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  #1  
Old July 12th, 2009, 08:22 AM
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Default Campus Revue - In Depth

Here's an in-depth look at the College Revue, which ran from 1962 to 1968. It will be delivered in small installments.



CONCEPTION

The idea for the College Revue surfaced in 1960 by Charles R. Meeker Jr, but it never materialized until Six Flags' second season in 1962. The Campus Revue found its inspiration from a series of highly successful concerts performed by college students at Hotel Adolphus in 1958. When it was conceived, it was decided to make the program an evening show for two reasons. First, A general consensus existed among the directors and producers that there needed to be an evening attraction. Second, it was undeniable fact that the temperature was a whole lot cooler than the daytime which was ruled by the dreaded Texas heat. The second point was learned the hard way during the first season with the Six Flags Revue, which was an afternoon event resembling a variety show. Unlike a variety show, the unrelated acts would be linked through a theme or plot.

Following the recommendation of Angus Wynne Jr, the entire cast would be comprised of college students, though exceptions would be made if the theme or plot called for it. Older adults weren't hired because the makers wanted to maintain "a youthful image" for the new show. To project this image even more, it was decided to adopt a college theme for the revue. The staff also hoped this would make the cast members feel more comfortable with the surroundings and create a sense of unity among themselves. The Show was named the Campus Revue. "Campus" referred to "college spirit" and "Revue" referred to the fact that it contained unrelated acts, though they were linked together in a very loose way.

The Campus Revue followed seven major rules during Meeker's tenure. First, painstaking construction and building is necessary because a revue consists of unrelated acts. Second, all entertainment must be varied. Third, there must be waiting by the audience. Fourth, material must be selected and arranged with variety and swift scenery changes in mind. Fifth, the show should start with a loud, vibrant musical number. Sixth, the show should finish with a spectacular, cheerful musical number. Seventh, the show should never run over an hour so the visitors could have time to visit the rest of the park. Indeed, the Campus Revue of each season always ran fifty to sixty minutes, but never over.


Last edited by cleusk; July 12th, 2009 at 08:37 PM.
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  #2  
Old July 12th, 2009, 07:51 PM
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Default Auditions - Part One

Before the auditions started, Meeker and his associated had no plans, outlines, or ideas in regard to what the next revue would be like. This was done deliberately because they didn't know the talent levels of those hoping to participate or the types of specialty acts they would encounter. Essentially, they wanted the show to be determined by the cast instead of the cast trying to fit into the show.

In 1962, auditions were held in Dallas and Fort Worth. Most of those who attended came from the DFW area, the rest from close-by cities and Oklahoma. However, during the following year, auditions were held in other states where the park was well-known. As the park grew in popularity and prestige, the number of auditions at colleges and universities in other states greatly increased.

The Campus Revue auditions supervised by Director Charles R. Meeker Jr, Producer David T. Blackburn, and Director of Entertainment Stan McIlvaine. Charles Meeker possessed plenty of experience working for the Dallas State Fair Park Musicals and served as a general manager at Cary Plaza. To assist him, David T. Blackburn entered the spotlight. Blackburn began his career working for five years as the manager of the Municipal Auditorium and Coliseum in Lubbock. From 1951 to 1955, he was the assistant manager of the Dallas State Fair Park Musicals. He then became director of public relations and advertising for the Great Southwest Corporation and Six Flags Over Texas. McIlvaine Stan McIlvaine was working as the manager of the Dallas Rangers baseball team when he received the entertainment directorship offer. He saw the position as a good business opportunity and resigned from his post.

Upon arriving at the audition, the participant was asked to fill out out a small card. The person had to provide his or her name, age, height, weight, home address, phone number, and the college or university currently attending.

After everyone had arrived and filled out their cards, Meeker gave a speech to help relax the participants and set down the facts. He started off by telling everyone that nervousness rarely interfere with the ability to perform and could actually be a positive thing in regards the performance. They should all know that the judges aren't just interested in how well the person does the performance, but also what kind of talent is displayed. The people had the option of starting over if they weren't satisfied with the results. At any time, he might stop the person in the middle of the routine since he only wanted to witness enough to determine the amount of talent the person had. He also pointed out the fact that the length of the performance didn't matter to the judges. In addition, Meeker strongly stressed that should the performers get to star in the revue, it would not mean stardom. It was not a quick step success, fame, and fortune. It was only going to be a summer job full of hard work, and everyone would be going home to lead normal lives with probably no chance of furthering any musical careers. When the speech was done, the auditions began.
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Old July 12th, 2009, 09:46 PM
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Default Auditioning - Part Two

The vast majority of the people performing were singers, dancers, and musicians. The other auditions were specialty acts such as comedians, ventriloquists, drill teams, jugglers, gymnasts, small bands, bullwhip artists, and tumblers. As the participants waited, Stanley McIlvaine took their cards and arranged the auditions so that the acts were varied and not grouped together. As each performer approached the stage, McIlvaine gave the person's card to Meeker. As the person did his or her act, Meeker wrote notes on the performance and the highlights on the back of the card. If the participant did a great job, Meeker would put "CB" on the back, meaning the person had the opportunity to be selected for a call-back. All this was done to help jog the memory when perusing the cards to make the decision of who would return for the second stage of auditioning.

