July 25, 2023
During Kaufman Music Center's Summer Musical Theater Workshop each July, the spotlight is on the students as they rehearse and perform original musical plays in Merkin Hall. Together with a brilliant group of professional theater writers, directors, composers and choreographers, this year’s campers will stage five delightfully inventive musicals with a “Spooky Summer” theme.
Here’s what audiences don’t get to see: Behind the scenes, talented teams of set and costume designers are creating the beautiful scenery and charming costumes that will help bring to life a series of supernatural stories featuring a haunted house and hotel, a headmistress bent on revenge, a 19th century bride who feigns possession to avoid marriage, and two ill-matched mummies seeking fame in present-day NYC.
Inside the Set Shop
Under the guidance of professional set designer Dan Daly, eight teen interns are hard at work designing props and sets in a shop filled with lumber, paints, cardboard and materials of all kinds. A partially painted backdrop of a haunted house, stenciled Victorian wallpaper, cardboard instruments and colorful sarcophagi offer tantalizing glimpses into some of the stories this year’s musicals will tell.
18-year-old Laine, a camper since third grade and now an intern, explains that interning in the set and prop shop offers teens insights into what it’s like to work professionally in theater. “You learn production techniques, problem-solving and how to deliver a story through the things that we’re making,” she says. “I’m hoping that everyone who’s interning here will develop their own sense of theater and what it means to tell a story on stage.”
“I like the program because they put you in each department – carpentry, painting and props – and in each section I learned something new,” says 18-year-old Joel, who highly recommends the internship to teens thinking about pursuing theater tech as a career.
To find inspiration for the mummy sarcophagi she’s creating, 15-year-old Sophia researched ancient Egypt online and visited the Metropolitan Museum to study actual artifacts. “It’s been a really exciting process,” she says. “I’ve learned so many new skills in technical theater and being creative in general.” A highly accomplished pianist at Kaufman Music Center’s Special Music School High School, Sophia has loved to paint and draw from an early age and relishes this opportunity to tap into different aspects of her creativity.
Inside the Costume Shop
The large, brightly-lit costume shop is a wonderland of fabrics of all colors and textures, with costumes taking shape on dress forms. While stitching ghost hoods for a musical he describes as “Casper meets an episode of Scooby-Doo,” Marcus Jackson explains that he and his colleagues in the shop are all professional costume designers. “It’s really cool to get to work with so many different designers. I love working with the kids and creating original things.”
“It’s been really fun,” says Emily Marshburn as she layers burlap bandages on a mummy costume. “It was kind of a journey to figure out what all the pieces are, and how to make the costumes visible and give them depth on stage. I just love the energy of the people here. It’s always wonderful to work with the people in the costume shop and the scenic designers.”
Costume shop supervisor Lisa Renee Jordan says, “It’s a good group of folks who value the creative process and support the artists who work with the kids, which is great. It’s always an interesting challenge to find new ways to create new characters for the kids."
Top of page: Emily Marshburn
Photos above (clockwise): Elizabeth Flores, interns Emma and Daniel, assistant set designer Laura Valenti, Charlotte Gant