Archive | Uncategorized RSS feed for this section

Artist o’ the Week: Ryan McGettigan

7 Jun

Ryan McGettiganRyan McGettigan, this week’s AotW, chats with us about his design process for the Next to Normal set.  He pleaded for me to edit our conversation in case he sounded like an idiot, but the truth is he sounds pretty interesting. And did you know, when you google Ryan to get to his design website, you will come across a footballer by the same name who plays in the United Stages Australian Football League…I didn’t know such a thing existed. Anyway, on to the highly interesting scenic designer Ryan McGettigan.

Ryan, where are you from? 

I’m originally from a small town of about 1,000 up in Middle-of-Nowhere, New Hampshire.  From there I moved to Germany and Boston for school, eventually settling down in Boston for several years.

And now you’re in Houston! What brought you Texas-way?

My move to Houston was fairly recent when my boyfriend accepted a job offer from Houston Grand Opera.  Moving cities as a freelancer can be a rather frightening and stressful endeavor, but the Houston theatre-scene has been very welcoming.  I still juggle in-town and out-of-town jobs, which offers me a good change of pace and perspective.

Coming to work with Stages has been a very exciting opportunity!  Melissa [Melissa Rain Anderson] and I were able to begin our work on this show in October of 2011, and so it’s been a long collaboration and friendship.

For those of us who may not know exactly what a scenic designer really does, what is that process?

As a scenic designer, it is your job to draft build-able solutions to the visual and spatial questions proposed by a play.  But the real joy of being a scenic designer, for me at least, is in the actual ‘solving’ of these questions.  It’s a process that relies on an intense collaboration with the director and the other designers, and a process that with each person’s input, can take dramatic turns. There are of course logistical concerns, style, period, and script necessitations, but what makes the design process so exciting and important is the ability to focus and guide an audience’s perception via your own specific emotional and visual responses.

With so much time, and with such an enthusiastic director, design team, and support staff, I feel like we were really able to work through several stages of this design for Next to Normal, each time finding new ideas and inspirations that would take the next version of the design in a slightly different direction.  It was a long process, but it was continuously driven and developing, and yielded beautiful results.

Next to Normal scenic design

An early version of the ‘Next to Normal’ set (left) and the final version (right)

Where did you go to school?

I attended Emerson College in Boston, MA, and graduated with a BFA in Scenic Design. Emerson is a fantastic school in the heart of the Boston theatre district and really promoted student involvement within the city’s theatre scene.  These connections led to great opportunities for a lot of the theatrical design students that not only provided income while working our way through school, but simultaneously furthered our experience in professional environments and allowed us to really test our skills in real life situations.

When did you know design was “it” for you?

I was a very lucky child.  My parents would drive me from New Hampshire to New York City several weekends a year to go see Broadway shows.  They could see how excited and inspired I was by the theatre and would make the four and a half hour drive to help encourage my joy and interest.  I was a very, very, lucky son.  I still am, really.

Every show I saw while growing up was in it’s own way an ‘it’ moment for me.  I remember even going to see the same show multiple times, either to share it with a friend, or to figure out some theatrical trick by snagging a seat with a sightline that might let me catch a glimpse at the mechanics behind the magic.

But I think the actual ‘it‘ moment for me has less to do with design and more to do with storytelling.   While already in school at Emerson, I was able to see the touring production of Doug Wright’s I Am My Own Wife in Boston.  In this one man show, Jefferson Mays played Charlotte, an East-German transvestite who’d survived life in both the Nazi and Communist regimes, as well as playing dozens of other cursory characters.  Derek McLane’s scenic design was a pastiche of objects from this woman’s pack-rat lifestyle but remained so simple, clean, and bare-boned as the heart of the story itself.  The most inspiring moment in the production, which I will take with me forever, was so incredibly simple:  Charlotte sits, holding a small box with dollhouse scaled furniture, slowly and matter-of-factly describing each piece as she pulls these miniatures out of the box and sets them on a small side table next to her.  And suddenly, the rest of the world, hers and ours, has faded away and we are in this miniature space that she has created, living out moments from her life within this ‘apartment’ set entirely on a side table.

The moment was so intimate and the storytelling so simple and affective, even in a large touring venue that I couldn’t help but be taken into this woman’s journey.

Now, it’s connections like these that I try to create, with directors and other artists, to offer up those same fresh moments of storytelling and intimacy and powerfulness to our audiences.

What about this design for ‘Next to Normal’ do you hope audiences will notice or how do you hope they will feel in the space?

What do I hope people notice?  The floor! I think the entire story is told through the floor.  Really.

More importantly, though, I hope the design is able to help the audience feel fully immersed in the story from the beginning.  What is so brilliant about Next to Normal is how easily it sweeps us away on its journey.  We are instantly able to relate to each of the characters, to their lives and personalities.  We instantly develop a connection with them and their world.  That is what I hope my design is able to support for the audience: an inviting environment, a comfortable environment, but also an environment which doesn’t just stop there, it is an environment that is able to transform itself (with a lot of help from lighting designer Kirk Markley!) with the piece.

As they watch the story and the characters develop, I hope the audience is also able to feel and recognize the evolution of the design, the influence the environment has on the characters and vice versa.

Sure, it all sounds rather vague and ‘designer-y’, but if you’ve already seen our production, I hope you have a understanding of what I’m talking about, and if you haven’t see Next to Normal at Stages yet, I hope I haven’t spoiled anything for you!

