The art of playmaking

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September 8th, 2011

Omaha, NE – After watching a play, have you ever thought about just how that stage was set before that first curtain rose?

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A costume from a UNO theater production. (Photo by Angel Martin)

There is a lot that goes into a theatrical production. Actors have to learn their lines, costumes have to be made, lights have to be timed, and sets have to come to life. Robbie Jones is with the UNO theatre department. While touring UNO’s art of theatrical design exhibit, Jones showed KVNO News a mini stage model, from several years back, of the department’s production of Women of Troy.

“We came up with this idea of putting bodies in the ground,” he said. “We ended up molding and casting one of the actors that was in the play. We molded him and cast 30 of them.”

Jones said the body molds were only three to four inches thick, but he said they got the audience reaction they were hoping for.

A mini stage model from UNO's production of “Women of Troy.”

“As the play progressed, the dirt finally got kind of worn away,” he said. “All of sudden, all of these bodies started popping up. You could hear the audience when you started to see. It worked really well, because we didn’t want to show them too quickly. We wanted that “oh my God that’s a body under there!”

The Art of Theatrical Design exhibit highlights the entire theatrical production process, with various works including lighting, set, and costumes on display from UNO’s design faculty and students. In this business, Jones said it’s key to work well with everyone to visually communicate a message.

“Each director is different,” he said. “Some bring emotion and feeling to a meeting, as opposed to visual imagery. Some bring more intellectually-based things, like here’s my research and this is what I’m trying to communicate in the play. Some are really technical. So, that’s the job of the designer to be flexible enough and to leave your ego at the door and to be able to work with them.”

The Art of Theatrical Design is on display at UNO’s Criss Library now through September 27th. UNO’s theater season kicks off on September 21st with The Government Inspector.

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