Singers were allowed to bring their own accompaniment. However, if a singer didn't have one, he or she could could use the piano accompaniment provided by Six Flags. After the performer was finished with the rehearsed song, Meeker usually asked him or her to sing a second time, using a different song or approach. When the different song was requested, he usually asked the singer to perform "My Country 'Tis Of Thee" because it was simple and well-known.

When auditioning dancers, Meeker looked at two major things during the routines. He wanted to find out if they could move and if they had mastered the basic fundamentals of dancing techniques. During these auditions, Meeker preferred to play "Linger Awhile", a song he had used during past productions, as a way to test improvisation. During this period, the person had to dance to soft shoe tempo, fast tempo, and stop time.

Meeker also asked the musicians to perform improvisation numbers in addition to the rehearsed composition. This was done to see if they could only do routines set in stone and if they could play musical numbers in different styles and tempos.

After each audition was complete, the participant had his or her picture taken. This picture would be placed with the card, ready for Meeker's perusal after all the auditions had concluded. When everything had concluded, the long, tedious process of elimination and selection began. Out of the hundreds of participants, only seventy were chosen for call-back. Those who made it through the first round were notified by telegram and while the performers who didn't make the cut received a letter.
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Old July 12th, 2009, 10:56 PM
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Default Call-Backs

Before the call-backs, McIlvaine, Blackburn, Meeker Jr. got together and discussed the upcoming show. This included plot, theme, song titles, performance types and a general outline of the type of show they wanted.

The call-backs were held either at the Sheraton-Dallas Hotel or the Executive Inn of Dallas. Students who came from a college or university located outside of Texas had their transportation costs paid for by Six Flags. If the auditions ran past twelve noon, everyone received a free lunch. All the participants had to stay in the room throughout auditions and remain quiet during each performance. Exceptions were made for those who relied upon chartered buses or other forms of public transportation.

At the start of the call-back auditions, all the participants had to fill out another card. This time, they had to give his or her name, college or university, age, home, talent, special awards, previous experience in the performing arts, and a list of the home newspapers, TV stations, and radio stations. The last section enabled the Six Flags publicity department to notify the media if the participant was chosen to be part of the show.

When the people auditioned this time, Meeker focused on the ability of the participants to sing and dance because it was the policy that all cast members had to do both. Often times, this was the determining factor in making the final decisions. In 1964 and 1965, the auditions were filmed for later use. After the person finished auditioning, he or she had his picture taken.

After everyone was finished auditioning, Meeker gave a closing speech. He then had everyone get together to sing the national anthem because "everyone is made aware of the opportunities in this country which many people in other lands do not enjoy."

When the event ended, selections were made as soon as possible. Once again, those succeeded received a telegraph and those who didn't received a letter. The winners also got a letter which provided the time, date, and place of all the rehearsals. It also gave a list of what was required for the first rehearsal, which usually took place during the last week of May. Additionally, it provided a list of all the cast members' names and their addresses. Lastly, it mandated the necessity to be available for the first rehearsal, to give the necessary time rehearsal on and of the stage, and to perform seven days a week during the entire summer run. Six people were chosen as alternates in case someone rejected the job offer.

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Old July 13th, 2009, 08:04 AM
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Default Rehearsals - Part One

Rehearsals began in the last week of May and ended on opening night in Mid-June. From 1962 to 1964, they were held at an auditorium, usually the student union building, at the University of Texas At Arlington. Afterwards, the cast practiced with the Six Flags Orchestra at the Amphitheatre. In 1965, this changed. The rehearsals took place at the Persis Dance Studio in Arlington, Texas. The cast then went to the Golden Palace Convention Center at the Inn of the Six Flags for practice with the orchestra. Only during the last week did they rehearse at the Amphitheatre.

Because the performers only rehearsed at the Amphitheatre when it was time to practice with the orchestra, the stage floor was marked off with tape to the exact measurements of the Amphitheatre. The cast was taught where the exact locations of the entrances and exits. In lieu of a recording or orchestra, a piano was used for the music.

At the first rehearsal, Meeker stressed the importance of rehearsing as though they were performing on opening night, doing everything to the best of their abilities. Meeker then introduced each staff member. Afterwards, he told the cast about the revue's plot then handed out a script, the outline of the sequence of acts, and the song lyrics. When the cast members received everything, Meeker reemphasized the importance of hard work, performing to the highest potential, and the necessity to show up to all rehearsals and never be late.

