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One of a kind
Alec Henderson, the house manager at Central Wyoming College's Robert A. Peck Arts Center Theater, used his experience working at a technical scene shop in Chicago to construct the 8-foot tall wooden bus that will be on display throughout each performance of "Hair," the college's spring musical. Photo by Wayne Nicholls

One of a kind

Apr 14, 2013 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Central Wyoming College theater director Mike Myers said this month's production of "Hair" will be unlike any other he has seen -- but that is part of the play's design.

"They're wide open," he said of the script's staging directions. "There's really no description whatsoever. It's whatever you want to do."

Myers and CWC's technical theater director Chontelle Gray took advantage of the artistic leeway, developing some ideas of their own for the local production. One concept in particular will be on prominent display throughout each show -- an 8-foot tall wooden bus constructed for the most part by CWC's technical theater students.

"I'd say in the neighborhood of 15 (students contributed)," said Alec Henderson, house manager at CWC's Robert A. Peck Arts Center Theater. "We tried to get them in on helping out and getting some of the techniques of how to build a stage."

When he lived in Chicago, Henderson spent time working at a technical scene shop. He used that experience to guide students through the weeks-long process of building the three-dimensional bus.

"It was up there in terms of the technical challenge," Henderson said. "Once you start getting curves and 3D stuff when you're building on stage, it starts to get tricky."

The nose and front windows of the bus were formed using a rounded material called sonotube that is commonly used in construction, according to Henderson.

"That can give you the curved surfaces where you need it," Henderson said, "like where it transfers to the side on a school bus there's a curve, and on the fenders and the hood of the bus."

The top of the structure is actually a standard 4-by-8 stage platform that has been "rigged up" to be 8 feet tall, Henderson said. He and his crew made sure to install plenty of cross-bracing underneath the platform, because the "Hair" band will be sitting on the roof of the bus throughout the play.

"It gets the band onstage," Henderson said, adding that the musicians will be in costume too. "Some of them are wearing wigs for the long hair, (and) they're duded up in the hippie garb."

Myers said "Hair" characters will use the bus for entrances and exits as well, but he warned that actors will not be limited to the stage for this production.

"I told the designer I wanted the auditorium to be part of the design," Myers said. "We've never done that before."

He said the actors spend quite a bit of time performing from "the house" of the theater, which will be decorated with beaded curtains, prayer flags and 1960s-era artwork.

"It's going to be a neat experience," Henderson said. "There's a lot of chemistry."

Myers said the students are excited about the show, which should provide audience members with an engaging story, moving music and attractive aesthetics. In addition to the decorations in the auditorium, Myers said snow falls on stage at one point, and some actors wear giant puppet heads in a couple of scenes.

"They don't look real while they're wearing these heads," Myers said, explaining that he got the idea from a group called the Bread and Puppet Theater that was active in the 1960s. "If you look at photos of political rallies and demonstrations you'll sometimes run across them. They made these puppets that were like 12 feet tall, and they'd do political plays with these giant puppets."

He said the overarching theme in "Hair," and in the Riverton production especially, has to do with peace as opposed to war, a sentiment he believes most people can agree with.

"It's against war period, and that's a good message as far as I'm concerned," Myers said.

He acknowledged that the play contains some references to drug use that may not be appropriate for children, and he advised parents to leave kids under 13 at home.

"I think it's suitable for most high school students," Myers said, pointing out that, in his opinion, "Hair" is not meant to promote drug abuse or the hippie lifestyle. "I don't think 'Hair' is advocating anything. It's a picture of a particular time in American history."

Henderson agreed, encouraging area residents to come see the play.

"We're trying to bring the flavor of the summer of love to springtime in Riverton," he said.

The schedule for "Hair" includes a matinee at 2:30 p.m. Sunday and shows at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and a second matinee at 2:30 p.m. April 21.

For more information, call the center at 855-2222.

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Central Wyoming College