Since its inception, Peninsula Players and its company members have believed in passing their knowledge of stagecraft to the next generation of artists. Founders Richard and Caroline Fisher were dreamers, barely out of their teens, when they founded the theater in 1935.
Their parents supported their adventures and explorations in creativity. C.R. Fisher was a civil engineer and Lydia, their mother, a graduate of the Pratt Institute School of Design. Richard cast, directed and wrote plays, C.R. designed the first stage house, Lydia designed and stitched the costumes, and Caroline and her sister Margo performed in the plays.
Among the first company members were young arts enthusiasts, like themselves, as well as seasoned professionals, who were willing to teach, share and pass along their passion for the arts.
The tradition of passing along the craft of theater continues through our internship program. In a previous article, readers met those participating in this year’s program who worked alongside our professional actors, directors, designers and administrative staff. I am excited to see where their passion will take them as they work to make their dreams of being a stage manager, designer, performer, director, writer or puppeteer a reality.
In 2013, The Washington Post reported the top 10 skills participants in the arts learn. The aforementioned careers, as well as those outside of the arts, include these 10 skills: problem-solving, perseverance, confidence, non-verbal communication, focus, dedication, collaboration, willingness to receive constructive feedback as well as the ability to accept and be accountable for ones actions.
In an ever-changing world these skills and creativity are prized.
Peninsula Players’ senior company members are thrilled to help develop the skills of our aspiring artists as well as host workshops in the community at other venues, participate in post-show discussions, pre-show seminars and conduct backstage tours. These opportunities reflect our mission of fostering the future generations of theater professionals.
Last week, the production team and staff hosted a backstage tour to students and educators from T.J. Walker Middle School’s Allied Arts program. The students will produce “Shrek, The Musical Jr.” and they are preparing for auditions and interviews for available backstage crew positions. The students were here to see and learn how a professional backstage crew functions.
As these students rehearse and collaborate, they will begin to learn the aforementioned life skills. Through dance and theater, they will learn the mechanics of body language. The students will experience different ways of moving and how these movements communicate different emotions. They will be coached in performance skills to ensure that they are portraying their character effectively to the audience.
As the students listen to directions, they will develop skills which help one to focus. The participants will not only think about their role on or off stage, but how their role contributes to the greater whole of what is being created.
Fifty-plus students toured the dressing rooms, scene shop, properties shop, electrics shop and backstage area. Along the tour, students met several company members, each of whom demonstrated various backstage tasks … tasks the students may find themselves doing in a few weeks. The precise coordination of this backstage team makes the play “Almost, Maine” flow seamlessly before an audience each performance.
Costume designer Kyle R. Pingel showed the students how each costume is meticulously organized by actor/character in the dressing room. He also demonstrated how to accomplish costume changes in a few seconds. He explained how a designer works with each actor and the director so that the costumes work within the plays’ time, place, as well as matches the personality or social position of the character who wears them.
Lighting designer Michael R. Trudeau demonstrated various lighting instruments and how he crafted the effects of northern lights. Master carpenter Jackson Boever explained his role in crafting the scenery and how often he uses math to determine the number of supplies needed as well as carpentry and welding skills to build various scenery.
Props assistant and production intern Marie Welter explained how and why the props are methodically tagged and placed backstage each night. She also shared how she crafts a stage snowball that won’t melt.
Production intern Derek Forrett shared what the various responsibilities of an assistant stage manager are while production assistant Dean Gnadinger demonstrated the role of a rigger and stagehand. Carpenter Keira Jacobs aids is shifting scenery each night while Dean uses the fly system and slip stage to move scenery in and out on cue.
Derek, Dean and the rest of the backstage crew work as a team under the leadership of Actors’ Equity Association Stage Manager Alden Vasquez, who offers them feedback when a cue is off or spot on. The contribution of each and every individual adds to the success of the entire performance.
Peninsula Players company members wish all Door County students a successful creative and academic year! Whether you draw, paint, play an instrument, dance, perform on stage or help make backstage magic happen – may your participation in the arts always be encouraged.
There are still a few performances left to catch the charming, romantic fairy tale crafted by John Cariani, featuring amazing stagehands and performers Erica Elam, Joe Foust, Matt Holzfeind and Karen Janes Woditsch. “Almost, Maine,” performs Tuesday through Sunday at 7 p.m., except for our closing performance Sunday, October 15 at 3 p.m. For information or tickets please call the Box Office at (920) 868-3287 or visit www.peninsulaplayers.com. The Box Office is closed Mondays. I’ll see you by the bay, where the sun sets, the curtain rises, the stars shine and the northern lights dance overhead!