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Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016

Sets come and go but play must go on

Monday, October 23, 2006

Actors take down a set.
SIKESTON - The curtain closed on the four-day run of Sikeston Little Theater's production of "The Beverly Hillbillies," but before the actors could say their final good-byes another set had to be dismantled.

Watching it all come down is a heart-breaking reality for those who spent many hours assembling and perfecting the set.

Whether it is "The Beverly Hillbillies" or any of the many other plays the SLT puts together, the process is the same.

"The Odd Couple had a relatively simple set, but it still took us about 100 hours in all to build and set up," said Rhonda Palmer, who served as assistant director of "The Odd Couple." "However, it only took two hours to take down and undo all the work that had been done in creating the set.

"It was a little depressing watching the set slowly come down, but it is something you get used to in theater," continued Palmer.

A majority of the set work at the Little Theater is done by John and Teresa Fisk. Involved in the theater for years, they have designed and painted elaborate sets consisting of a variety of stage settings including pirate ships, stairwells and small houses.

After working on so many sets, the Fisks have experienced the phenomenon of the quick destruction of hours of work more than a few times. They say watching their work get repainted or destroyed never gets easier.

"We normally work on a set from the day the director gets a script until the day of the play. In that time, we work about five days a week, two to three hours a day and any extra free time we have," said Mrs. Fisk. "To watch the art get painted over and the set get broken down is a little heart-breaking, but the reality is you have to do it."

The first few times, the sight was too much for Fisk to handle.

"I have painted scenery on backdrops for a lot of plays and after each play is over we have to paint over the art to reuse the backdrop," said Fisk. "For a long time, I couldn't do it. I had to have somebody else paint over it."

In order to make the backstage crews' work lasting and to ensure production costs and ticket prices remain low, the crews attempt to salvage and reuse as many props and materials as possible.

"We built the sets so the walls are reusable. We didn't even have to buy one piece of furniture or wood to construct our set this time," said Palmer. "It was all salvaged from past productions or borrowed from members of the cast and crew. It was such a collaboration to put the set together."

Although much is salvaged, a vast majority of the artwork and the elaborate sets are broken down, leaving just enough materials to do it all over again.

Although Mrs. Fisk admits it is hard to watch a set be broken down after so much work, she noted "it is all worth it because people appreciate it for what it is."

And neither the Fisks nor Palmer are ready to let a little nostalgia get in the way of creating more theater sets.

"After all the hours and work, to come here and hear the audience laugh and have a great time made it all worth it," said Fisk. "I just can't wait until next time."

Mrs. Fisk said she and her husband "plan to keep doing it as long as we can hold up."

The only thing the Fisks ask for is a few more volunteers. After all, there are two more plays are scheduled at the Little Theater before the end of the year. Two more sets to go up, then come down.