You’re Invited: Post-performance discussion June 3

2 Jun

Stages Repertory Theatre Next to NormalThe 2012 Surround

Each year Stages Surrounds a play with a series of free events that enrich and provide a more dynamic connection to that play. This year’s Surround focuses on Next To Normal and is presented in cooperation with our community partner, NAMI Metropolitan Houston (our local affiliate of the national organization), who will have information about mental health and advocacy available in the lobby at every performance, and who will provide speakers for select Sunday afternoon post-show discussions, including the one this Sunday, June 3.

This Sunday’s speaker is Jack Callahan, who works for Disability Rights Texas. Disability Rights Texas is the legal protection and advocacy system for Texans with disabilities. He received both a Bachelor of Business Administration degree and a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from the University of Texas at Austin.

The discussion follows the matinee performance of Next to Normal and is free and open to the public – please join us!

We’ve got more Surround events coming up in June, including two more post-show dialogues and our student project What is Normal? Here are all the details!

Artist o’ the Week: Mitchell Greco

29 May

On any weekday, you can find Mitchell Greco, Stages’ Artistic Associate, in the admin suite assisting Producing Artistic Director Kenn McLaughlin (and keeping up with his schedule is no easy task, believe you me!), keeping track of marketing materials, and generally being awesome at tasks that come through the administrative side o’ things.

By night, he is Continue reading

2012 Surround: FREE Event 5/28!

28 May


Each year Stages Surrounds a play with a series of free events that enrich and provide a more dynamic connection to that play. This year’s Surround focuses on Next To Normal and is presented in cooperation with our community partner, NAMI Metropolitan Houston (our local affiliate of the national organization). On Monday, May 28, we’re thrilled to host NAMI’s presentation of In Our Own Voice (IOOV), a unique public education program developed by NAMI, in which two trained speakers share compelling personal stories about living with mental illness and achieving recovery. IOOV is an opportunity for those who have struggled with mental illness to gain confidence and to share their individual experiences of recovery and transformation. Throughout the IOOV presentation, audience members are encouraged to offer feedback and ask questions. Audience participation is an important aspect of IOOV because the more audience members become involved, the closer they come to understanding what it is like to live with a mental illness and stay in recovery. 

Monday, May 28
7:00 PM
In Our Own Voice

At this IOOV, you will meet two dynamic, charismatic presenters: Elizabeth Green Smalling and Jerry Babbitt. Elizabeth was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, OCD, and PTSD at the age of 19 while studying psychology at University of Colorado at Boulder. Today she is living on her own, working at NAMI as the Peer & Recovery Program Coordinator and just graduated with her Masters in Healthcare Administration. Jerry was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder at the age of 68. Today he serves on the NAMI Board of Directors and is an IOOV trainer. He is a staff member at St. Joseph House, a transitional facility exclusively for people who suffer with mental illness.

We’ve got more Surround events coming up in June, including three more post-show dialogues and our student project What is Normal? Here are all the details

Artist o’ the Week: Happy McPartlin

11 May

Happy McPartlinActress Happy McPartlin joined the cast of NEXT TO NORMAL only a few short days ago, and to say that we are happy – well, that’s a huge understatement – we are ecstatic to have her join us as Diana in the Tony Award-winning rock musical opening next week. Happy had not even Continue reading


9 May

Unexpected Man

This is the final week of performances for THE UNEXPECTED MAN!

“[Sally Edmundson and James Belcher] have never been better… . Just Continue reading

We’ve Got You Surround-ed!

8 May

Each year Stages Surrounds a play with a series of free events that enrich and provide a more dynamic connection to that play. This year’s Surround focuses on Next To Normal and is presented in cooperation with our community partner, NAMI Metropolitan Houston (our local affiliate of the national organization), who will Continue reading

2012-2013 Season Announced!

7 May

We’ve still got one amazing show left in the 2011-2012 season, but we’re also gearing up for 2012-2013! Season tickets (subscriptions) are on sale now, and you can see the full season lineup here. Subscribers get first dibs on seats! Individual tickets for the summer shows (LIFE COULD BE A DREAM and STEEL MAGNOLIAS) will go on sale May 21, then the rest of the 2012-2013 shows will be available beginning July 11. Questions? Get in touch via the contact form at the bottom of this page, or give the Box Office a call at 713.527.0123.

Artist o’ the Week: Zach Lewis

4 May
Zach Lewis

UNEXPECTED MAN light board operator Zach Lewis

This week’s AotW spends most of his time on stage; in fact, you may have seen him as the grown-up Patrick Dennis in last season’s AUNTIE MAME. But this time actor Zach Lewis is behind the curtain making magic happen for THE UNEXPECTED MAN.

He joins the production crew as the light board operator running the lights on manual sliders to highlight and respond – LIVE – to the speaking actors on a Continue reading

I’m with Normal

3 May
Jito the dog

Jito will be walking too! Come join us!

This Saturday a team of Stages staff and friends will join thousands of other folks across the country for NAMI Walks, a community event to raise money and awareness about our country’s need for a world-class treatment and recovery system for people with mental illness. Led by Eva Laporte, the Stages crew will sport shirts emblazoned (or perhaps bedazzled, scrawled, painted…we can’t wait to see!) Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: