By Payton Clark, Social Media Editor (Courtesy Photo/The Bison)
While senior capstones are meant to show the knowledge gained in a subject over four years, most focus on a single aspect of one’s education.
Senior theatre major Grace Wohlschlegel’s capstone is different.
Wohlschlegel’s capstone covers all design aspects of the OBU Theater production “Defying Gravity.”
The play focuses on the lives of seven people who witnessed or experienced the 1986 Challenger disaster in different ways. The cast includes freshman Hunter Vicars, sophomore Grant McGee, juniors Chase Hendrickson, Adam McCollough and Tori Smith, and senior Elizabeth Grimes.
As the “scenographer,” Wohlschlegel is responsible for set, lights, sound, costume, props and makeup for the show, using her experience to create a unifying design.
“While I’ve been here my emphasis has been on tech specifically, not acting, so I have been taking all of the design classes and I have done a lot of different designs like set and costume,” Wohlschlegel said.
“This allows me to oversee the entire design process for a show and implement everything I’ve learned in a very broad overarching scale instead. Instead of focusing on one aspect I can look at the big picture.”
After getting the project approved at the end of her junior year, Wohlschlegel has researched and prepared for the project for around a year.
“I did a lot of dramaturgical research over the summer over the Challenger disaster and Monet impressionist paintings, and initial concept work,” Wohschlegel said. “During the fall semester we started having concept design meetings with [Professor Caron] and we’ve been going since then. It’s been a yearlong process, including having to take the Capstone course that the theatre department offers, where you work on the paper portion of the project.”
While she has had lots of experience designing certain aspects for other shows, Wohlschlegel wanted to have a larger role for her senior capstone.
“I love designing, and I’ve done multiple design roles for shows before, but I haven’t gotten a chance to do scenography,” Wohlschlegel said.
“I love the big picture, and trying to put everything together to get the big picture, so I wanted to take a shot at it and see what it was like to be fully in charge of the design for a show.”
“Defying Gravity” revolves around the Challenger disaster and the different viewpoint of seven different characters, inspiring Wohlschlegel to focus on the perspectives of others through her design.
“What I latched onto was the idea of perspective and perception, so how we perceive the world and how it shapes our assumptions and how the world shapes us,” Wohlschlegel said. “I love thinking about how people see and understand the world, so the show really speaks to me a lot about that with how individuals perceive the world. With my design, I want to challenge the audience to perceive the world in a different way and to understand that other people see the world in a different way.”
Woslschlegel explains that scenography requires lots of collaboration as the focus is on unifying all aspects of design.
“As a designer you just have a piece of the puzzle, which you and everyone else contributes to each other,” Wohlschlegel said. “As a scenographer you’re in charge of all of it, so you don’t to talk to the lighting or set designer because you are the designer. You have to be able to see the entire process and understand that each decision you make in each area is going to affect your decision in other areas.”
According to director Matthew Caron, having one person doing the entire design of a show is very uncommon in modern theatre.
“In the 40’s and 50’s it was popular on Broadway to have scenographers do all of the design for a show, and in small productions this often the case but in traditional theatre that we want to emulate at OBU, it’s good to divide the design elements among people,” Caron said. “Grace is a talented artist in all areas of design, and she’s a hard worker with excellent work ethic so we felt like allowing her this project would be good for her.”
Typical capstone projects focus on one aspect of a show but Wohlschlegel’s project is “hugely ambitious.”
“Grace wanted to do all of them and we felt confident in that, so I think it communicates to the students that it’s not limited and they can do whatever they want,” Caron said. “As long as we feel that they are capable of doing it, they can dream big on their capstone. I don’t think we will see another capstone project this big for a while, but it’s an inspiration to the classes coming up thinking about their capstones.”
Delegating tasks to other people is what Caron believes is the hardest task with Wohschlegel’s project.
“She brings design ideas to me, I make decisions on them and then she executes them however she sees fit. Obviously there are hiccups and you can’t anticipate every problem, but the really good thing about Grace is her adaptability, so there isn’t a challenge she can’t handle,” Caron said. “It’s really nice to have someone like that in charge of all the design areas, and I rely on her a lot.”
Wohlschlegel agreed that her biggest challenge has been delegation, but is thankful for the help of the theatre department.
“I don’t have an assistant for every area of design but for some, and I have to remember that I don’t have to do everything and I have people to do things for me to help out with the process,” Wohlschelegel said. “It’s been rewarding because it has been really nice to see the process as it’s coming together and we are getting close to the end. Everyone in the theatre department has been supportive and helpful because they know I can be focused and forget I have others to help me, so that’s been really nice because they know it means a lot to me.”
Caron explained that while the theatre department chooses the shows put on, this play was particularly easy because of the experience students have with it, and its presence in department curriculum.
“I knew of the play and liked it before I came to OBU, and the students know it really well because they all have read it, so that lead to us deciding to do it,” Caron said. “Grace was really familiar with it, and it dovetailed nicely with her capstone project.”
“Defying Gravity” premieres with 7:30 p.m. show times on Feb. 22, 23 and 24, as well as 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 25 in Sarkeys Black Box Theater. A talkback led by Wohlschlegel and Caron will follow the Feb. 23 performance. Tickets can be purchased online at okbu.edu or in the Sarkeys office, $12 for adults and $5 for students.
Left: Courtesy Photo/Elizabeth Grimes
Right: Courtesy Photo/Benjamin Baxter