All the world’s a stage
Back when the Marshall Area Stage Company was celebrating its 10th anniversary, MASC board president Bob Schwoch started keeping track of how many venues the organization has used to stage a show.
In that first decade, MASC presented 40 shows in 20 different venues, from a city park to the basement of the library to a vacant storefront in the mall.
In 15 years, that number of venues has grown to 28, Schwoch said.
MASC’s spring show “Barefoot in the Park” will be in the organization’s newest venue in the second floor of the Lyon County Museum. Performances will be at 7 p.m. April 10-12 and 2 p.m. April 13. The show is being directed by Aaron B. Larson.
In looking for a location to have a show, MASC looks for both availability and affordability, said Schwoch and Maureen Keimig, secretary for MASC.
“You want a place where you have room for a stage and audience,” said Keimig. “And if it’s handicap-accessible, it’s a plus.”
Throughout the years, MASC has made almost any space work. For example, spring 2009’s production of “Clue” was performed in Bound to Read’s former location at the Market Street Mall. “The Mousetrap,” the spring show in 2011, was at the second floor of the Marshall American Legion.
“We can make any space work if we have to,” Keimig said.
For most of the shows, MASC has a rehearsal period of six weeks. Keimig said they would need a place to built a set and keep it there through the show’s run.
Since 2006, the Schwan Community Center for the Performing Arts at Marshall High School has been the venue for the summer musical. Schwoch said MASC pays rent on the venue. MASC spends three weeks off-site to rehearse before moving to the high school for the last three weeks. Schwoch said they work around the Prairie Dance Alliance dance camp performance and Boys State when it does its big concert.
MASC’s children’s theater is performed in collaboration with Marshall Community Services. Because of Community Services’ relationship with the Marshall Middle School, the children’s theaters two-week workshop and performances are able to be at the middle school.
In 2007, MASC added a radio drama to its season, which can be performed anywhere, Schwoch said. The radio drama has been at the Adult Community Center, the Marshall Area Fine Arts Council’s arts center, and Charter Hall 201 and 217 at Southwest Minnesota State University.
“That one’s moved around five to six times as well,” Schwoch said.
One of the challenges with the latest venue is that the area has limited height. Keimig said they have to build the set high enough because the skylight in Paul and Corie’s apartment is an important concept in “Barefoot in the Park.” There also has to be a spot where characters have to walk out on a ledge.
Larson said the museum is probably one of the more interesting venues he’s worked with. Larson, who is based in Sioux Falls, S.D., has directed community theater productions in a variety of towns, but mainly in theaters or places that were converted to be a theater.
“It’s very low ceiling, it’s oddly shaped,” Larson said about the museum venue. “It’s not meant to be a theater in any way.”
But the actors and crew are making the space work, creating a stage in one corner for the apartment with two big windows.
“The apartment is a whole separate character in the show,” Schwoch said. “Different people have different reactions to it.”
Keimig said Corie sees the apartment as the best place in the world as it’s her first real apartment and separation from her mother.
Larson said he’s done a lot of Neil Simon plays at various places, and this is the chance to do one he hasn’t done before.
“We figure we can seat about 100 people,” Larson said. “It’ll be a nice intimate space for the people who come.”
“Jennifer (Andries, museum director) has been a super-nice hostess,” Schwoch said about using the museum. “We’re very thankful to the museum for letting us use it.”
Another challenging venue was the second floor of the Legion for “The Mousetrap,” Keimig said, with bringing set pieces and platforms up the stairs and putting together a stage. The stage space was small, but MASC made it work.
Something that MASC does that not too many other community theaters do is travel shows.
“That is a challenge,” Schwoch said.
There’s a lot of work in traveling a show to a different community, Schwoch and Keimig said, with striking the set at one location and then setting up in a new one.
“That’s a lot of work. Doing a strike once is bad enough,” Keimig said. Keimig said “The Mousetrap” was traveled to both Tracy and Granite Falls.
When taking a show to a different location, you may have to adapt the set, especially if the stage is bigger or smaller. If it’s smaller, you have to take things down, Keimig said.
“That happened with ‘Clue,'” Keimig said. “The stage was smaller in Minneota. We had to change some of the direction on that, blocking.”
“If you know you’re going to travel the show, you know you have to change the set,” Schwoch said.