Peninsula Players is in the second week of its fall season and audiences are enjoying the hilarious antics of the Little Sisters of Hoboken in Dan Goggin’s musical comedy “Nunsense.” The toe-tapping comedy has a little bit for everyone, from laughs and giggles to melodious harmonies, angelic high notes and energized tap dancing.
The box office is humming helping patrons, and the costume shop and scene shop are in clean-up mode. The staff is still dismantling and storing the scenery, props and costumes of our well received production of “Outside Mullingar.” The progress of the Players production team on these projects was slowed down a bit when they helped me host backstage tours.
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College offered a class on the backstage activities at the Players through its Learning in Retirement program. Participants met in front of the Box Office Wednesday morning and I gave them a walking tour of the various production areas. We stopped and chatted with area managers who explained what their area was responsible for.
The following day, with the help of fellow tour guides Managing Director Brian Kelsey and Development and Events Coordinator Danielle Szmanda, we hosted a tour for the 8th grade class of T.J. Walker Middle School in Sturgeon Bay. Several of our production interns were stationed around the theater and explained as well as demonstrated to students their jobs and roles backstage.
The backstage tour is a wonderful opportunity to catch a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes action at the Players. As we led adult students and middle schoolers through the costume shop, scene shop, dressing rooms, the electrics shop, backstage and onto the set many were fascinated to learn how the art and craft of theater happens.
While in the costume shop and dressing rooms Kyle Pingel, our costume shop manager and costume designer for “Nunsense,” shared how designs come to life in his shop. Kyle has managed the costume shop for several seasons assisting to make the vision of designers a reality. He has helped build dresses from vintage patterns for “Dial M for Murder” and “Always…Patsy Cline.” He has styled and built wigs for several plays as well as crafted prosthetic scars for a runaway slave in “Butler.”
All of the nuns’ wimples, habits as well as a majority of the costumes pieces for “Nunsense” were built on site by Kyle and his team. When asked how many sequins he used, he said he lost count. He also said he uses the term built rather than sewn because some items are crafted without needle and thread.
While in the scene shop our production interns Rachel Lake and Brontë DeShong demonstrated how 4-by-8-foot sheets of Masonite are painted to resemble the woodgrain floor of a gymnasium. Scenic artist Eileen Rozycki first painted a faux woodgrain finish on the full sheets. Then, using a straightedge guide, she painted lines to simulate individual boards. This way the set crew could install the floor by placing down sheets of flooring rather than individual planks. To maintain the shine during the musical’s six week run the stage crew is mopping the floor with Mop and Glo.
Rachel and Brontë also demonstrated how overhead wooden beams on a set can give the illusion of heft. In reality they are constructed on a base of solid foam. Sheets of Lauan are painted with a faux woodgrain finish then trimmed and attached to edges of the foam beam. This makes them lighter and easier to mount onto scenery or to suspend from the grid above the stage.
The team explained that each play is very distinct and has its own needs. The set, costumes, sound and lights all need to change. Each set has its own location on the stage, so for each and every play at the Players everything gets taken down before the new show can be “loaded-in.” This means in addition to the props, costumes and set being removed the black masking curtains also need to be moved as does every lighting instrument.
While on the tour master electrician Michael Trudeau explained that 150 to 250 or more lighting instruments are used per show and each of the instruments hold a special frame in front with a colored “gel.” All of these lights needs to be taken down, re-hung, re-gelled with a new color (which creates the illusion of sunlight or night sky) and focused onto the new set.
Production intern Matt Super showed students how the stage manager communicates to the running crew over a headset. We showed them how the props are set backstage the same way for every performance. The prop table is taped out in sections and each prop has its own designated marked square.
Each night a pre-show check list for props is completed as is a check list for costumes, sound and lights. Yes, there is a lot of paperwork. The crew sets the props out during pre-show and the actors are to check them prior to opening curtain. They are always to be in the same spot when not on stage, thus preventing something from being misplaced.
We had a blast showing the 8th grade class of T.J. Walker around the set of “Nunsense,” which is supposed to have been crafted by the 8th grade class of Mt. Saint Helens. In “Nunsense” the Little Sisters of Hoboken are hosting a musical variety show to raise funds and have hijacked the set of the 8th grade production of “Grease” to do so. Performances are Tuesday through Sundays at 7 p.m. through Oct. 17; except for two 4 p.m. matinees Sunday, Sept. 27 and Oct. 18. We hope to see you by the bay this fall. For more information or to buy tickets to our toe-tapping musical, visit www.peninsulaplayers.com or call (920) 868-3287.