“The Adding Machine” a Behind the Scenes Look

Team on "The Adding Machine"

Team on “The Adding Machine”

By Neise Cordeiro

If we think a theatrical play simply requires a good script, actors and a stage, think again. It takes much more to get a production off the ground.

Aaron Tuttle, lead faculty of College of Southern Nevada’s fine-arts department, shared his process to get “The Adding Machine” ready for opening night. Tuttle is directing the play.

“The first thing is to gather the important creative people: the team,” Tuttle said. “That is the set, the lighting and costume designers.”

Visiting artist Will Lowry, set and lighting designer, was invited by Tuttle to assist with this production. Lowry is a Broadway veteran and currently assists in productions at Furman University in South Carolina.

He said the show will take approximately 170 hours to prepare. “It vastly varies with every production based on material, scope, scale, time, resources and dreams,” Lowry said.

Adam Yeager, who plays the role of Shrdlu, admires tech people like Lowry. It requires dedication and artistic skills. “They are the hardest working people around. They make sure everyone looks nice.”

Psychology major Sherandra Owen took her first CSN theater class last semester and used to make her own costumes for Comic-Con, which celebrates comics and artworks at international conventions. She is now responsible for the entire costume design of “The Adding Machine.”

“It’s been very stressful,” Owen said. “You first need to research the time period and sometimes things done in other productions just to get ideas for what you want your production to look like.”

Owen typically works 11 to 12 hours a week in the costume shop plus extra hours at home. “We are working on masks for some parts of the play and I have been painting them at home.”

Tuttle also brought on a voice-and-movement instructor Kris Pruett to help train the actors. “We’ve hired a new instructor and incorporating that sort of work into the play is important.”

IMG_8587Beyond those aspects of a production, the director needs to cast the right actors. That requires a lengthy audition process. According to Tuttle 60 people auditioned for “The Adding Machine.” Eleven actors made it.

Approximately 200 students audition for many shows each year.

A large percentage of the students who participate in CSN theatrical productions are non-majors. Many students interested in acting enroll in a class or two.

“Last semester we had around 700 students [enrolled in classes] and that’s majors and non-majors,” Tuttle said. The department has 150 majors, he noted.

“The Adding Machine,” written by Pulitzer-Prize winner Elmer Rice, is a 1923 play that deals with issues in the workforce.

“The play is about someone being very loyal to a company for 25 years and on his 25 th anniversary when he thinks he is going to get a promotion of some sort he is actually let go and replaced by an adding machine: by technology,” Tuttle said. Workers today face the same ordeal, which makes this story relevant for audiences.

According to Tuttle, the play helped students learn and understand the form of expressionism, which often requires strong emotional reactions by the actors.

“This is one of those plays that really lent itself in the expressionistic movement and good vocal work,” Tuttle said.

When reflecting on how he chooses plays for CSN students, Tuttle said, “The criterion we choose is a good play that highlights the skills and trains our students as they move forward.” That is most important.

Secondly, Tuttle added, “We have a large population of students in need of roles so using an ensemble play is very important.”

Sean Craig Stuart, who plays the lead role Mr. Zero, said the theater program helps students prepare for the real world, teaching them about the business and self-promotion.

In Stuart’s opinion, “They are preparing students way more than other institutions.”

“The Adding Machine” opens Nov. 6 at the CSN Backstage Theatre at Cheyenne campus. It runs through Nov. 15.

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