As summer rolls on, the actors, dancers, singers, and all around theatrically talented people of Vermillion are preparing to showcase their hard work in the various activities offered throughout the season; namely, the South Dakota Shakespeare Festival’s Macbeth, and the Vermillion Community Theatre production of Mary Poppins.
Jill Clark, a student at The University of South Dakota, is charged with creating the set for Macbeth, set to open Thursday, June 11 in Prentis Park.
In creating the set, there are certain issues to be faced as the designer is confronted by the wall that will serve as the amphitheater for the show. Like the outer wall of a fort, the stone structure has presented, "a fun challenge" to Clark.
"It’s been a fun challenge letting the wall inspire the design versus changing the wall because we can’t alter it," she said.
Having no ability to change the wall, Clark has had to be creative at, "being able to find ways to enhance it…"
The South Dakota Shakespeare Festival (SDSF) has been granted access to building materials and space to build by The University of South Dakota theatre department. A simple trade system allows both entities equal benefit, as used sets by SDSF are gifted to USD’s theatre department, and scraps from USD productions are then up for use by SDSF.
"It’s been nice working in tandem with the school because they’ll let us use their stuff, then at the end of the year they get all of the stuff that we build," Clark said.
With much overlap within the company and the university, this arrangement makes for more diverse and affordable sets which enhance the show in all aspects.
Brian Adams, Vermillion resident and long-time participant in the Vermillion Community Theatre, has recently begun the set for Mary Poppins.
Working out of the Vermillion High School Performing Arts Center Adams has the arduous task of bringing London to life in South Dakota.
"It’s difficult trying to fit so many locations on a stage with such limited wing space, so I’ve had to be very efficient in my design in that respect," said Adams.
For shows that come from iconic stories, like Mary Poppins, crowds may be expecting some resemblance in terms of costume and set, but as theatre has always been, designers have the freedom to stretch their creative legs and make something purely imaginative.
In the case of Adams’ work on Mary Poppins, he said, "I purposely try not to be influenced by other designs. For some shows, they’re so iconic that you can’t get away from it, but this is a relatively new show, as far a stage musical goes, so I didn’t base my design off of any previous designs."
Of course, for both the South Dakota Shakespeare Festival and for Vermillion Community Theatre, sets require people, in addition to designers, to make them happen.
The stress of assembling, painting, and transporting cannot possibly be done by one person.
"It’s been really hectic because we don’t have a lot of people working on it, but it’s coming along really well," Clark said.
Thankfully, actors and other crew on the production always step in to help.
Adams has an assistant, JoeBob Geis, and a few others from the production, but when asked how much help he has, Adams replied, "never enough!"
Luckily, the VCT has some time left before their show opens in late August.