Our most recent production, Oliver, is currently running. While you may see a finished set, wonderful costumes, and clever props, what you do not see is the hours of planning and work behind the scenes to make this production the best it can be. The scenic shop staff, lighting designers, costumes designers, and sound designers have all put in numerous hours working on the various elements of the production. Our interns and apprentices have also spent a large amount of time making sure everything is ready and in working order for the show. Some of the team involved recently answered some question about the process!
Megan Townsend and Brittany Wise are two of our college interns who have worked diligently on props and other technical aspects in Oliver. Megan is the assistant stage manager, and Brittany is props master.
-What has been your previous experience with prop designing?
Brittany: I’m actually pretty new to prop design. I’ve collected props for scenes, but doing Oliver is the first time it’s been this extensive. -What was your favorite prop you had to make for Oliver?
Megan: My favorite prop to make for Oliver was the mace. We took something as simple as a cup and turned it into a golden mace. We added jewels to make it seem as regal as possible. It was really interesting how it all came together. Brittany: I really enjoyed making Bumble’s staff and re-painting Fagin’s treasure chest.
-What was the hardest obstacle you came across during this process?
Megan: Oliver is a very big show, with a very large cast. Therefore, there is a lot going on backstage. We have designated tables that are labeled so the actors know where everything goes. It was a little difficult in the beginning to make sure everything was where it was supposed to be, but now the actors and crew are in a routine, so it makes it a lot easier for everyone.
Brittany: One of the most difficult part of the process I would say was gathering the larger props, because there were a couple of times when we needed to exchange some of them for different ones.
-What does being the prop master mean? What is involved with that position?
Brittany: Being the Prop Master means that I am in charge of making sure all of the actors’ props are where they are supposed to be, and that they are in good condition. If something breaks or needs mending, it is my responsibility to fix it or make sure that it gets fixed. Between shows, I make sure that all of the props on the prop table are back in their particular places. Sometimes I have to hunt down the props because they don’t get put back in their proper places, but overall, I’ve really enjoyed being the prop master!
Dakota Whitehead is the costume designer for Oliver.
-You have had a lot of experience with costumes, what is your favorite thing about working on and designing costumes for shows?
Dakota: My favorite part of designing any show will always be the conceptualizing phase. It’s what separates designers from stylists. For this show specifically I have three completely filled notebooks full of design concepts, character specific ideas, and costume sketches.
-What was your favorite piece you worked on for Oliver?
Dakota: My absolute favorite piece in this show is by far Myra’s(Nancy) red gown. My entire design concept for the costumes in this show is that the audience is seeing the characters through Oliver’s eyes, and naturally a child wouldn’t look at this character and see her as a low class prostitute, he would see her simply as a beautiful woman. So, it took a lot of planning and alterations for her to look like like a lady of the night and a child’s idea of a beauty queen. Another aspect of her design that I adore is her bruising: from upstage it just looks like she’s just dirty like the children, but the further downstage she comes the more the audience realizes she’s covered in bruises from her abusive boyfriend.
-What was the biggest challenge you had designing and gathering costumes for over 40 cast members?
Dakota: The biggest challenge was finding time to make all of the alterations. Every single costume piece needed something done to it, and most of the actors have up to four different costumes. Thankfully Lindsey Edwards, my assistant designer, was more than up for handling this insane task with me. We also had a bit of help from a couple of the interns this season, and even though they had little to no experience sewing they were quick learners! -You were IN the production as well; how was that? Dakota: It was great! A lot of the shows I’ve designed I’ve been in as well, and honestly, it can get a bit stressful but what job doesn’t.
Abby Auman served as the lighting designer for the show.
-What was the show that really got you into lighting design?
Abby: I don’t think there was a show that got me into lighting design, as such. I stumbled into it in high school, and just fell in love with it. The great thing about lighting is that on the one hand you are making beautiful visual art that is definitely an expression of all the emotion, imagination, and personality that you have poured into it, but on the other you get to create all of that with with sort of concrete tools like logic and technology and programming. It satisfies all facets of your mind. It’s also very physical, with all the climbing and carrying and building you end up doing, and that is really satisfactory too.
-What has been your favorite show to design? Your favorite lighting effect?
Abby: I’ve done a lot of shows and I’m constantly doing more, so it would be pretty hard to pick any one favorite. On the whole, the shows I have enjoyed most have been fantastical or abstract, so I was able to just go really crazy with any sort of design I could imagine. I’ve done a few shows with magical characters, and I really enjoyed making it look like they were controlling the light in the room. The actors, board operators, and I would time it out in such a way that the character would move their hands and the lights would move or change in such a way that it looked like they were manipulating the atoms of the air or something like that. I like when I get to create lighting that is interactive that way.
-You are the technical director at Magnetic Theatre; talk about some of your other roles you have done in terms of designing and operating. Is lighting your favorite?
Abby: I have two main jobs as a technical director. The first is to oversee transitions between shows, so I’m usually shepherding one show out and the next one in. I like doing that, because it’s like putting puzzle pieces together. You’re thinking: “Ok, when is this show loading out, what set pieces can stay for the next show, what needs to go, what needs to be built for the show coming in, who can build it,” etc. etc. It’s a lot of problem solving and making sure to ask the questions that haven’t occurred to anybody yet. My other responsibility is just troubleshooting. Whatever goes wrong, I fix or find a way around. I also end up filling in any gaps that come up, so I’ve ended up building sets, doing sound design, projections and videos, all sorts of things. I love that part of the job, too. But yes, lighting design is my favorite.
Be sure to come see the closing weekend of Oliver so you can see all of these talented folk’s hard work.