June 3, 2012
PSST!: Creating Three Very Different Worlds On One Small Stage
VALDOSTA -- It all starts with the script -- or in the case of Peach State Summer Theatre, three scripts.
In addition to the characters’ dialogue, the script includes descriptions of all the sets that will be required for the production. These descriptions can be very generalized or highly detailed, depending on the writer.
Everyone on the production team -- director, choreographer, set designer, lighting designer, costume designer, sound designer and engineer, musical director, vocal director, technical director, stage manager, and so on -- reads the script. Then they read it again, and again, and again, until they have a feel for what the show is about, whom the characters are, how the whole thing should be presented visually.
After all, research shows the human brain processes visual cues faster than verbal information.
Members of the production team toss around different ideas, eventually deciding on the ideal color palettes, textures, lighting, sound, costumes, makeup, hair for telling the story visually. Live theatre is about making the audience believe in the fictional world that has been created.
Detailed blueprints of the final structures are drawn. Costume designs are approved.
Finally, it is time for the artistic vision to meet the wood, nails, and paint, as well as the fabric, scissors, and thread. Supplies are purchased; helping hands are hired. The timeline is tight, but the technical staff works long hours, seven days a week, to establish the perfect look and feel for the show. The carpenters build the world; the costumers dress the characters living and working in it.
The Technical Director Says …
This is Michael Driggers’ first summer serving as technical director for Peach State Summer Theatre. He said all the hammering, drilling, sawing, and painting heard on the first floor of VSU’s Fine Arts Building, located on the corner of Brookwood Drive and Oak Street, has been ongoing since the end of April/first of May.
Understanding that a small crew is preferred when it comes to quick and quality set construction, Driggers noted that the worlds of “Legally Blonde: The Musical,” “The Light in the Piazza,” and “Go, Dog. Go!” -- the lineup for the 2012 PSST! season -- are in the hands of four carpenters, a painter, and two electricians. They were designed by Tom Hanson, who, for the past 14 years, has served as the production designer for Show Palace Dinner Theatre in Hudson, Fla.
“It’s a process,” said Driggers, who joined the faculty of Valdosta State University in 2010 as an assistant professor of theatre in the Department of Communication Arts. “We work on constructing all three shows at the same time. We work seven days a week, from about 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Once the sets are built and the shows open, we continue working, changing out sets during each performance.”
“Legally Blonde: The Musical” opened Saturday, June 2. It features about 30 different set changes, he said.
“Go, Dog. Go!” opens Friday, June 15, and features six set changes.
“The Light in the Piazza” opens Friday, June 22. It features 22 set changes.
The Costume Designer Says …
Esther Iverson has been designing costumes and dressing characters in Peach State Summer Theatre shows for three years. The costume shop she oversees has a staff of five full-time and two part-time cutters, sewers, etc.
“The whole idea is to portray the characters as you want the audience to see them,” said the VSU Department of Communication Arts assistant professor of theatre. She teaches costume design, costume history, and makeup for theatre and film.
In February/March, Iverson was busy reading scripts and sketching preliminary designs. By April, she was frequenting thrift stores in search of ready-made pieces and beginning the process of building costumes from scratch.
Based on the needs of the show, Iverson and her team work seven days a week, up to 12 hours a day. Of course, once all three shows are open, only a team of two will remain in the costume shop to make necessary repairs.
Because “Legally Blonde: The Musical” is a modern show, Iverson noted that most of the costumes were pieced together from items found in the VSU costume closet and thrift stores. Only about three or four are original designs.
With “The Light in the Piazza,” Iverson was able to utilize a large collection of 1950s patterns. She said that color was important for this show, so she and her team had to create nearly 20 costumes.
“Go, Dog. Go!” features lots of bib overalls and colorful hats with dog ears attached to them. Iverson said that kids are capable of and enjoy using their imagination.
Peach State Summer Theatre, or PSST!, is Valdosta’s premiere professional summer stock theatre. Each summer, dozens of singers, dancers, technicians, managers, and creators gather on the campus of Valdosta State University for nine weeks. During that time, they rehearse, build, and present three musicals in rotating repertory.
The 2012 Peach State Summer Theatre season marks the 23rd year of VSU producing professional theatre for the city of Valdosta, the state of Georgia, and beyond. From 1990 to 2004, VSU produced the Jekyll Island Musical Theatre Festival. In 2005, the summer theatre program was relocated to the university and renamed PSST! Then, in 2006, it was designated the Official Musical Theatre of the State of Georgia by the Georgia Legislature.
The Peach State Summer Theatre box office is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sundays. It is located on the first floor of the VSU Fine Arts Building and can be reached by calling (229) 259-7770.
Individual show tickets are $25 plus tax for adults and $20 plus tax for all children, students, and senior citizens. “Legally Blonde: The Musical,” “The Light in the Piazza,” and “Go, Dog. Go!” will play through the weekend of July 14-15 on the Sawyer Theatre stage in VSU’s Fine Arts Building.
Visit www.valdosta.edu/psst or read “Peach State Summer Theatre Box Office Is Open For Business” or “PSST! Season Kicks Off Saturday With ‘Legally Blonde: The Musical’” for more information.