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Behind The Curtain: “Bus Stop” brings together a diverse cast and crew

Cast and crew of UCC’s production of “Bus Stop” enjoy a moment of relaxtion before returning to rehersal.
Frederick Brenchley / Mainstream
Cast and crew of UCC’s production of “Bus Stop” enjoy a moment of relaxtion before returning to rehersal.

Enjoying a night at the theater can be an opportunity to escape the routines of a day. Live theater can blur the lines of reality so well that the audience may sometimes forget that the entertainment delivered is a labor of many individuals who each bring their own unique skill set to the final product.

“Bus Stop” debuts this weekend in the Centerstage Theatre in the Whipple Fine Arts building. The play a dramatic comedy written by William Inge tells the story of a group of travelers forced to seek shelter from a snowstorm in a diner 25 miles outside of  Kansas City in the 1950s.

To bring a play to stage most directors have the benefit of a full staff consisting of: stage managers, production assistants, actors, set designers, costume designers, make-up artists, marketing departments, administrators, food service workers and technical crews that have skills in various construction trades, sound, lighting, and special effects.

To accomplish all these tasks for “Bus Stop”, Director of  Theatre Studies Stephanie Newman had to bring together a cast and crew of  only 15, comprised of  theater veterans, community members, volunteers and first year students.

Guiding The Production:
Director, Stage Manager, Assistant Stage Manager, Production Assistant

Newman herself had to play the part of educator, mentor, director, set designer, set constructor and painter. Her husband Travis Newman assisted her in the construction, painting and special effects department.

“I volunteered him,” Newman said.

According to Newman, to bring a play to the stage, one of the most important roles behind the scenes is a stage manager. Newman found her stage manager in Jonathan Pardon. Pardon, a student majoring in theater studies, had previous experience as an actor. This experience allowed him to fill the stage manager role for the first time.

A stage manager notes the director’s decisions on how the actors will move from one part of the stage to another (known as “blocking”) and will note when different lighting, sound and special effects (known as “cues”) will occur throughout the play. During the live production the stage manager calls these cues out via a headset to the lighting and technical director.  A stage manager  essentially organizes the entire production.

“One skill this experience has taught me is how to be better organized and prepared in all aspects of my life,” Pardon said.

“I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.”

—Oscar Wilde

Emily Gier will help Pardon in additional behind the scenes tasks as assistant stage manager. Gier’s jobs may include hair and make-up assistance, prop and costume acquisitions, and important clerical and marketing duties.

For “Bus Stop,” Newman chose Dixie Ballweber as of production assistant. Production assistants are often the hardest working members of the crew in that they are chief liaisons. Production assistants do any work not filled by other staff members: running errands, acquiring  necessary equipment, and being involved from the very first meeting and rehearsal to the end of the production. Production assistants gain valuable “jack of all trades” training and often move into stage management roles, according to Newman,.

The Cast: Not the usual suspects

A stereotypical misconception is that actors or actresses just memorize lines and perform. However “Bus Stop” cast members have to also assume the position of marketing agents by displaying advertisements throughout the community.

Theatre arts student Amanda McNulty sees herself pursuing a career on stage spending days handing out head shots and going on auditions. Her love of character drives her passion.

“I love exploring the way a character may be completely different from myself, it gives me great insight into why people are who they are,” McNulty said.

In “Bus Stop” McNulty plays the role of aspiring nightclub singer Cherie.

Computer Science major Levi Wagoner who plays the role of the local sheriff in “Bus Stop” involves himself in the theater for a different reason. Wagoner, a veteran of many UACT productions, was motivated to audition for “Bus Stop”  to get the opportunity to work with Newman. Wagoner sees himself using theater as his favorite hobby.

“Wherever I am at in my future, I see myself involved in theater in some way,” Wagoner said.

Carl Jones, who plays the role of Virgil Blessing, a mature and wise ranch hand in “Bus Stop,” became interested in theatre for yet another reason.

“Many years ago when I was in college, I was very shy. I enrolled in an acting class which forced me to get up in front of people,” Jones said.

Jones’ affection for the theater has continued, and after enrolling in Newman’s acting class he decided to audition for “Bus Stop.”

Filling in the Gaps: Help Wanted

UCC’s theater department offers a unique way for all students to benefit from involving themselves in a theatrical production. The department, like many campus departments, offers work study opportunities. In addition to work study, students can also volunteer applying the skills they may have in marketing, design, art, music or the construction trades to gain an interesting notation on a future resume.    

There are ample employment opportunities in theater, apart from acting, directing and producing. The UCC theater department offers a variety of ways to participate in productions.
Source: Federal Bureau of Labor 2013
There are ample employment opportunities in theater, apart from acting, directing and producing. The UCC theater department offers a variety of ways to participate in productions.

“There is a great opportunity for students here at UCC to apply the skills they are learning now in almost any department to gain real world experience that could assist them in their future employment endeavors,”  Newman said.

This winter UCC will produce Shakespeare’s classic tale of doomed lovers in “Romeo and Juliet.” This spring UCC will bring “Brownstone,” a contemporary play by Catherine Butterfield to the stage.

Students interested in participating in these future productions through work study or as a volunteer should contact Director of Theater Studies Stephanie Newman at 541-440-4694 or Stephaine.Newman@umpqua.edu.