Bunnies are Falling–check out the next event at Theatre Simpson

Lindsey Oetken, a junior, is the costume and hair/make-up designer. Here she works out the details of the makeup on first-year student Ethan Newman.

Tiffany Flory, one of the directors for the upcoming Festival of Short Plays has been contributing to the blog this semester.  Tiffany is completing her studies here at Simpson and then, in the fall, she will travel to Idaho to begin her M.F.A. in acting at the University of Idaho.  This is Tiffany’s final entry for the blog:

Festival of Short Plays 2011: The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is finally here! This weekend the work of the Theatre Seminar class and the rest of the Theatre Simpson Company will be presented as an evening of theatre with two one-acts, Fall From Grace and Bunnies.  The nation’s national cultural center, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, has been supporting the efforts of theater and the arts in colleges even before the Kennedy Center’s doors opened in 1971.  The American College Theatre Festival (ACTF) gives college students the opportunity to present, show, and compete with their crafts and talents. One of the competitions offered at ACTF is playwriting, and this year at Theatre Simpson we have taken two national, award-winning one-act plays from ACTF to showcase.  The seniors read many plays and chose Fall From Grace and Bunnies to produce for this year’s Festival. Everything is student-run—the directors, performers, stage managers, and designers are all students!

Cassandra Ring, a junior theatre major, is the scenic designer for Festival of Short Plays 2011.

Fall From Grace by Jason Martin is a highly theatrical and suspenseful play about Brian, who has been involved in a severe accident when he and his best friend, Chris, are caught in an avalanche on the side of Mount Grace. Brian has to attempt to free himself while the spirits of the mountain visits him.  Bunnies by Michael O’Brien is about how Hugh Hefner may have gotten the idea for Playboy.  Set in the 1950s, it’s full of wit and sexual humor.

Theatre Simpson company members working out the details of the scene change.

It will be an exciting evening full of suspense and laughter. So come to the Festival of Short Plays! Performances are April 15 and 16 at 7:30 PM and April 17 at 1:00 PM.  Tickets are available on line at http://simpson.tix.com


Symposium presentation tonight!

The Kennedy Center.

Tonight at the Theatre Simpson Symposium, senior theatre majors will present their research papers from the Theatre Seminar class.  Each seminar class is developed around a theme.  Last year the focus was on Vaclav Havel and political theatre.  This year the theme is The John F. Kennedy Center: Fifty Years at the Nation’s Performing Arts Center.  Throughout all of 2011 the Kennedy Center is honoring the 50th anniversary of the innaguration of President John F. Kennedy.  This semester the three seniors, Emily Ledger, Kelsey Swanson, and Tiffany Flory, have been reading and discussing the Kennedy Center for the Performing Art’s history and it’s impact on American society. 

Tiffany Flory, a senior who has been contributing to the blog this semester, has to say about the Kennedy Center:

“A National Cultural Center of the Performing Arts was first mentioned during the Eisenhower administration. However, John F. Kennedy was the one who really started organizing the creation of this center.  Kennedy and Eisenhower both found it sad that the most powerful nation in the world did not even have a national theatre to enrich the American culture.  Kennedy was assassinated before the project was completed, but it was determined that the National Cultural Center would still become a reality and would be named after the man who was a true advocate for the arts and culture of America. That is how the National Cultural Center became known as the Kennedy Center, the ‘living memorial’ of John F. Kennedy.

To hear more about what we have been studying join us tonight at the Theatre Symposium.  Each of us will present a topic related to the Kennedy Center, digging deeper into the significance of John F. Kennedy and his memorial. The symposium is at 7:00 p.m. March 30 in the Barnum Studio Theatre of the Blank Performing Arts Center.  The event is free and open to the public.”

The bust of John F. Kennedy in the lobby of the Kennedy Center.

Turn on the lights: guest lighting designer at Theatre Simpson

The stones look on as the father takes Eurydice into the string room he has built.

To increase the educational opportunities for our students, Theatre Simpson brings guest artists in to work on our productions and share their expertise with the company and our patrons.  Recent guest artists have served as fight director, musical direction, set designer, Shakespearean vocal coach, and lighting designer. 

