TheaterCNU’s most recent play, “Almost, Maine” finished its first few shows this weekend. Here’s some of the behind the scenes work that ensured its success.
“Almost, Maine” is one of those rare plays that chills your extremities but warms your heart. If you haven’t seen it yet, grab a blanket and go, because it is a snow globe-shrouded spectacle full of feeling, and that is due in no small part to the props.
There are, for the audience’s sake, two types of props: the enchanted and the everyday.
The former aren’t necessarily magic, but they help cast the spell of the play by representing the physical manifestations of love and broken hearts; the latter help set the scene.
Prop Master Aggie Baird explains that despite the play’s inherent whimsy, the accuracy still matters to the crew. “We make sure everything is as realistic as possible, and part of that is so the actors can really invest in their character and to make it more believable for the audience,” she says.
The most tedious of the “Almost” props was an everyday piece: newspaper.
Baird says that she and her crew scour the Internet for actual stories from real Maine newspapers and go through a literal cutting-and-pasting process until they have a patchwork of stories that could pass for a daily paper.
Then, all they do is print copies of it out of their newspaper printer.
The tedium lies in hunting down the right pictures for the fake broadsheet—a lot of available online material is blurry or crooked, neither of which is conducive to a successful production.
The enchanted props were kinder to the crew.
Both Baird and Assistant Props Manager Ellie Wilder enjoyed making the whimsical props, the physical forms of metaphors.
When the tangible representation of a woman’s broken heart called for bits of shale, Baird got a rock and smashed it to bits.
Wilder, on the other hand, enjoyed something a little softer.
“My favorites are the bags of love that I have to sew up,” she says, referring to the giant bags of batting meant to represent 11 years of love that a man gave to his longtime-girlfriend. Picture the mail bags from “Miracle on 34th Street,” but fluffy.
While the bags were her favorite, all of the props hold a special place in Wilder’s heart.
She was primarily a member of the cast, but given that she has a double concentration in acting and design tech, and a specialization in props, Wilder asked and was granted permission to also have a part in creating the props for “Almost.”
Without the props, “Almost” is an empty snow globe.
But Baird said it best, “It’s a charming show, but to the outside eye it doesn’t always seem like it’s the most extravagant, and I think people just have to remember that there is quite a beauty in simplicity.”
Most of the time, the audience pays more attention to the plot than the intricacies of the set, the props or execution of character performances.
What can easily be forgotten is how rich a role costumes can play.
In TheaterCNU’s interpretation of John Cariani’s “Almost, Maine,” the costumes are one of the finer points of the play.
With nine separate storylines, it can be essential to outline a character’s personality, goals and obstacles in costumes.
Some of the prominent personalities seen in this play are the downtrodden loser, the perky waitress and the desperate lovers.
While words go a long way in telling a story, the costumes can perhaps provide that subtle addition.
With the help of Polyvore, a community-powered commerce site that allows users to mix and match outfit ideas, costume manager Kathy Jaremski and her crew were able to quickly put together ideas for the different costumes.
While there is a wide variety of costumes and personalities, it took the production department only one day to design costumes and about one week to put them all together.
While organization times are usually longer, this show allowed a simpler process because it was not a large show.