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Set Design Aids Story-telling in Local Production of Sondheim's Musical, "Into the Woods" at Arcada

Marquee Youth Conservatory of St. Charles, IL presents Stephen Sondheim's "Into the Woods" June 18-20 at the renovated Arcada Theater. Above, Set Designer, Brett Baleskie, is all smiles as he applies finishing touches off-site to scenery.

As soon as the audience enters the house, and before they even see their first actor, the magic of the set design draws them into the story. Scenic design and painting might not be thought of as traditional forms of visual art, but they’re an integral part of stagecraft enriching the theater goer’s experience.

Seasoned set designer, Brett Baleskie, who along with a team, designed and assembled the set for the upcoming Marquee Youth Conservatory production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” playing at The Arcada in St. Charles, IL June 18-20, 2021.

Brett worked in collaboration with director, Colin Bokowy, to design a set that was not only practical from a backstage aspect and functional for the actors, but also visually engaging to the audience. No small feat!

“I like creating worlds from scratch,” Brett says. “Getting to solve 3-dimensional problems is fun for me.”

The set design started with Colin’s concept of using a child’s pop-up book on center stage. After initial brainstorming, Brett set to work sketching with colored pencils on copy paper. He also needed to know the size parameters of the stage, along with its plusses or minuses impacting set movement, off-stage storage and other practicalities impacting the set. He also decides which pieces will be on “wagons” for easy rolling on and off stage, what pieces should be elevated or have staircases for the actors, and which will remain permanently on stage throughout each scene.

Above: Brett's initial scenery sketch using colored pencils on white copy paper.

“It’s all smoke-and-mirrors,” Brett says with a smile.

And because theater availability is often limited to the actual production time, and a few days prior for set assembly and final rehearsals, scenery building and painting happens off-site. Then the finished pieces are transported by truck to the theater for final assembly.

So much to think about, and often, so little time to pull it all together! In this case, sketching began on May 8 and finishing touches to the scenery were applied June 3 -- a total of 10 days from concept to finished product.

As Marquee Youth Stage founder and artistic director, Connie Flores, observes, “There are a lot of moving parts when planning a production.” And, when it comes to set design, she means that quite literally.

If you’re not familiar with “Into the Woods”, a plot synopsis from reads in part: “It’s a modern twist on well-known fairy tales put into a musical format following the classic tales of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Rapunzel. The characters are all tied together by the story of the baker and his wife longing to begin a family except that their interaction with a witch placed a curse on them.

There’s still time to get your tickets – here are the details…

  • Running time -- 2 hours and 45 minutes for the full production, plus a 15-minute intermission between Acts I & II.

  • Performances run Friday, June 18 and Saturday, June 19 at 7pm; Sunday, June 20 at 2pm

  • Location: The Arcada Theater, 105 E. Main Street, St Charles, IL

Children (under 12)/Seniors: $14

Adults: $16


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