Monday, August 1, 2016

AMERICAN PLAYERS THEATRE BACKSTAGE TOUR


I think it is fair to say that the American Players Theatre (APT) is one of the premier professional theater groups in the Midwest.  It is located in Spring Green, a small community some 40 miles west of Madison, Wisconsin, known for being the location of Taliesin, Frank Lloyd Wright's home and architectural studio.  The APT now has a second, indoor venue, but it remains best known for its outdoor theater, located in a beautiful setting at the top of a hill in a gorgeous valley in the Driftless Area of southwestern Wisconsin.

We have been going to the APT for over 30 years, and last weekend we returned along with three other couples in what has become an annual retreat.  This time, in addition to taking in a play on a Friday night, we took a two hour guided tour of the APT on the following morning.  Here are some photos from that tour.  I will be the first to admit that, while I wanted to capture as best I could what we saw on the tour, what I shot is colored largely by my own photographic interests.  In other words, I've never been known for my skills at documentation.

First, as I mentioned, the APT is located in the beautiful rolling hills of southwestern Wisconsin, and  following are a couple of shots of the flora of the area.



Second, to set the stage (so to speak), here is a shot of the Up The Hill Theatre as seen from the control room.


On each of Saturdays and Sundays in the summer there are performances of each of two separate plays, each requiring its own set.  Here a crew was in the process of setting up for the afternoon performance.  Following that show, the crew would be breaking down that set and putting up a different one for the play to be presented later in the evening.

Here is a semi-abstract of the theater's seating.  The capacity for this venue is approximately 1,100.


And following is a shot I took of APT's senior electrician.  He is not so much an electrician as one being in charge of coordinating the lighting, sound, and other cueing systems for each performance.  Highly complex and sophisticated.


What's not apparent in this shot is that he was dressed in a kilt, his normal attire.  At about 6 ft. 4 in., he was fully capable of justifying his sartorial choices.

I have no excuse for the following shot of a coil of black rope in the control room, other than that I liked it as an abstract.


What was even more impressive than the venue itself, though, was the massive complexity of the operation behind the scenes, if you will.  Not only was there a crew of tailors and seamstresses who had to create the costumes that the actors wore, but there were workshops for fabricating sets and props for each of the shows.  I admit here is where I fall down as a chronicler, as the shots that I kept were to satisfy my esthetic interests more than to document what we saw.  First, a large glass-paned door/window under fabrication.


And another subtly stained wood panel that I found interesting and shot at an angle as an abstract.


We did get to tour the actors's dressing rooms.  Here is a shot of one of those.  Suitably messy.


In the nearly 40 years of its existence, the APT has acquired an enormous collection of props, costumes, masks, and other equipment, for reuse on occasion.  Here, for example, is a portion of the wigs in use in current productions.



Of course, the wigs require their own attention following performances, including perms, when needed.


There are also enormous collections of hats, shoes, and masks.







And there were all manner of other props, which may never have a second use, but who knows.





This last is a full-scale model of one of the actors in the role of Julius Caesar.  This was hanging on the wall.  For many reasons, including that of personal mortification, I am grateful that I never had to play that role.

John


1 comment:

  1. That is a most interesting tour and wonderful pictures

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