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Design class envisions setting for upcoming play

The graphic design studio class will bring the big screen to the theater department’s next production. “Tintypes,” a musical, will incorporate 21st century technology to tell the story of 19th century New York City.

“We’re creating a digitally projected background with images that correspond to the content of the show,” said Jason Howell, professor of the graphic design studio class. “A lot of that’s historical information provided by the playwrites and director. We’re just assisting in the visual aspects of the storyline.”

“Tintypes” portrays America in the 1900s with actors playing historical characters and singing songs that tell the story of America’s past.

Laura Holland, chair of the communications arts department, serves as the director.

“It’s unlike any other play you’re ever going to see,” Holland said. “It doesn’t have a storyline running through [it]. It’s a series of images that are trying to portray the 1900s in New York City. The play progresses with us looking at different kinds of things that were there then.”

The play will feature a digital backdrop, with images assembled by the graphic design studio class.

“It’s cool to work with an actual client,” junior Tia Orred said. “They can say ‘I don’t like this; we’re going to change it.’ And then we’ll change it. I think it’s neat because it gives us real life experience instead of turning in papers for a grade.”

The students were given subjects of history that will be featured in the production. Audience members will see themes of immigration, inventions, Vaudeville and more.

“Our role is to assist in what the director sees for the vision of the show,” Howell said. “You’re going to see a style that fits the style of the show. You’re not going to see something spectacular, design-wise. But it shouldn’t be. It should fit. If we’ve done our job properly, then you don’t notice the graphic design.”

The designers must gather and edit pictures to use for the digital backdrop.

“It’s been a little overwhelming, in terms of organizing such an extensive, complex thing,” Howell said. “Finding and editing the pictures is easy, but understanding how to manage several hundred pictures all at once is overwhelming.”

Howell said the students deserve a lot of credit for their work.

“[The pictures] will be projected onto the screen behind the actors,” junior Marie Baker said. “The point is they’ll compliment and give a history behind the era that the actors are representing, but not distract. We want the focus to stay on the actors. We want people to notice them in passing.”

After searching through hundreds of pictures, some of the students have learned a bit themselves.

“I learned that Teddy Roosevelt once gave a speech, got shot in the middle of it and kept giving the speech,” Amy Leander said. “He was such a man.”

Roosevelt will be one of the characters featured in the production. According to Howell, “Tintypes” will expose a lot of history in an approachable manner.

“How many people actually go out and search for immigrant photos of the 1900s,” Howell said. “It’s not on anybody’s priority list. You can spend hours and hours searching around on the Internet for this kind of story. [But] you’re going to hear [it] in a couple minutes in a song. It’s a condensed version of visual history in this one period of time.”

The production will feature ragtime music from the early 19th century. It features five actors that will be on stage the entire time and play multiple roles.

It will open on Feb. 27 and run for two weekends.

“It’s kind of like you’re sitting down with a scrapbook of that era and the pictures come alive,” Holland said.

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