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
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
In just under 24 hours the house will be full, the lights will
dim and the show will open, culminating eight months of
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
With the cast set, the process of creating the world of “Side
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
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
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
“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
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
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
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
Stephanie Tschetter, who plays Terry, makes the character’s
transition seem natural. It’s not Tschetter on the stage it’s
“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
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
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
“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
“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
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
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?