July 24 Players Pen

Things at Peninsula Players are humming along. Last week the box office staff was humming along to the songs and music our actors and singers were performing in the nearby rehearsal hall. The costume shop was humming along to the sound of the surgers and sewing machines while the scene shop and prop shop crews were rocking it out with the welders.

We closed the comedy “Once a Ponzi Time” Sunday, and the crew and company spent the next 24 hours loading in the scenery for our musical, Steven Sondheim’s and James Lapine’s “Sunday in the Park with George,” which opens tonight, Wednesday, July 24.

Down came the contemporary home of the Vanderdorfs and in came the world of Georges Seurat and his masterpiece “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.” Sondheim’s and Lapine’s Pulitzer Prize winning musical, which starred Bernadette Peters and Mandy Patinkin on Broadway, explores Seurat’s creative process and struggles to create his pointillism masterpiece.

Scenic designer Jack Magaw, costume designer Kärin Simonson Kopischke and properties designer Sarah E. Ross collaborated with director Greg Vinkler to make Seurat’s painting come to life on stage.

The scene shop crews have been building the world of 1880s Paris, France, and two scenic painters, Christine Bolles and April Beiswenger, have been masterfully using their skills to recreate Seurat’s work. At the same time the stitchers in the costume shop have been creating the clothing worn by images in the painting. Between the actors and the life-size cutouts, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” comes to life on the Players stage.

Wigmaster Samantha Jones not only assists in the building of the period costume, but is also the craftsperson responsible for the facial hair worn by actors Sean Fortunato and James Rank. Samantha styles a majority of the wigs worn by the performers and she built the facial hair.

It is a detailed and painstaking process. Hair netting is shaped to fit each performer’s facial features. Then Samantha weaves each strand of hair into the netting to create the mustaches and beards for the production. The weaving process is similar to the craft of latch-hook so each strand of hair is fully “rooted” to the netting and can withstand the daily application and removal.

I asked Samantha how many strands of hair she used to build Seurat’s full facial beard, and she said, “I really don’t want to know.”

While Samantha was building facial hair, costume shop manager Kyle Pingel was building the iconic look of Dot’s dress in the painting. Seurat’s painting shows a couple out for a Sunday stroll. They pause; she under her parasol and he with a walking stick and cigar as they stare straight ahead. What are they watching? Will they turn to talk to one another?

It took many hands to bring “Sunday in the Park with George” to life, including former company members who were stitching. Thank you for helping Tom Mall! Once a Player, Always a Player!

Congratulations all! From the carpenters, welders, painters, actors, singers, stitchers, box office staff, musicians, stage crew, dressers, sound crew, designers, cooks, managers, director, musical director, follow spot operators, stage managers, et al!

“Sunday in the Park with George” is at the Players through August 11. If you want to learn more about Seurat’s art join us for our free Saturday Seminar Series August 3, when the Peninsula School of Art joins us, for a backstage tour Sunday, July 7 or the post-show discussion Wednesday, July 31. Advance registration is suggested for the seminar and tour; please contact the Players Box Office at 920-868-3287

If comedies and mysteries are to your liking, you have a chance to catch those this season as well with “The Game’s Afoot” and “Miracle on South Division Street.” For more information on those plays explore our new website www.peninsulaplayers.com, where you can see preview videos of our plays, or call the Box Office at 920-868-3287 for more information. 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.