I had the most delightful experience recently, which I mentioned in an earlier post. I was invited to a master's class in theatre design at Michigan State University to share some of "my story" and my commitment to the arts. The assignment for the students was to listen carefully under the hypothetical idea that I was a wealthy major donor funding a re-do of a grim auditorium lobby. Their assignment was to design the lobby and a gown for the grand opening, that reflected what I shared in class.
Among the thoughts I included in that talk were little obscure facts about me -- love for history and art as well as theatre, a passion for bright colors, bad feet (no heels, please!), the integration of community and university and some of my favorite things.
Two weeks later, I attended the presentation and I was blown away by the creativity of the students and how they incorporated things they picked out of my talk and reflected those ideas in their designs. No budget number was put onto the project, which made it extra fun.
My friends and mentors Linda and Larry Stone, also graduates of the program and supporters of the university theatre, Zoomed in to weigh in on the designs, too!
This is the lobby as it is now, with people walking through to give you an idea of the cavernous space. The building opened in 1939 and it's the same old crappy floor, blank dull walls and dim lighting (though the fixtures are nice.)
I wish I had photos of all the designs for sets and costumes. Some of mine just didn't come out. But you can get the idea here that these students have much to offer in their future.
Mona, who presented first, lost the bad floor and put in a stained glass floor, underlit that would reflect on the ceiling. With sparkly lights, it was bright, simple and flexible.
For an opening night outfit she created a sparkly jump suit and statement necklace. The fabric of the sequined jump suit is the type that when rubbed against the nap, it changes colors so it went from this...
....to this! Very clever. Her concept what I, too, would be a "transformative piece of art."
Zach was up next. He's a third year lighting designer. He changed the colors of the drab walls to a a peachy shade and placed large colorful rugs on the floor to brighten things up. He also added settees to allow a spot for patrons to rest. His outfit was fun, more casual and flexible in that it included a removable poncho. (You'll note that all designers put me in flat shoes! I had mentioned in my original talk my challenging feet!)
Nick is also a lighting designer and he started his presentation in the auditorium's vestibule, which would never be changed, with its classic wood and floor and WPA murals. However, he added a lighting element which would make one's first thought at entering the building that something exciting was in store.
Nick also added a bar and round tables and a stage for an open mic night or pre show. His outfit was a comfy, billowy jumpsuit.
Lili is a first year lighting designer. She focused on the space using not only its university connections but its community connections with bulletin boards for local information. She kept the original lights and added display space for department students to show models and designs. That curtained area is a photo booth to encourage social media postings.
She also came up with the idea of themed cookies or snacks, like "Pride and Prejudice" cookies for that play.
Quinn is a media designer and reated the space as an old world garden. My favorite element of this one was the magnificent mosaic floor, with a painted ceiling reminiscent of those one sees in European palaces.
One of the things I mentioned in my first presentation was that the first play I ever saw, when I was four, was "Robin Hood" and how mesmerized I was by the gorgeous costumes, like a fairy tale book coming to life. So she made me my own Maid Marion gown!
Kasee is a second year scenery and costume designer. She brought lots of purple into the space with purple carpeting, bright murals and bringing the black-and-white floor from the outer vestibule into the lobby space. She also had double sided couches so there was plenty of seating space. She also reconfigured the ceiling to match the higher ceiling in the outer vestibule and give the element of space a greater degree of height.
Her opening night ensemble was definitely me -- a bright turquoise, 30s Hollywood-style jumpsuit with a long, colorful swinging coat. (I also liked that her drawing shed about 40 pounds of me!)
Thalia, a first year scenery designer, based her design on the (MSU) Spartan Rose and on some of my art (the one here is MSU's Beaumont Tower).
One of her ideas was to install a permanent gallery space, which could feature work of department or of art students and include the history of the building or department or art for or by kids. She also featured portable circular bars for events.
She said the green gown with the Spartan Roses was inspired by my art (I had shared some of the things I do with them at their request).
The last student was Gabby, a first-year scenic designer. She, too, brought the checkerboard floor from the outer vestibule into the design space and included bench seating...
After the presentations, we all posed for a couple of photos!
It was a terrific day -- fun for me to look back, fun to see the remarkable work by the students.
Most of all, it was very rewarding to know that the program from which I graduated is doing some wonderful things -- and has a huge young talent pool to work with!
(Thanks to MSU's Abigail Tycocki for supplementing my photos!)