"You go to the plays, but you really don't realize everything that goes into it," volunteer
SRT wants to celebrate its 35th year by calling attention to its craftsmanship, said
The reference was to large performance venues, like the
An open room lined with mirrors serves as rehearsal space for full ensemble dance routines. Its dimensions stretch the distance of either stage, allowing actors to gauge the space while practicing their moves. Actors from
Sierra Rep each season brings in actors and other artists from
"So, you can see that's not much (money)," he said. "You'll see an awful lot of people trying to break in. They do it because they love it."
It helps that the
Such authenticity brings the production to life, Green said. For one play, the props department found 1959-era Conyers magazines to hang in a stage-set rack.
"No one in the audience could see they were 1959 magazines, but the actors will know. It's all those thousand and one things that make it exactly right," he said.
It is a passion of props manager
Sweetland prepares everything from drapes for the fake windows to faux food for the tables. "They build the house and I move in," he said, showing visitors how spray foam insulation forms the basis for a dozen tempting cupcakes.
He rules a corner of the production shop, where tiny models and paper sketches become artful forgeries of real rooms.
"It's all faux. Everything we do is faux," said set painter
Split rectangles of fiberboard give the porous bumps to make brick walls look real. For dingy dock areas, a wooden piling gets lumps of carpet padding covered with cheesecloth. Sawdust is added to the paint to give it an aged, irregular surface.
"That's some of the fun of it. We have to come up with stuff on the fly," said
Baum said he was amazed, returning for a forgotten item minutes after a final show, to find workmen ripping the set to pieces. "Same night -- gone!" he said. Baum walks in on "the strike," when the stage is cleared, salvaging everything possible for the next show.
What might be reused lands in the warehouse -- "Granny's attic on steroids," Handelman calls it. Walk inside and a slim path offers the only open space as far as the eye can see. Couches stand on their sides. Doors and wooden rails of all kinds lean into piles. A fake fireplace sits under hanging Christmas decorations. Shelves laden with boxes appear to hold up the packed second story.
With a budget of
Costumes, too, get recycled when possible, said costume shop manager
"It has to look just as good in the last production as the first," Bieker said.
As does the lighting, managed by
All together, Sierra Rep has 14 full-time employees, 14 part-timers and roughly 75 active volunteers, working with an annual budget of
About a quarter of that funding comes from more than 500 donors, and the rest from ticket sales, Green said, which is why musicals are a staple. Serious dramas bring in about 3,000 viewers; musicals sell three times that many tickets, he said.
"We're quite a unique situation among theaters," Handelman said. While a large number of small, professional theaters have closed in the last decade, she said, "We've survived, and not just survived, but thrived."
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