Apr 212004
 
Authors: Josh Huseby

In a small room in Johnson Hall, five men have gathered and sit

before mirrors outlined by bright lights, to apply makeup. They

sit, meditatively, turning their heads from side to side looking

for the natural lines in their faces.

One man pulls his finger to his eye and traces the bags that he

will soon drawn in. Another pulls a compact from the makeup kit

that lays open on the worn countertop in front of him, dabs a

pie-shaped sponge in the flesh-toned substance, tilts his head

toward the ceiling and begins applying makeup to his throat and

chin. With every dab of the sponge, stroke of the brush or mark of

the pencil, each man begins to transform into someone else.

First comes base, to lighten and flatten the face.

Then comes highlights and shadows, to make the face look

3-D.

And then comes four, aged, Jazz musicians who spent their lives

drinking, smoking and chasing women and playing gigs-a dream that

died with the birth of rock ‘n’ roll.

In a room down the hall, two actresses each sit before a mirror

and work through the same process.

They have to convert from average college students into an

alcoholic disappointed by unfulfilled hopes and a waitress who’s

sex-confident and not afraid to show it.

In full costume and makeup the seven actors involved in the

theatre department’s production of “Side Man,” which opened last

Thursday and runs through this weekend, are ready for their last

dress rehearsal.

In just under 24 hours the house will be full, the lights will

dim and the show will open, culminating eight months of

preparation.

The actors will deliver their lines, moving across the stage

from scene to scene.

The audience will consume the final product, applaud the actors

and remain largely unaware of the process that brings a play from

the page, to the stage.

According to the show’s director, CSU theatre professor, Laura

Jones, the CSU theatre season is set a full year in advance so she

has known for 15 months that she would be undertaking the

production of “Side Man.”

But it wasn’t until auditions that the process really began.

Jones held auditions in February with the help of the Stage

Manager Elizabeth Droge, a junior in biology and theatre, and the

Assistant Stage Manager Cam Markey.

The seven actors chosen to fill the roles lounge in the tattered

furniture that is cramped in the corner of the room, known as the

Green Room, that connects the lobby to the department’s

workshops.

With the cast set, the process of creating the world of “Side

Man” begins.

Scene Designer Rob Schindler starts by talking to the director

to figure out what message she wants to convey.

“We start with small technical sketches,” Schindler said. “We

eventually iron out the kinks and turn the sketches into finished

renderings.”

Schindler who received a bachelor’s degree in theater from

Montana State and a master’s degree from the University of Indiana

in scene design said the next step is to create drawings of every

stage element.

Those drawings are then passed on to Technical Director Jimmie

Robinson who turns them into scale-working drawings. From those

scale drawings each element is constructed and sent to paint.

“Ideally we have color on everything before tech rehearsals,”

said Schindler, whose pants look like a Jackson Pollack painting.

From start to finish Schindler said a minimum of two months is

required to create the set for a show on the Mainstage.

Unlike traditional plays, the scenes in “Side Man” don’t always

have a beginning middle and end. Scene changes in “Side Man” have a

cinematic feel.

“You can walk from the 1950s to the 1980s and back to the 1970s

in 10 minutes,” Schindler said. “Creating a set to do that was

quite a challenge.”

The 15 different locations on one set provide separate

challenges to the actors who are forced to navigate the space and

to the director who is responsible for moving the actors from one

spot to the next. This can prove challenging when one step in the

wrong direction will take the character from The Melody Lounge to a

hospital.

To give the actors stability, Jones said she makes sure each

actor thinks about, “the moment before.”

“We talk a lot about the moment before,” she said. “Where were

you the moment before? You gotta put yourself in the character’s

world.”

A world full of booze, drugs and jazz, it’s the world of the

side man, a musician who played in the bands of the 1930s and 1940s

behind stars like Dizzy Gillespie and Benni Goodman.

This world is represented by the blown-up, victrola jazz

records, a portion of the Paramount Theater’s marquee and a Dizzy

Gillespie concert poster written in French that serve as the play’s

backdrop.

It is a world that turns Terry from a Shirley Temple drinking

innocent girl, who confuses Jonesy’s drug addiction with eating bad

tuna, into a woman who can put away a handle of whiskey in two

days.

Stephanie Tschetter, who plays Terry, makes the character’s

transition seem natural. It’s not Tschetter on the stage it’s

undeniably Terry.

“I like to believe you get so into it, you let it take you,”

said Tschetter, who also warns not to let it take you too far.

“There’s a point were you have to draw the line. There’s a

separation between the stage and life.”

To get into the world of his character, Jesse Luken, who plays

one of the sidemen, Al, spoke with a Brooklyn accent while he

waited tables at Red Robin.

“I have to create a fa�ade of lies,” Luken said. “I make

up street names and stories. I tell people I’m from the Bronx.”

Luken can emulate his character by pretending to be from the

Bronx, but one thing he cannot pretend to be is bald, and his

character Al is bald. To remedy this Luken had to have his hair

shaved down the center of his head.

“The costume designer went with me,” Luken said. “She was

telling the guy what to do. My hair dropped with a tear and it was

all over.”

The props that decorate the stage and create the locations are

not the only images that need to be created to bring the audience

into the world of Gene, Clifford and Terry. The characters need

costumes.

Annie O. Cleveland, the show’s costume designer has been

involved with costume and makeup for 14 years, after she got bored

with acting, a feeling she has yet to experience as a costume

designer.

“I really love the continual change,” Cleveland said. “Every

show is different.”

And because every show is different Cleveland will spend two to

three weeks designing the costumes for each show.

Like Schindler, Cleveland will begin the process with

renderings, based upon research of period clothing, of every

costume for each character. Once Cleveland has completed the design

she spends five weeks building the costumes. Costumes are more than

just the dresses and suits worn by the actors on stage.

Wigs for Terry and Al, a pregnant suit for Terry, fake blood for

Jonesy and make-up instructions to age the characters as the play

progresses.

“The challenge is to make college students look like middle-age

men,” Cleveland said.

Shadows are applied beneath an actor’s eyes to give them bags.

Dark lines are drawn from the corner of the nose and slide across

each cheek to add age. Deep red lines drawn beneath his eyes to

make them blood shot and suddenly Zach Brown is the haggard drug

addict, Jonesy.

Luken sits patiently in his chair as Spirit Gum, a theatrical

adhesive, is used to glue strands of hair across his recently

created bald spot. A toupee is secured to his head and he is the

self-conscious, womanizing trumpet player, Al.

 

Clifford, Gene, Al, Ziggy, Jonesy, Patsy and Terry file out of

the dressing rooms leaving their real life counterparts behind

ready to live entire lives in a matter of hours, in a world created

for the Johnson Hall Mainstage.

The giant 3-D collage that sets the framework for this

custom-made world sits idle, lifeless until the lights go down, the

audience settles and Clifford begins to live.

“It’s interactive sculpture,” Schindler said. “It’s a

collaborative art. We create something that not any one person can

create.”

 

Cast:

Nathan Young, as Clifford

Nic Roberts, as Gene

Von Gordon, as Patsy

Jesse Lucken, as Al

Jeremy Harmon, as Ziggy

Zach Brown, as Jonesy

Stephanie Tschetter as Terry

What about the trumpet man?

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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