Play effects add to performance’s mood


Regina Neenan

Pioneer Players performed Henrik Ibsen’s “Ghosts” Oct. 23. The play, which was created in 1881, was controversial for its time. The characters removed their masks at the end of the play.

The University of Wisconsin-Platteville Pioneer Players waited on the dimly lit set and behind the audience as onlookers waited for the action to begin.

A haze filled the air and an eerie sound played, setting the stage for the precarious situation about to ensue.

The Pioneer Players began their presentation of Henrik Ibsen’s “Ghosts” Wednesday, Oct. 23, at the Center for the Arts. The play revealed a haunting tale of a woman’s dark past, the footsteps that follow her throughout life like a dark passenger and the sticky web entangling a family torn apart.

The original play was written in 1881 and the plotline addressed difficult issues such as sexually transmitted diseases, marital infidelity and incest. The UW-Platteville production was taken on by a student cast, lighting designer, stage manager and sound manager. Production preparation took just under six weeks.

“Ibsen was considered the father of modern drama for a reason,” Associate Professor of Theatre and director of the production, David Schuler said. “He dared to tackle subjects that were considered taboo or subjects that shouldn’t be discussed in public on stage.”

Set on a thrust stage with the audience on three sides, the actors were inches from their spectators on the unit set, a single room where all of the action takes place. The space was filled with a haze and each of the five characters wore masks to add dimension to the mysterious plotline.

“In a way, all these people are locked in this room with these secrets,” Schuler said.

Mrs. Helen Alving, played by senior animal science major Emily Cushing, had spent her entire life failing to deal with her secrets. Upon her son’s return home after time spent abroad, the façade of her life to that point crumbled, revealing the truth that had been shrouded for so long.

“I’m running around chased by ghosts, inside and out,” Cushing said while playing Alving.

After the show, audience member Braden Ganter, a senior English literature and political science double major, weighed-in on the production.

“It was really surprising to me that the characters took off the masks, getting rid of the ghosts that were following them,” Ganter said.

Along with bold costumes, a dark shrouded set and color and lighting designed by senior civil engineering major Danny McMullen, both played a crucial role to the play’s success.

“My favorite part was the lighting,” Zack Steffel senior psychology major said. “Each scene had a different feeling and the color of the lights added contrast and enhanced the mood.”

The Pioneer Players next production, Larry Kramer’s “The Normal Heart,” will be held Nov. 20-24 at the CFA Theater.