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Community Players create the recipe for success with Pippin

Editor’s note: This is the second installment in a series designed for The Daily Herald by TCP member Cindy Bennett to describe the components of the musical, Pippin. The musical is scheduled to be presented by The Tyrone Community Players on May 7-8 in the theater of the Tyrone YMCA.)
Ingredient No. 1 -A cupful of directorial knowledge.
Ingredient No. 2 -A sprinkle of design magic.
The second ingredient to be added to the mix for Pippin would be \”design.”
What exactly is meant when you read or hear someone say that they designed a show? The answer to that can be complicated. Design is the allspice ingredient in a recipe for production. It is comprised of a pinch of this, a little of that, and a smidgen of something else that, when tumbled together, produces a singularly pungent taste flavoring the entire recipe.
The design of a show includes the set, the costumes, the lighting, any special make-up, and unusual props or creative decor pieces. It all begins, however with a collaboration between the director and the set designer. A sharing of ideas and visions about how the script spoke to them and what images it conjured in their minds after reading and re-reading the text.
Colors, textures, which senses they want to engage at which point.
As an aside – as a designer for numerous shows, and after working with many other set designers from many other theater companies, I find it interesting to mention where these ideas come from. Most people think that the design comes with the script. A nice little package that shows you exactly what to do to make this show work. That is rarely the case.
Some plays do come with a suggestion of a design printed in the back of the script, but for the most part everything you see on the stage comes from the imagination and creativity of the set designer.
Let me take Fiddler on the Roof as an example. When I designed the set for that show, which was in the early spring, I was inspired by the emerging colors of the earth as it peeked from under the snow in my garden. The various shades of brown and umber, their depth and richness, made me think of the quality of life in Anatevca, and that same quality in the characters of the play. As I drew an outline for a set where these characters would live and struggle, it was important to me to instill that same richness of spirit that I felt when I watched the changing of season in my own tiny world. With that in mind I used only shades of brown (and it is amazing how many shades of one color there are) to create a sepia tintype representation of the pain and joy in the lives of Tevye and his family.
In the case of Pippin the set designer and the director are one in the same person (Although this is not always the case). Pippin is a story about choices, the black and white that separates the question from the solution. But it is also very much about imagination. With those thoughts in mind I have chosen a palate of very diverse application, using black as my primary set color and a broad array of vibrant colors in the costumes, props and decor pieces to create a visual pop that illustrates the chasm between fantasy and reality (Sounds pretty deep doesn’t it?).
After the set designer and director have agreed on a visual statement that will define the show, they meet with the designers in other technical areas, costumes, props and decor, and lighting. Pippin’s costumes are a basic black outfit with a wide variety of very colorful, whimsical pieces to define moods and circumstances. Hats, hoods, skirts made from neckties, robes, vests – the list is quite long and exciting, all conforming to the ideas of the set designer and, before him, the director. The lighting design plot is also quite extensive, creating quite a challenge for the light gurus in our facility (We have no doubt that they will exceed our expectations).
It sometimes seems like a long climb to find out who is at the top of the chain-of-command, but the climb is worth it. When the technical designers of a show take the time to talk with each other, listen to the others ideas, and come up with a plan that will be uniform in all the areas, the result will be a beautifully cohesive production. The designers in Pippin, Carolyn Patton on costumes, Richard Ward and Eric Bennett on lighting, Kathy Fink on properties and Karen Mayhew on decor, have formed a tight band of theatrical brothers, each finding their own creative voice within the confines of Cindy Bennett’s set design.
The results should be a theatrical explosion of color and excitement.
Pippin is scheduled to be presented by The Tyrone Community Players on May 7-8 in the theater of the Tyrone YMCA. Ticket information may be obtained by phoning the ArtsLine at 684-ART2.