by the ensemble, making each track a little more rigorous than it seemingly appears to the audience’s eye.
However, there are sometimes small nuances that are unrecognizable even from the wings. It isn’t until you step onstage into a specific track that everything sinks in.
1. SHANE OMAN - played by Kevin Csolak
Shane Oman is a physically rigorous track in the show, because it requires a large amount of heavy lifting and he moves numerous set pieces by himself. The Shane track does the bench choreography in “Apex Predator” as well as many scene transitions throughout both acts. What makes this track exciting is that he’s in all of the ensemble dance numbers and is also featured as the lion in “Revenge Party.” I love to constantly be moving and active, which makes this track fun since it keeps me on my toes.
2. JASON WEEMS - played by Curtis Holland
For this specific track, my preparation requires a mental check-in with myself. I always say that the top of the show feels like we’re shot out of a canon and off to the races. There is very little time to think between the top of show until after “Meet the Plastics.” I spend at least 15 minutes before the show checking in with my body, reminding my muscle memory of my onstage quick changes, specific prop moves, and table shifts. My favorite part about this track is the featured interaction with the plastics in “Meet the Plastics.” It’s a great character moment for his track.
3. MR. HERON - played by Brendon Stimson
For this track, I do several features, including Mr. Heron at the top of the show and the bench choreography during “Apex Predator.” In addition, the quick change out of Mr. Heron into the high school hallway for “It Roars” is an incredibly fast change. This track is very physical; responsible for a great deal of set moves. Before each show, I have to prepare for the quick change and center myself mentally. The Mr. Heron features are one of my favorite parts about how this track was created. He is a really fun character to portray on stage and it’s always exhilarating to interact with Cady and Mrs. Heron during the show.
4. MARWAN JITLA - played by Nikhil Saboo
Marwan is one of the Mathletes in the show and has a demanding track because not only is he in the Mathlete scenes, but he also does the bench choreography in “Apex Predator.” Sliding under the bench was a little nerve-wracking the first time I went on for this track, simply because he has about three counts to slide under the bench and come right back to standing. This track is exciting because of his features in the Mathlete scenes and also because I get to beatbox in the talent show. I was terrified to do this feature the first time I went on, but it has, oddly enough, become one of my favorite moments of the show. However, I could never top the incredible Nikhil Saboo - I still don’t know how he does it.
5. CHRISTIAN WIGGINS - played by DeMarius Copes
The Christian Wiggins track is physically rigorous because of the different set transitions that he has. One of the hardest moments for me in this track was getting used to the quick transition out of “Whose House” and moving the stairs into “More is Better” as Cady hops onto them. The whole time I was repeating the spike color in my head since it was such a fast transition and I had never seen it in stage lighting. The other moment I always have to remind myself of is to catch the trays when they are slid to me in “Meet the Plastics.” I definitely didn’t forget about those trays after the first time. My favorite part about this track is the multiple interactions the character has with other ensemble members during the show - especially the Shane and Marwan tracks on stage during “Stop.” It’s one of my favorite scenes. I also always joke that my favorite part of this track is throwing the poop as the Zebra (but I’m also totally not joking - it’s the perfect way to start the show).
6. TYLER KIMBLE - played by Ben Tyler Cook
Tyler Kimble is one of the Mathletes and is actually the track that I debuted in. What makes it challenging is that this track doesn’t have as much offstage time because he is in the scenes with the Mathletes, but the number is an exciting moment in the show and not too rigorous, which makes the role exciting. As Tyler, I get to interact with many other ensemble members on stage and have honest character moments, which is one of my favorite parts about how he created this track. Tyler always feels like home base and brings back a plethora of memories from my first night on stage at the August Wilson.
7. GLEN COCO - played by Myles McHale
Glen CoCo is such a fun track, as he also doubles as the Mathlete moderator for “Do This Thing” and the school nurse who is featured in several other scenes. What makes this track tricky is the set moves that I do by myself and the elephant during “It Roars.” As you can imagine, the elephant is much larger than I am and took multiple attempts to walk straight in the costume. In addition, this track moves multiple large set pieces such as escalators and the pretzel cart by himself during the show.
Every track in our show is special and has its own mental preparation and physical challenges. However, each time I go on, they become even more a part of my muscle memory and begin to each feel like a home base. It has been special coming into a show where all of the actors created characters that felt like themselves and that I have been given the opportunity to work alongside them to bring to life a beautifully individualized ensemble.