Inside Scoop, Early Summer 2017

Posted July 17, 2017 By APT

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News from American Players Theatre

Early Summer 2017

The weeks leading up to the opening of the first five productions of the APT season are typically the busiest of the year. This year, we had the added bonus of completing the final preparations for the newly renovated Hill Theatre. We are happy to report that we are off and running, and all went amazingly well. Here are a few highlights of our adventures.

Photo Gallery

A Midsummer Night’s Dream set

See Next Great Stage Section for more

Kelsey in her cool "Flea" dress

See costume shop section for more

Some of the amazing Midsummer wigs

See wig shop section for more

James Ridge dons his Cyrano nose

See craft shop section for more

Nate Burger & Gavin Lawrence admire the palate

See prop shop section for more

Andrea San Miguel helps Melisa Pereyra with her dress

See backstage stories for more

The Next Great Stage
Before we get into the season, just a few words about our newly renovated theater. Stage managers and other crew arrived early this year to begin moving back into the buildings on the Hill. In addition to moving all the supplies and equipment that they had removed in October, there were three new rehearsal halls, backstage areas and a new dressing room to prepare. This all had to be done before rehearsal could begin. May 5 was the last official day of construction. It was a beautiful clear day, and after the last of the trucks had rolled away, about three dozen staff members gathered on the stage to officially mark the occasion. It was the first time since October 3 that we were there without hardhats. In the weeks that have followed, there have been many discoveries—most great, but some tweaks that will need to be made. Mostly, we are so excited to be finally sharing this space with you, our audience. 

The Costume Shop
Special kudos to the wardrobe and wig staff on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. After the first scene of the play, 14 people—including four children—must go from contemporary clothes into full fairy regalia. This includes costumes, wigs, make-up and body paint. Somehow they manage to do this in less than 20 minutes! Amazing. 

Kelsey Brennan’s costume for A Flea in Her Ear was stifling her. Not only were the (awesome but) huge sleeves constricting her movement, but it was hot...really hot. So Costume Designer Fabio Toblini and his team worked some magic. A Lycra gusset was added under the arms to ease movement, some “escape hatches” were added to the dress so Kelsey could easily cool off between scenes. They eliminated the petticoat and added extra ice pack compartments to the skirt. Much better! 

On the other side of the coin is Marcus Truschinski, who has to disrobe down to his boxers during a Flea scene. Stage Manager Jacqueline Singleton recalls one rehearsal where six different people were strategizing with Marcus exactly how to strip down: the director, assistant director, stage manager, assistant stage manager, fight director and voice & text coach. It takes a village. 

Cyrano de Bergerac is a big show for costumes. Not only are there a lot of them—about 75—but they are literally just big. Brian Mani’s costume for Montfleury weighs over 18 pounds. And his costume for the Enemy Officer is even heavier. Side note: this got us thinking about what is the heaviest costume in the APT stock. After a bit of research, the winner is a set of chain mail, last worn by Nate Burger in the 2011 production of The Critic. 51 pounds! Imagine that. 

The Wig Shop
A Midsummer Night’s Dream provided many learning opportunities for the wig staff. The wigs for that show had to be sculpted to get the look that Costume Designer Murell Horton was after. So Wig Master Becky Scott and her staff had a learning curve—or maybe it’s better described as research and development. Becky ordered a total of 26 separate hair colors to create the wigs (16 colors actually made the cut). The wigs were first sculpted using a heavy duty hair gel called spike glue. Once they had the look they wanted, they set it with craft glue and water. Cyrano’s nose was also created in the wig shop. It’s the work of Wig Artisan Lauren Brennan, who also created the noses last year for The Comedy of Errors. She said this one was a little simpler. Lauren explained that Director Jim DeVita and Costume Designer Mathew LeFebvre didn’t want the nose to be as big as it is sometimes portrayed. But they wanted it to be ugly, and to look like it had been broken many times. Lauren actually used a potato as inspiration when building it. It took a few tries but she and actor James Ridge, who plays Cyrano, are very happy with the results.

The Craft Shop
This is the room where they make many of the costume pieces that aren’t sewn with a sewing machine. The variety of projects that they have been working on recently is astounding: shoes that look like hooves, ruffs, segmented armor pieces (made out of something called Wonderflex and covered in leather), beer-can armor (made from Old Style cans diligently collected by our friends at The Shed, APT’s regular watering hole), a breastplate made from a hubcap and two pot lids. And that’s just to name a few.

The Prop Shop
We asked Harlan Ferstl, the props artisan, to tell us about the table he made for Cyrano de Bergerac. It has to be sturdy, because people walk on it from time to time. Indeed, Harlan used some special construction techniques, but mostly he was excited to use some new lathe tools for the first time. You see, when APT employees celebrate their 30th season, they get some extra money to spend however they wish. Harlan, a 32-year veteran, chose to give back to APT with the purchase of these new tools. Thanks, Harlan!

The prop shop was having a difficult time finding an appropriate object to use as the Nate Burger’s (Etienne’s) silver palate in A Flea in Her Ear. What could be made to look like a dental retainer? Props Artisan Erin Brandt piped up that she still had her old retainer back in her childhood bedroom. She wasn’t using it anymore and generously offered it up for use. Shout out to Erin’s mom for the special delivery! (Note: Rest assured, with a clever sleight of hand, Nate doesn’t actually put the palate in his mouth). 

Meanwhile, the props in The Unexpected Man can be counted on one hand: two train tickets, a water bottle, a newspaper/crossword puzzle and the all-important book. But each prop has a story. For instance, the newspaper is a facsimile of a popular French paper, but the crossword puzzle is in English so Brian Mani can actually work on it during the play. The water bottle is a twin of the water bottle that Sarah Day carries with her daily. They used Sarah’s during rehearsal and decided it would be perfect for performances, too.

Backstage Stories
In The Maids, Melisa Pereyra had to perfect her own quick changes. She changes clothes in the on-stage closet, and there was no way for a wardrobe assistant to help out without being seen. With a little bit of practice, she was able to master the changes on her own—the shortest clocking in at just 22 seconds!

Finally: The new pit under the remodeled stage is much more inviting than the previous old dirt pit. Unfortunately, the stage crew recently found out that it is also much more inviting to mama frogs, as dozens of baby frogs have been discovered there of late. The crew does their best to scoop them up and gently remove them from this ersatz amphibian maternity ward.

Special thanks to our 2017 Season Sponsors!