Q&A with Lake Dillon Theatre Company scenic designer Jared Grohs
Lake Dillon Theatre Company season schedule
The Lake Dillon Theatre Company continues its 2015 season this summer after a brief mud season break. For more information on these shows and other programming from LDTC, or to purchase tickets, visit www.lakedillontheatre.org.
• “Gutenberg! The Musical,” opening Friday, May 5
• “La Cage Aux Folles,” opening Friday, July 3
• “Cloak & Dagger, or The Case of the Golden Venus,” opening Friday, Aug. 21
• “Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure,” opening Friday, Nov. 20
Scenic designer Jared Grohs celebrates his 11th season with the Lake Dillon Theatre Company in 2015, having designed more than 60 productions since his first set for the company, “Three Tall Women” in 2004.
Grohs has a master’s degree in fine arts from Florida State University and undergraduate degrees in architecture and technical theater from Ball State University. When not at his full-time job as the sales manager for the western region of Barbizon Light, or designing scenery for LDTC, he occasionally designs for Bas Bleu Theatre in Fort Collins and Metropolitan State University of Denver, where he has also taught classes as adjunct faculty in the theater department.
For the theater’s current season, Grohs has begun creating five distinctly unique worlds, from the cluttered office of a famous Austrian psychoanalyst to a 1950s New York cityscape to a decadent burlesque club in St. Tropez. Here’s what the man behind the scenic design had to say about this year’s season.
Q: The 2015 Lake Dillon Theatre Company season features well-known productions and little-known regional premieres. Which show excites you the most?
A: Usually, I’m most excited about the little-known regional premieres. This company produces a lot of shows that people haven’t already seen, and it’s very appealing to be part of those projects in which nobody quite knows what to expect. Surprisingly, however, this season I’m most excited about “La Cage Aux Folles.” I haven’t worked on a musical since “Marry Me a Little,” which was nearly three years ago. That one had a cast of two in a single location.
“La Cage Aux Folles” has much greater challenges than that. Summer musicals here have frequently been done in rep (performed from a specific repertoire), which creates some limitations that aren’t always a big box of fun for a scenic designer. This one won’t be done in rep, and that opens up a great opportunity to create a more complete environment onstage.
Q: You have degrees in theater and architecture, you teach on the collegiate level, and you have worked in theaters throughout the United States. How has your background influenced your creative process when it comes to scenic design?
A: My studies in architecture have certainly given me an almost obsessive concern for form and detail. With production schedules, that’s not always the most efficient approach because there are some traditional theatrical shortcuts that often don’t satisfy me. Occasionally, teaching college students helps remind me how important it is to start with a great overall picture before shifting focus to the details.
I do believe, however, that 10 years at the Lake Dillon Theatre have influenced my creative process more than anything else. (Producing artistic director) Chris Alleman and I have developed very unique communication. Sometimes, he’ll give me just a few words or a gesture, and that’s enough — in addition to reading the script, of course — for me start working on a design. Discussions always happen after my preliminary ideas, but we’re typically on the same page from the start.
Q: This season, you will surpass 65 unique set designs over the past decade at the Lake Dillon Theatre Company. What has/have been your most memorable scenic design(s) and why?
A: There are a few unsuccessful scenic designs that are quite memorable to me, but I’m not going to remind anyone of those! I’m extremely fortunate to have been able to do so many here. Most designers are happy to be invited back to the same theater once or twice a year. “Boeing Boeing” (2011), “The Owl and the Pussycat” (2013) and “Don’t Dress for Dinner” (2013) were very memorable to me as highly stylized but very realistic interiors of homes. The construction and paint crews worked extremely hard to create what I drew, and I probably got all the compliments.
“Urinetown” (2006), “Pig Farm” (2007) and “A Behanding in Spokane” (2012) were pretty gross, and it’s a ton of fun to create something that’s supposed to look ugly, especially when you get to splatter and dump paint, smash holes in walls, tear upholstery and burn curtains. “Equus” (2006), “The Glass Menagerie” (2007), “Doubt” (2010), “Grace” (2014) and — if I was forced to pick a favorite — “Edward Albee’s Seascape” (2011), for which the scenic design had to be approved by the playwright himself, all nonrealistic scenic interpretations, are the types of designs that I’m most proud of. Being able to imagine and create expressive environments to help set a tone and tell the story is the main reason I love to work in theater.
Q: Being a flexible, “black box” theater, LDTC produces shows in six different configurations, from proscenium (in front of the curtain) to partial thrust to thrust (extending into the audience) to in the round (audience surrounding the stage). What is your favorite configuration in which to design?
A: Definitely corner staging. With the stage not spread out as much, and audience seating just on two sides, I have more control over the “picture” that is being seen. It’s actually more playing space, as well, which allows us to use larger furniture, if needed, and provides more flexibility with layout. I cringe a little when audience members walk across the set or behind scenery, but in some of our other configurations, that cannot be avoided. They have to do it in order to get to their seats or the restroom. When we use the corner, there’s a lot less of that.
Q: You have designed in many different types and sizes of theaters across the county. What makes designing at the Lake Dillon Theatre Company unique?
A: The small space is certainly unique, but mostly, it’s the people. The staff is professional, dedicated and hard working, yet the mood holds the kind of enthusiasm I’ve only often seen in community theater, where everyone is there for fun. I thought I was done with theater for quite a while, but when I first came here, I noticed a positive and encouraging environment. Everyone from the directors, design team, actors and crew have specific responsibilities and talents, but egos don’t get in the way of the overall goal to create a professional, quality production. Also, the audiences are incredibly open-minded and encouraging. It’s great to see a theater do such a diverse variety of new work, familiar musicals, comedies and serious dramas, while continuing to maintain such a supportive patron base.
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