'Leading Ladies' set design takes audience back to 1950s
Imagine a room filled with deep mahogany furniture. An old rocking chair sits off to the side, an antique grandfather clock tucked away in the corner. The floor is smooth, white marble, and vintage candle chandeliers hang from the ceilings. In the center of it all is an ornate, wood-paneled grand staircase that commands the room's full attention.
Imagine -- then see this room for yourself at The Barn Theatre's newest production, "Leading Ladies." The play, directed by Tom Orth, opens Wednesday and runs Aug. 4-7 and Aug. 10-13. All shows are at 7:30 p.m.
"Leading Ladies," written by playwright Ken Ludwig, centers on two out-of-work Shakespearean actors who devise a plan to make some quick cash by impersonating long-lost relatives of a dying woman with a large inheritance. When the two actors find out the woman's relatives are actually females, they decide to go drag and continue with their original plan. All goes well until the actors fall in love with two women they meet along the way.
The comedy takes place in a small Pennsylvania town during the 1950s. To make the stage look as authentic for the time period as possible, technical director Quincy Roers put in more than 150 hours of work on the design and construction of the set.
"The director wanted the feel of an old mansion with nice heavy woodwork," Roers said. "He needed somebody who could handle something big."
When designing such a big set, Roers knew he would need to take some shortcuts. The staircase and lower walls, where the actors need to stand and walk, are anchored with additional wood paneling. The rest of the set's walls stand without supporting anchors.
"(The set) doesn't all have to be structurally sound," Roers said. "Like the top wall ---it wobbles, because there's no bracing there."
That's common with set designs, where the most important job is to master the look and feeling of a place, not to make it functional, Roers said. He has acted in several community performances in his hometown of Alexandria, so he knows what actors need from a set.
"(Being an actor) helps, because a carpenter would come in and just build everything to code," he said. "The rule of thumb in theater is, if it looks good from 30 feet away, don't mess with it."
Even from a few feet away, the actors on stage don't notice Roers' shortcuts. They agree the set will help make the performance enjoyable for everyone who sees the show.
"We break down barriers between the performers and the audience and really bring the show out to them," said Terry Brunson, who's performing in his second show at The Barn Theatre. "There's not a bad seat in the house."
Ben Mooberry of New London has been performing in plays since high school. He said this stage is one of his favorite set designs.
"We have a fantastic set this year," Mooberry said. "It's a fun playground."
Brunson, who works at Wells Fargo in Willmar, credits director Tom Orth for bringing the setting of the play to life on stage.
"Tom's artistic vision takes us to places we're excited to go to," he said. "The fact that we're having fun on stage will translate to the audience."
"Leading Ladies" opens Wednesday and runs Aug. 4-7 and Aug. 10-13. All shows are at 7:30 p.m.
For ticket information, contact The Barn box office at 320-235-9500 or visit the box office at 321 Fourth St. S.W. in downtown Willmar.
Ticket prices are $15 for adults and $8 for those 18 and under.
The cast members for "Leading Ladies" are: Chelsea Brown as Meg; Ben Mooberry as Leo; Dave Holmquist as Jack; Casey Argabright as Audrey; Larry Konsterlie as Duncan; Bev Raske as Florence; Terry Brunson as Doc; and Josh Johnson as Butch.
The play is directed by Tom Orth. Technical director is Quincy Roers, with lights and sound by Jessica Mooberry. Jordan Dettman, Mike Dockman and Phil Hahn contributed to the set crew, and Judy Wangsness acted as seamstress.