Sitting in the dark telling a ghost story with the nothing but the glow of a flashlight by which to see… this is the kind of scary live theatre in which several CSU theatre alumni are involved at Bas Bleu Theatre Co. this summer with their production of The Woman in Black.
The original book, a horror novella by Susan Hill, tells the story of a small English town that is haunted by a mysterious specter who foretells the death of children. Playing on the power of imagination, the tale makes use of the gothic traditions of describing the setting of a story to spin the eerie tragedy.
Involved in Bas Bleu’s production, currently running through June 29, is a combination of nine CSU alumni and current students, including director Judd Farner, ’10, who really hand-picked a lot of his production team from CSU’s theatre program.
CSU alumni and students include: Judd Farner, ’10, Director; Charlie Ferrie, playing the role of old Kipps; Nick Holland, ’12, playing the role of young Kipps; Molly Langeberg, ’17, Stage Manager; Mackenzie Mulligan, ’14, Run Crew; Bryan Nydegger, ’10, Scenic Design; Alex Ostwald, ’12, Lighting Design; Juli Shealey, ’17, Makeup Design and Run Crew; Janelle Sutton, ’08, Costume Design.
“Coming from the same training place, we have a certain level of expectation and language that we all speak,” said Farner. “We have an unspoken understanding of when we need to push and when to hold back at particular points throughout the process – and that’s really nice to have with your creative team.”
About the production, Farner noted that this unique relationship and language comes in very useful with a play that does not follow a strict linear pattern, has minimal staging, and relies on the imagination of the audience.
“We’ve put everything and the kitchen sink on stage,” he said. “While in film, the camera shows you where to look in order to build tension in a moment, theatre, and this show in particular, gives you everything on stage at once. Then in a moment, we take it all away.”
This stark contrast takes innovative and collaborative effort from the production team to focus these elements on the telling of the story, which several CSU theatre alumni cite as a key element in the training they receive in the program.
“It has to be collaborative,” said costume designer for the production and also CSU’s Costume Shop Manager Janelle Sutton. “Having that trust between actors, designers, and directors is what makes a production successful – and that’s what we do from day one at CSU.”
As the director of the Young Producers Organization (YPO), the student-lead theatre group at CSU, during his academic career, Farner directed several productions at the university. He now makes his professional directing debut with The Woman in Black.
“It’s really raised my bar in shaping the kind of director I want to be,” he said. “And I think a lot of that comes from this peer-to-peer creative environment with my fellow alumni.”
Farner has even been able to connect with current theatre students through this process. As a former high school theatre teacher, he had worked with Molly Langeberg and Juli Shealey at Brighton High School (Brighton, Colo.), he was encouraged to be able to work with them in this new environment, or “continuing the conversation,” as he terms it, watching their skills and knowledge grow, as well.
“It doesn’t matter what your role is in a production, either on-stage or off-stage, everything you do is contributing to the story,” said Farner. “And when everyone has that in mind for all aspects of what’s going on, it makes the director’s job much easier, and we can do more with it.”
Echoing Farner’s observation, many CSU theatre alumni note that their training begins with learning how essential it is for their element of the show and their creativity to contribute to the telling of the story.
“That’s what theatre is all about,” said Walt Jones, CSU’s director of theatre. “In theatre, we can say it to their faces and tell a story in a way that nothing else can capture quite the same way.”
Bas Bleu Theatre Company’s production of The Woman in Black runs through June 29: Thursdays, 6:30 p.m.; Fridays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.; and Sundays, 2:30 p.m. More information at www.basbleu.org.
The University Center for the Arts at Colorado State University provides an enriched venue in which the study and practice of Art, Dance, Music and Theatre are nurtured and sustained by building the skills and knowledge needed by future generations of arts professionals to become contributors to the essential vitality of our culture and society.