The technical crew at Peninsula Players always amazes me. As we prepared to close our first show, a cowboy tale set in the wide-open spaces of the American West, the shop crews built and painted the scenery and props for “Once a Ponzi Time.”
“Saloon” was set at a railhead in Kansas in 1871, a stop along the railroad built for the sole purpose of loading cattle onto the train to be shipped east, a place destined to become a ghost town after the cattle season.
“Once a Ponzi Time,” a contemporary comedy, takes place inside Harold’s and Judith’s home which includes a living room, entry, bar, stairway to upstairs and many doors. What is a comedy without doors that slam, bang or crash? One also needs doors to make those quick exits and unexpected entrances.
We closed “Saloon” around 6 p.m. Sunday night. By Monday night, a little over 24-hours later, the cast of “Once a Ponzi Time” was walking the set learning where everything is. Our rehearsal hall is smaller than the stage so sometimes furniture is closer together in the rehearsal space than it is on the set.
Doors, walls and stairs are generally not used in rehearsal. A special theatrical tape called spike tape, which comes in assorted colors marks serves as walls on the floor. As I watched a run through of “Once a Ponzi Time” I knew the blue rectangles on the walls were the entryway door, the kitchen door, the closet door, the upstairs door and the basement door.
So once everything on the set is in place the cast spends time getting acquainted with their new world. Stairs and doors now exist. Door knobs have to be tested. The number of steps it takes to get from point A to point B must be timed. In comedy, timing is everything.
Costumes are also new to the actors. As they rehearse the show in their costumes they learn if their shoes slip on the carpet or if the hem of their pants or dress gets caught on a shoe. Or perhaps a cuff link or watch catches on someone else’s lace dress or hair piece. Many things are learned during those few short hours.
After the actors are finished the crew continues to work on the set. They focus on placing accent lighting, such as lamps and sconces, as well as molding, trim and touch-up painting to edges of the walls and doors. The props crew hangs drapes and “dresses” the set with paintings, artwork, vases and other touches to create the world in which Judith and Harold live.
What also amazes me are the time management skills our technical director and production coordinator employ. While they were building “Once a Ponzi Time” they were also starting to work on elements for “Sunday in the Park with George.” Not only were they cleaning steel to be welded into scenery, but scenic painter Christine Bolles and former intern Eileen Rozycki, who spent two weeks painting the backdrop of “Saloon,” have also started working on bits and pieces of the set. The monkey, dogs and some people of George Seurat’s infamous painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” have sprung to life by her deft use of a paintbrush.
Our technical crew brings many worlds to the Players stage throughout the season. This week we said good bye to the open plains of Kansas, hello to a home interior and began work on a park in the late 1800s France and studio of an artist.
If one of these worlds intrigues you, join us for a performance, a Sunday backstage tour or a free Saturday Seminar. Visit our new website www.peninsulaplayers.com, which hosts not only preview videos of our shows but lists our seminar topics and have a variety of other information.
Phone the helpful Box Office staff at 920-868-3287 to reserve a spot for a tour or the seminar. The staff can also answer questions you may have about forthcoming productions. I look forward to seeing you by the bay, where the sun sets, the curtain rises and the stars shine.
Audra Baakari Boyle is the Peninsula Players Business Manager, celebrating her 19th season by the bay.