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Volume 72, Issue 124, Friday, April 6, 2007

Life & Arts

Curtain is pulled on mechanics of School of Theatre 

Stagehands provide behind-the-scenes antics making the audience's experience memorable 

by ROSHAN BHATT 
The Daily Cougar 

The main attractions of theater performances are almost always the actors and actresses. The technical aspect of a standard theater performance shouldn't be overlooked, though -- stagehands spend at least hundreds of hours on any given production to ensure the artistic vision is realized.

UH School of Theatre and Dance production manager and sound designer Jonathan Middents said he believes the behind-the-scenes work should stay behind the scenes.

"It should be unnoticed," Middents said. "As long as it advances what the performers are creating with the audience, the technical aspect is doing its job, because the spectacle of theater is the service of the script and the performers."

The objective of the theater stagehands is to establish a realistic and natural setting in all areas, including audio, visual and props setup. For the latest School of Theatre production, Arthur Miller's classic Death of a Salesman, students have put in countless hours toward the building of the stage set-up.

Technical director Anthony Contello has put in nearly 250 hours of work, of which 80 hours were devoted to the construction of the set.

"You can only imagine all the hard work and the number of people it takes to build it all," Contello said. "The actors always thank us for our work, and what (we) do really only supports what they do on stage." 

The audio aspect of the production is unique in the sense that the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center has funded the play as a collaborative production of music and theater. Death of a Salesman features a brand new score, which is performed each night live by a group of musicians. 

Despite the attention a live music performance could attract, Middents said he hopes the sound will blend naturally with the action on stage. 

"It is somewhat unusual that musicians are a visible presence on stage," Middents said. "But I hope that this will be an added element to the audience's enjoyment of the play." 

For the lighting, the theater's lighting designer Kevin Holden imagines the stage as his own personal canvas. 

"Working as a lighting designer is a lot like being a painter or sculptor," Holden said. "I just paint the stage with the lights. Creating a stage picture based on the script is an art form, and I've got a talent for creating it." 

There will be two final performances of Death of a Salesman at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Lyndall Finley Wortham Theatre.

"It will be a unique theatrical experience for the UH community," Holden said. "See which of our experiments succeeded and which ones didn't."

Send comments to dcshobiz@mail.uh.edu

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