Students discuss the production of “Don Juan Goes to War”

by Amelia Rosch | 11/10/15 6:01pm

It is easy to think only about the actors when thinking about a play, but there is much more involved behind the scenes to make sure all of the parts run smoothly. For the theater department’s main stage production of “Don Juan Comes Back From the War,” almost 40 students played a role in the production team, from sewing the costumes to creating the set.

Assistant stage manager and a member of the set, light and prop crew Cameron Buxton ’19 said that the level of student involvement in the show created a strongly supportive atmosphere. She said that as a freshman who only had high school-level experience, she appreciated the support.

“It was great that we had a team,” she said. “We all were able to help each other out, and the older students gave us so much guidance.”

Another member of the set, prop and light crew and set shop worker Daniel Lein ’19 said that having so many students involved allows them to create larger and more complex sets. He said that in other set shops he has worked at in the past, he was unable to execute the vision he had because there were not enough physical bodies to carry out the ideas, but that this was not a problem with this production.

“We always have hands, and everyone is eager to help out,” he said. “It’s a great energy.”

Like Lein, Celeste Jennings ’18, a member of costume and wardrobe crew, said that she worked on the production because she had already worked in the costume shop.

In many cases, students involved on the creative side of the production had to deal with logistical and practical challenges.

Jennings said that a major challenge that the costume crew had to face was the quick changes that were required of many of the production’s actors — all but two of the actors in the production played multiple characters. She said that the crew used tricks, such as using snaps in the place of buttons, to allow the actors to make some of the quicker changes, including some that were only 15 seconds long.

Lein said another challenge that faced the production team was the stage’s set-up. The production used a raked, or tilted, stage. He said the angle of the stage made basic tasks, such as hanging things, more difficult.

“It was hard to get ladders and lifts on it,” he said. “We couldn’t really use them because it was dangerous on an angle. To get the light fixtures up, we had to use slides above the stage instead of ladders like we’d normally do.”

He said that the stage’s tilt also meant that the set crew had to be more careful while building the production’s sets and had to add extra support elements to parts of the set.

Jennings said that despite the challenges involved with the production, she enjoyed working on the costumes. She said her personal favorite was the first costume worn by Don Juan — a worn-out soldier’s uniform.

“It was totally distressed by dye,” she said. “We took a brand new army uniform and put fake dirt and blood on it to make it look worn down and old. It was amazing.”

Buxton said that she enjoyed getting the chance to be part of a large production and work with students from a variety of years and backgrounds.

“A production will take everything you are willing to put into it and more,” she said. “Everyone is giving it their all to make it happen, not just one or two people. Everyone is putting 100 percent into it.”

Lein said that he was glad to work with a large group. He said that while some members of the production crew did not have as much experience as others, everyone was a quick learner and helped put the show together.

After Friday night’s show, there will a post-performance discussion with members of the creative team.

“Don Juan Comes Back From the War” will be performed on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5 for students and $10 to $12 for general community members.