Memorabilia on display Sept. 16-Oct. 31 at the Silver Center
PLYMOUTH — Selections from 30 years of theatre memorabilia from the Department of Music, Theatre, and Dance and the archives at Plymouth State University will be displayed at the Silver Center for the Arts in an exhibition curated by PSU Professor Matthew Kizer, the resident scenic and lighting designer.
Kizer says he developed the retrospective exhibition at the request of the Director of the Karl Drerup Art Gallery and Exhibitions program, Cynthia Robinson.
“I’m the visual guy in the department,” Kizer says, “so this task quickly became mine.”
Kizer has designed an illustrated timeline for the rotunda wall in the Silver Center and will employ multiple video screens along with the physical memorabilia such as photographs, posters and playbills. He contacted former directors and designers for archival material, and sorted through department files and the Spinelli Archives at the PSU Lamson Library and Learning Commons, selecting materials representative of the evolution of the academic theatre program over the three decades since its formal inception.
Theatre has a long history at Plymouth State going back to the late 1800s, but the academic major was established in 1984 under the initiative of Professor Charles Combs. Professor Roi White in the English Department had previously directed productions with The Plymouth Players student group.
Combs says theatre is part of the liberal arts tradition—an art form, and Plymouth State needed to develop a program.
“I went to Jim Hobart (chief financial officer) and told him that in addition to repairs to the stage and curtains, we needed a theatre minor. Hobart asked, ‘Why not a major?’ and not long after that the major was created,” he recalled.
Combs developed the curriculum, got it approved and moved from the English department to the newly expanded Department of Music and Theatre.
He says, “I wanted to be an educator, not a director. Students got it all—education and the art.”
He was a one-man department at the time, but had experience in design and technology, as well as performance, theatre literature, history and criticism, and was able to bring in guest directors, choreographers and designers to round out the students’ experience.
With the help of Dean William Chmurny, a room full of decaying flats of scenery was rebuilt by theatre designer Dick Jeter as a black box experimental theatre, the first space dedicated solely to theatre in Silver Hall [since 1992, The Silver Center for the Arts].
Then student, now theatre technician, Bob Bruemmer remembers hat the main stage was originally in a “gymnatorium,” a multipurpose gymnasium and auditorium shared with the music program and other campus events.
“It was a gym with a dividing wall at center, with a stage at one end and pull-out bleacher seats at the other. We would close the wall for smaller shows and open it for larger ones. It wasn’t uncommon to abandon the stage and build the set in front of the proscenium or occasionally do a show in the round,” Bruemmer says. “The black box was in the old Silver and we did a schedule of one main stage and one studio show a semester.”
Plymouth State College alumni remember productions on a small stage in Samuel Read Hall residence hall and in Silver Hall. Today, main stage productions take place in the 665-seat Hanaway Theatre, while smaller-scale productions are staged in the intimate 110-seat “black box” studio theatre, both at the Silver Center. These two very different venues provide for a great breadth of experience for performers and audiences alike.
Alison Ford, art director at The SLAPI NBC Universal Studios in New York, was associate professor of theatre at Plymouth State from 1988 to 1995.
Ford says, “The students and I were evenly matched when I was teaching at Plymouth State. Plymouth was my first teaching job, and many of the students I taught were the first generation in their families to go to college. For both of us, this was a leap of faith. My students and I were breathless with the task of shaping the theatre world and our- selves. We built doll garments in Costume Construction, earned Introdollars in Introduction to Theatre (a Monopoly-money premium redeemable on weekly quizzes), and designed for the shallow stages of Broadway houses in Set Design. During my time at Plymouth the Silver Cultural Arts Center was built on the footprint of Silver Hall. For the faculty, staff, students and community, that was another leap of faith. I think it’s safe now to pronounce that effort a good gamble.”
The Silver Center, on Main Street in Plymouth, hosts professional artists, lecturers, poets and productions of the Department of Music, Theatre, and Dance and the Educational Theatre Collaborative at PSU.
Matt Kizer is a regular designer for Jean’s Playhouse regional company in Lincoln. He has also designed for the Educational Theatre Collaborative, the Kearsarge Arts Theatre, Auburn University in Alabama, Operafestival Di Roma in Italy, the Barnstormers Theatre, White River Theatre Festival in Vermont and for dance companies, theatres and colleges in New England, Virginia, Ohio and Indiana. He holds a B.A. in theatre and a M.F.A in design.
The Silver Center is open Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m.–10 p.m., Friday 8 a.m.–5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, noon–6 p.m. and during performances. The Silver Center is closed on PSU holidays.
Information about the Silver Center is online at silver.plymouth.edu.
General information about events at Plymouth State University is online at ThisWeek@ PSU, http://thisweek. blogs.plymouth.edu.