Tiffany Flory was able to work with Jason Amato, the guest lighting designer for our production Eurydice that closes today.  Here is what Tiffany had to say about working with Jason:

Cool shadows, interesting texture, amazing color, and shooting ELECTRICITY!  The design by Jason Amato for Eurydice is something I’ve never seen in my four years here at Theatre Simpson.  While I was watching him put together his light cues, I was surprised at his process and how fast he did it. 

Orpheus enters the Underworld

I asked him how he came up with his design and he said he analyzes the script almost like a director. “I look at the intention and the motivation of the script and then I take that and put it into the lights.”  When I took an introductory lighting design class I learned the basics about lighting the actors and setting the mood.  Jason makes it look very simple to yet it looks really cool.  While talking with him after a show he told me a fun story about how when he has an assistant he will ask them after a particular moment, dance number, or song what the assistant thinks about it.  Usually their answer is “It looked awesome!” He then challenges that response by asking: what did it mean? If they didn’t know, Jason would share with them his favorite motto, “If you don’t know what it means, then you can’t light it.”

From working on the beginning of this process and now seeing the final product, I understand what he means in his motto. His design is full of emotion and every light has a specific purpose to enhance the intention of that moment. Overall this was a great experience and this has been a wonderful learning experience.

Lighting designer Jason Amato.

Theatre Simpson Welcomes Another Guest Artist

This blog entry submitted by senior theatre major Tiffany Flory:

Jason Amato, guest lighting designer for Eurydice

Last semester we were lucky enough to have Amber Miller come in as a guest set designer for the production of The Learned Ladies. This semester Theatre Simpson is fortunate to have a guest lighting designer for our spring production of Eurydice. The week before spring break, Jason Amato spent the week with the lighting crew putting the finishing touches onto his design.

Before Jason came to Indianola, there was a lot of work that had to be done so that we would be ready to work on what he needed us to do. Caleb Carver was the assistant to the lighting designer, which meant that he stayed in direct contact with Jason to maintain communication between Jason and the crew.  At Simpson the light crew consists of four people. I am the lighting undergraduate assistant (UGA) as well as the master electrician for Eurydice, also Kelsey Swanson, Meghan Vosberg, and Chris Schaben work on the lighting crew.  The four of us, plus Caleb, hung and circuited the light plot that Jason sent before he came.

Caleb Carver, assistant lighting designer, focusing a light from the cats.

Working with Jason was a great experience.  Jason has won many awards for his light designs as well as worked at many professional theatres (mostly around Texas where he is from).  The first day he came, we all got to catch a nice dinner at the local Mexican restaurant, La Casa, and talked about his life, lighting experience, and how La Casa’s salsa was like tomato paste compared to the salsa that he is used to in Texas.  After chatting at lunch, it was time to really work hard at focusing all of the lights and gelling (meaning to add color) to create the mood for his design.  Because Jason is used to working with professional electricians, he taught us a lot about fast tricks to focus, organizational skills, and kept us all on our toes to be fast and efficient.  Having Jason come in and working with him was an exceptional experience and not only was it apparent how talented he was, but he was extremely easy to work with and a lot of fun.

Meghan Vosberg working on one of the foot lights.

Construction at Theatre Simpson: this time in prepartion for Eurydice

The opening meeting...the day is about to begin

“Heads up. . . book coming in!”  “Bring it over this way!”  “Welding!!” 

It is another Saturday work call here at Theatre Simpson and the building is bustling with activity.  Students, faculty, and staff arrived before 9:00 a.m. to begin working on the production of Eurydice that opens March 25.  I am sure that Theatre Simpson alumni have fond memories of the Saturdays they spent working in the theatre!  Forty people are hanging out (well working) in BPAC today, much in the same way they have for a number of years. 

Today is like other work calls with people up in every corner of the building. Walking into the costume shop it looks a bit like a sweat shop–though the workers are smiling and lively show tunes are playing.  There are five people lined up at the machines and more working at the cutting table cranking out pants, vests, a long trench coat and other various costume pieces.

Sewing machines buzzing in the costume shop.

