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Beckie and Lisa set the stage with books for Theatre’s ‘Little Women’

November 28, 2019   ·   0 Comments


Little Women is on stage at Theatre Orangeville (TOV) from this evening until December 22. We thought it would be interesting to go back stage. So, we had a conversation with Beckie Morris, Production Manager and Set Designer for Little Women and Lisa Lahue, Technical Director and set builder extraordinaire.

“It begins very early by reading the script,” Beckie Morris started. “What’s essential. A lot of plays don’t have details of what the playwright wants.

“This set,” she told us, “is made to look like stacks of leather books. When Westminster church was renovating, there were a lot of windows and Lisa had the forethought to pick up some of the windows; we purchased three sets of windows and were given three more. And we’re using them for this set.

“It’s very abstract in the sense that you’re not looking at a home but the interior of the book. We took some of the text from the original book and we made it gold and then hung it in the windows. “

Lisa Lahue added, “We will be keeping this one to see if it has a chance to be played elsewhere but we have no idea at the moment.”

The challenges in making this set were offset by the fact that “this is the third time we’ve done really big books. We’ve kind of figured out the formula. The most difficult part is the clean construction,” Ms Lahue explained, “The biggest thing is being able to cart them around.”

Said Ms. Morris, “We built the story land, a permanent installation at the Mill Street Library.”

“Matilda was the first book set we’ve done on stage,” from Ms. Lahue, “but this is truly the most spectacular we’ve done on stage.”

It comes down to: “what this show absolutely needs is three pianos: one for the Music Director [John Hughes, off stage] but two on the stage and a full-sized mantel fireplace, Ms. Morris gave the details, “Because of the complexity of the set, one piano is actually backed by the fire place – and it moves very beautifully.” 

Designing sets is almost a state of mind with Ms. Morris, “I might store a concept in my head that is nothing to do with the current project and then find a place for it at a later date. 

“Imaging the set’s like reading a book and imaging what that world looks like in your head and then you get to create that world which is pretty exciting. It’s about working with a team, here with Lisa. You come in with a really strange idea and we start working with ideas and we’ve been able to realize just about anything.” 

What makes it so good at TOV, “is the people are good and that’s really important. We’re a small team. A lot of people in the grand scheme of the theatre world might see TOV as a small town theatre but it’s not. We produce world class productions and the actors that come here perform everywhere. I have so much respect for the work they do here.”

Said Ms. Lahue, “We have a great partnership in our vision in what we do here and we’re actually challenging each other [in every way].”

They use plywood, fabric, Durabond.

“It ‘s the kind of construction in theatre; we’re hardly ever looking for material that we’ll use for the purpose it’s intended. To buy it means you’ll spend hours looking for things that will work with what you’re doing and on budget.”

“When we go into Home Hardware, to the lumber yard, although we’re picking up plywood, they’ll ask us what we’re building and we’ll say books,” laughed Ms. Lahue., adding, “It has to be portable.”

Ms Lahue has been with TOV for seven years.

“Books are great; you lay it on its side and it’s one thing – books are endless imagination. They’re a good fit for Little Women. I needed to create a space that catered to lots of locations by way we stack the books.”

Simply put, “You have to serve the play, There’s no point in putting something up there unless it ties in. Create what’s needed. It’s all down to the team and skill,” said Beckie Morris, “If that talent isn’t there, it can’t be realized; but with this team, the magic is there, with the lighting and the costumes.”

Lisa Lahue added, “When you walk into the world of Little Women- the form piece is so close to the front of the stage that a person could touch it.”

Reflecting on the theme, Ms. Morris commented, “We did a show, The Gentleman’s Clothier, some year ago. All the walls were mahogany. I drew all the details for the design – some of it was hand milled; it was painted for the right look. We transformed this common building material you might find in your basement in to a magical world.” 

She said, “Nothing is as it seems.

“Because I read this book growing up and I think we’ve done it absolute justice; we’ve set it in a place; it’s all very neutral so the audience will also imagine.”

Ms Lahue told us, “You read a book and you imagine where they are – Beckie allows you to continue to imagine.”



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