To stress the vitality of being on time, Meeker created a late song which would be sung every time someone was late. The perpetrator stood either on the floor or a stool facing the group while it was sung. The tune proved to be extremely effective for cast and staff members alike. It became so popular with the cast, that it became a tradition to sing it at some point at the rehearsals. Called "Enjoy Yourself", the song's lyrics were :

Enjoy yourself, it's after one o'clock.
Enjoy yourself, you'll be in full shock.
Enjoy yourself, in fact be overjoyed.
Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself, for now you're unemployed.

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Old July 13th, 2009, 09:15 AM
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Default Rehearsals - Part Two

The cast rigorously practiced for two full weeks with no days off. Each rehearsal started early in the morning and ended late at night with a lunch break at noon. The members had to learn dance routines in addition to the music and lyrics at a hectic pace, whether it was a single person receiving instruction on a particular act or the entire group learning an ensemble piece. When the cast members mastered everything, the revue was performed in order while Meeker timed it. If it ran over an hour, he adjusted the show. This process continued until the show met the requirement of having a runtime less than sixty minutes.

Once the time limit requirement was met, the production moved to the Amphitheatre. This change, after so many days practicing at the University of Texas At Arlington, proved to be a difficult transition. First, there was the problem of adjusting to different surroundings, especially when going from an indoor auditorium to an outdoor theatre. There was also the problem of dealing with sound caused by the fact that the rehearsals were taking place in an open area instead of a closed one. To get everyone comfortable with the new surroundings and further cement what had been rehearsed at the same time, Meeker had the cast rehearse the entire show from start to finish over and over again. During this time, there were costume fittings, lessons on how to do make-up, lighting adjustments, and instructions given on hair styling.

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Old July 13th, 2009, 10:21 AM
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Default Performance Schedule

One or two nights before the first performance, the cast held a special showing for all the Six Flags employees. The first performance was considered the premier, attended only by Six Flags staff members, entertainment critics, and the press. After the premier, the cast performed three evening shows seven days a week. In 1962 and 1963, the show times were 6:00pm, 7:30pm, and 9:00pm. In 1964 and 1965, the last show was changed to 8:45pm. However, the last show on Friday night was removed in 1964 so the performers could have some extra time for themselves. The schedule continued until the first week of September. Each cast member received seventy dollars a week. Throughout the season, slight changes to the show could be made, extra rehearsals could be made, performances could be taped, and extra shows be given for special guests.

At the beginning of the last show, Meeker made an appearance, informing the audience that it was going to be the final performance. As always, the show ended with the finale song "We Will Come Back". Starting in 1964, those who stayed the entire season received a special bonus of five dollars for every week worked.

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Old July 13th, 2009, 11:19 AM
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Default The Music

When it came to music, Meeker wanted to mix classical music with popular tunes, using old songs as well as new ones in an effort to keep the show's pace moving. Since the audience represented a large cross-section of the population, Meeker wanted to appeal to as much of the section as he could with the music he chose.

The process of selection started with Meeker sending a long list of songs to musical director Harry Barton. The director had to find and collect these songs, requiring lots of research. Upon completing the task, the two directors whittled the list down to a range of ten to twenty songs. Each approved song was recorded at the first few rehearsals then sent to the music arranger. The original man for the job was Eugene Patrick.

When it came to music, Meeker liked to use medleys to maintain the revue's pace. To accomplish this, singers were required to change songs almost at the end of a phrase. There was also the practice of unexpectedly changing the tempo or style. Additionally, the percussion section was used to accent dance numbers.
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Old July 13th, 2009, 11:56 AM
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Default The Orchestra

In 1962 and 1963, the Six Flags Marching Band played throughout the park during the day then joined the Campus Revue during the evening. However, in 1964 and 1965, it was the Crazy Band that took the honors. Comprising two less players than the orchestra, the Crazy Band dressed in unusual clothes and played around the park throughout the day. The band then worked at Amphitheatre. Management arranged the schedule to have the Crazy Band nine hours, six hours and a half during the day and two hours and a half during the evening.

In 1964, the Campus Revue Orchestra unionized when it negotiated a contract with the Local 802 Chapter of the Federation of Musicians, whose headquarters were located in New York City. The contract lasted for three years, pertaining only to "pit musicians". As part of the contract, all were required to play the Campus Revue music with a high level of skill and professionalism.

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Old July 13th, 2009, 12:27 PM
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Default The Choreography

The choreographer faced the daunting task of making the cast perform like pros and work well together while designing the dances to fit within the limits of what the members were capable of doing. The choreography had keep up with the pace of the song and ensure the show stayed together as a collective piece while communicating the purpose of the musical number. The real challenge came with teaching the footwork to the entire group, which consisted of performers who knew one form of dance like tap or ballet and those who had no dance training at all. In 1962, Johnny and Aubrey Bell Simmons, a newlywed couple from Texas Christian University, were responsible for the choreography. In 1963, Johnny Simmons took the responsibility alone. In 1964 and 1965, Jim Blatel handled the job.


Last edited by cleusk; July 13th, 2009 at 12:35 PM.
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