NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. – A Westminster College theater major unveiled her set design capstone at Theatre Westminster’s production of Cabaret at 7:30 Thursday night.
Deborah Heyl is a senior music education and theater double major who designed the set for Theatre Westminster’s production of the musical Cabaret for her capstone project.
Her job as a designer was to research the show, come up with a design concept, and make a visual representation of that concept. She also stressed that set design involves collaborating with the director and his or her vision of the show.
Heyl’s design for Cabaret focuses on the idea of an abandoned amusement park. She mentioned her experience working with John Gresh, an adjunct theater professor at Westminster and Cabaret’s director. She said that Gresh wanted things to look rundown, so she googled keywords like “rundown,” “trash” and “abandoned” to give herself someplace to start. These searches led her to the idea of an abandoned amusement park, and she used that concept to design the set. She said one of the interesting points that fueled her amusement park concept was the idea that rides typically go in circles, and throughout the play, the characters metaphorically go in circles as well.
Gresh also discussed his involvement in Heyl’s design process, saying that working with her was “a good experience.” He said that the director and designers’ job is to interpret the text, any design is bound to change. Gresh said that there’s a tendency to be afraid to be wrong, but it’s just part of the process – some ideas will work and some will not.
He said what is important is that the show keeps its momentum and keeps the audience interested, and “Debbie’s set does that.” According to Gresh, there aren’t many “set dressing” pieces in Heyl’s design, that everything serves a specific purpose, and it keeps the show running smoothly.
Kallen Eckert, a junior business administration and theater major, is Cabaret’s Technical Director. Eckert said that, while she didn’t have any direct influence on Heyl’s design process, as the technical director, it was her job to figure out how to build the design and then oversee the process. She commented on the process saying that it was overwhelmingly gratifying seeing things come together.
Heyl wasn’t always a theater major, however. She was originally a music education major alone until she added the theater minor her sophomore year, which eventually grew into a major. Concerning that decision, she said, “Looking back on it, it probably saved my life.”
She said that theater had turned into a passion, and that she could do it for the rest of her life.
When asked what advice Heyl would give to anyone considering designing a set, she said the advice she received was “don’t limit yourself.” She said you have to take your creative side and put it into reality. She also warned not to put too much pressure on yourself to get it right the first time and to be able to adapt to changes.
Cabaret will be showing in Beeghly Theater Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m.