Amish Acres

Amish Acres® Historic Farm and Heritage Resort is Listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It is America's most complete Amish heritage experience featuring historic interpretation, culinary and performing arts, lodging, and shopping.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Ready, Sets, Go!

Here I am in mid-February looking out over seven inches of snow. It seems early to begin the fun but exhausting task of designing the sets for the Round Barn Theatre’s coming season. This will be the 17th season that I have designed the sets for a total of over 150 musicals, dramas and comedies. Some shows call for simple unit sets, as we call those single location sets like last year’s The Mousetrap to what we call traveling sets that come and go from one place to another.

After reading each script, discussing them in depth with Artistic Director Amber Burgess, and researching, seemingly forever, reviews of other productions, set designs, a kernel of an idea eventually begins to form. Does the show, in my mind, call for a realistic set, stylized set or an abstraction of the show’s message and focus? We have done them all. To make that decision I try to put each show into historical perspective with its surroundings and rely on my own experiences whenever possible.

This year’s shows often cover specific years from the past decades beginning with the 1930’s Depression when Annie wins over Daddy Warbucks. It features a cameo of FDR (my grandfather and father started Pletcher Furniture Village a month before FDR closed the banks) and mentions Indiana’s own Ford Frick, former commissioner of baseball, who grew up east of Nappanee on US 6 in Wawaka. Lend Me a Tenor is a farce about an opera fiasco in 1934 in Cleveland, Ohio of all places. Plain and Fancy is firmly imbedded in 1955, the year Nappanee beat Elkhart in basketball twice in the year Elkhart opened the nation’s largest high school gym. Happy Days is set in 1959, the year I graduated from high school (We’ve already covered my junior year with Grease and The Marvelous Wonderettes), Susie and I were married in 1964, the year Barry Manilow wrote his first score for a Broadway show. We followed the Rat Pack from the Ed Sullivan Show (remember Forever Plaid) to LasVegas. ABBA hit the pop music scene in 1974, the year President Nixon resigned during Friday night of the Arts & Crafts Festival, bringing it to a halt as the remaining crowd crowded around the black and white TV we had at the gazebo.

So, armed with a Rat Pack… script, synopsis, reviews, videos, photos, Pinterest, YouTube and my memories, I am about to draw my first lines in AutoCAD, making sure to stay within the sight lines of the theatre. The elementary goals are that the set elements must fit through the theatre’s doors, have a place to “live” backstage, be easy to handle and advance the plot. The finished design will be converted into working drawings and handed off to Elliott Correll and his crew to construct. We will use as many of our former show’s resources as possible. Long before the show is opened, the designs for the next production are underway. The pace never stops until the Holiday show is open and put to bed. So this is an inspiring time that lets me know this snow is not for long and patrons on opening night of The Rat Pack Lounge will be met at the door with welcoming spring flowers.