Upstairs there are multiple projects going onstage.  Sparks are flying as the frames for the three back walls are being welded and sanded.   A large raked platform is being completed with another group of students “weathering” the wood.  Perhaps one of the most interesting set projects going on is the painting of the floor tiles for the stage.  While the scumbling technique is working well, what makes it particularly interesting is the work location.  Because the stage is so full of other projects the painters have been moved out into the lobby.  We are taking advantage of the fact that the green carpet in the lobby will only be around about a week more, so if a little paint drips off the drop cloth it is no big deal.

Painting in the lobby.


We are even testing some of the tricks for the show–but I can’t share anything about those–you’ll just have to come see what happens in the production.

Props designer Heather Powers checking on the location of something in the cats.

Theatre students excited about the BPAC addition. . .even the renovated bathrooms

Senior theatre major Tiffany Flory has been checking out some of the changes to BPAC.  Here is what she has been finding:

The renovations of the Blank Performing Arts building are slowly starting to take form.  As I’ve been wandering around the theatre, I’ve been getting excited for the parts that have been showing up.  First the seats gradually came in, followed by the carpeting, and Pote Theatre was transformed.  And one day I decided to pop into the bathroom in the upstairs lobby and it was like it had a complete face-lift. It was a beautiful experience.  However, I’m not the only Theatre Simpson student who is eager for the new building so I asked a few other students what they thought.

The fresh new sink area in the renovated women's restroom

Third year student, Heather Powers is “thrilled and think[s] it will be the coolest building on campus when it’s finished.”  Second year student, Caleb Carver believes that “this is a big step in the community and for Simpson College in supporting the performing arts and speaks for the growth of the department.”  And first year, Ethan Newman is just “excited to see it all come together.”

The overall consensus that the students had about the work going on at the theater is that the construction can get in the way sometimes with the noises of drills and other machinery, and space is somewhat limited, but it’s all a small price to pay for what the new spaces will bring to the community, the students, and to Simpson College.

–Tiffany Flory

Meghan Vosberg is amazed by the transformation of the bathroom.

Theatre Seminar…the Senior Experience

Senior theatre major Tiffany Flory will be contributing to the Theatre Simpson blog this semester.  She is a major from Des Moines.  During her Theatre Simpson career she has appeared on stage in many productions, including Antigone: Speaking Truth, Henry 5, and The Learned Ladies.  Last spring she was the lighting designer for Spring Awakening and this year she was hired as the Undergraduate Assistant in Lighting.  Now she is designing the lights for the music department’s production of Albert Herring and also directing one of the projects for Festival of Short Plays 2011.  Tiffany’s first blog entry is about Theatre Seminar and the Festival of Short Plays. 

Kelsey Swanson, Tom Woldt, and Emily Ledger in discussion about John F. Kennedy

Theatre Seminar happens in the spring semester for senior theatre majors.  This year there are three of us in the course: Emily Ledger, Kelsey Swanson, and me.  The class is taught by Tom Woldt.  Each year the seminar class has a different theme. Some of the past themes have included “Theatre of the Absurd,” “American Theatre Between the World Wars,” and “Disturbing the Peace.” This year the seminar will be focusing on “The John F. Kennedy Center: Fifty Years at the ‘Nation’s Performing Arts Center.’”

In this discussion-based class we are studying the importance of John F. Kennedy’s actions in supporting the performing arts and what the Kennedy Center is continuing to do to inspire arts in America.  We will complete two reports on a wide range of topics from the history of the Kennedy Center to current people still involved. One report is shorter so that more topics can be discussed, and the final report will be a substantial research paper that we will present at the Theatre Symposium at the end of March.

The three seniors, Emily Ledger, Tiffany Flory, and Kelsey Swanson enjoying their discussion in Theatre Seminar.

The last element of the seminar is a full production project. We have chosen one-acts and have divided the production assignments.  This year there are two one-acts, Bunnies and Fall From Grace. Emily and I will each direct one show, Kelsey is the lighting designer, and Tom is the advisor for the project.  The entire production is student run with student directors, designers, and of course actors! Theatre Seminar is an intense investigation and application of the performing arts, but it’s also full of opportunities and fun.

The three team members--Emily, Tiffany, and Kelsey--ready to tackle Festival of Short Plays 2011