Theater productions offer the audience a chance to experience an alternate reality, even if it is for just a few moments.
The actors may be the most visible in the production, but the show that’s put on display is impossible without a number of hidden people pulling the strings behind the scene.
According to Scott Anderson, lecturer of costume design in the theatre and dance department, the background work for a production begins weeks before the rehearsals.
“We start off with reading the script and getting the director’s concept on how the person sees the world,” Anderson said. “Once we finish with that, we begin the research process, which is to find historical backing of the information at hand.”
Anderson said that the whole process of putting on a production is about a discussion with people working on a project, with each individual bringing a unique perspective to the table.
Christian Catrett, a junior theater major from Troy, does scene works.
“I build platforms, props and work on deciding where they get into place,” Catrett said. “My work description may include making a platform look like it’s made of brick, although, it’s probably made of wood.”
Although the performers are the ultimate crux of the show, the people working behind the scenes are the ones creating the essential ambiance.
“It’s our job to make you think that you’ve gone back in time, and now you’re sitting there as if this was happening in real life,” said Jarod Lewis, a senior theater major from Carter, Kentucky.
Lewis works backstage designing costumes and props. For him this means making patterns from scratch and going through the process of alterations from beginning to end until the audience member sees it on stage.
“Each outfit can take anywhere from 40 to 80 hours to make,” Lewis said, “We have to think about their hairstyle, the makeup and the type of jewelry they are wearing, their shoes. And we try to match it up with their social status. There are colors that we need to mix and match and think about.”
Chanda Hawthorne, a senior theater major and costume designer from Jay, Florida, said her job is to transfer the script onto fabric.
“When I’m designing a show, I will spend well over 200 hours speaking with the director, designers and actors selecting fabrics and costumes, observing technical rehearsals, creating and maintaining budget sheets and advising dressers during the show,” Hawthorne said.
Hawthorne’s responsibilities include working with people to decide the overall aesthetic of a show.
“I draw what I imagine the costumes would look like using my ideas and a ton of research,” Hawthorne said. “And through the costumes the actors are able to truly become their characters emotionally and physically.”
Whether their job is done immediately when the actors get on stage or lasts well after the performance has finished, a theater production would be incomplete without these hands helping them behind the curtain.