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Unsung Heroes - Jess, Set Decor

Jessica Henson, Set Decor

How did you come to be involved with Community Little Theatre?

I worked with Richard Martin at Lewiston High School and overheard that he was shorthanded for crew on 13! so I popped in and worked as stage crew for that show, then prompted for Into The Woods.

Tell me a bit about the process of set decor. What does it entail?

It's mostly painting and working out the fine details of how everything looks when it's done. After the set is built and painted, its the process of filling in the blanks with furniture and knick-knacks to make it feel real.

On average, how long does the process of decorating a set take from start to finish?

It depends on the set. With The Crucible, the set was completely finished in 3 weeks since it was more minimalist and the time period was very stark and puritanical. In a larger show like Gypsy, it took 5 set days and 3 full weeks of rehearsals to get everything done because of all the different places they go to throughout the show. I was working on the set right through our last rehearsal.

What are you up to when you aren’t at CLT?

Despite popular belief, I do not have a cot out back. I work for Black Tie catering as a baker and at The Cupcakery. I also make cakes out of my home. I cosplay every year at New York ComiCon, and also play the cello.

I hear that you also have a history of being onstage as an actress. Do you have any favorite roles or anecdotes that you’d like to share?

I've only been onstage with CLT twice so far - as Babette in Beauty and the Beast, and Anne Putnam in The Crucible. I was originally just a prompter and crew member for The Crucible. We had a last minute switch-up a week and a half before opening and since I had been prompting, I knew Anne's lines, so I filled in for the run of the show.

What are some of the challenges involved in your duties at the theater?

The most difficult thing is making my own thoughts work with the director's while still keeping it manageable for stage crew. There's only so much space onstage and only so many bars of music. So everything has to be pretty simple in execution, but look complex and detailed to keep the magic of live theatre alive for the audience.

Where do you get the materials that you use for set decor? Were there any specific pieces for a show that were especially hard to come by?

I'm very thrifty, so I always use what we have first before buying anything. Almost all the paint for Gypsy was from what we already in storage. For The Crucible, one of the only things I needed to buy was stain. When I do have to get something really specific, a lot of times it's just easier to make it. In high school, I ran props for our production of Beauty and the Beast and ended making our magic rose out of bendy straws, fishing line, and bobby pins.

Are there any upcoming projects at CLT that you’re especially excited about?

I'm decorating Shrek this summer, and am excited to put all those pieces together and build a dragon's lair, a castle, and a princess tower.

What are some of your favorite shows that you’ve worked behind the scenes on? Why?

I loved Little Shop of Horrors because everything in it was so fantastical and well done - and almost nothing went wrong during the run. Also because the little Audrey 2 was adorable. I also really liked Into The Woods because it's one of my favorites, and I got to be in costume as stage crew which was something I really enjoyed.

Why do you think it is important to have theater in our communities?

Community theaters are important because there are so many people out there who love doing this, but don't have time to pursue it professionally. They still get to come and enjoy everything about theater. There's also people who do want to go further with it, and it’s a great stepping stone for them to hone their craft and get the experiences they need. It's also really nice not to need to drive to Boston or New York to see a well done show, because we have one right here.

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