The first mainstage of the semester, Picnic, opened this weekend in Balcony Theater. This American classic captures the repression and restlessness of mid-century middle America. At two neighboring households of women, preparations are underway for the annual picnic, a welcome diversion from their usual routines. Helen Potts spends her days dutifully caring for her elderly mother. Flo Owens, a middle-aged widow, has two teenage daughters: beautiful Madge and brainy Millie. But everything changes when Hal, a sexy drifter and old college friend of Alan’s, arrives. Picnic is an emotional look at the American ideals of what it’s like to live with others’ expectations of us.
Kayla Stadler plays Mrs. Potts who takes care of her elderly and senile mother. Kayla describes her as “very optimistic outlook and loves company!” Being set in the 1950’s, Picnic has brought unique challenges to the actors and Kayla describes how this affects her portrayal of Mrs. Potts, though they have differing perspectives: “I think the challenges mostly come from the difference in time period. We have a different view of men vs women these days than we used to. Mrs. Potts, due to certain events that happened when she was young, is particularly doting on men where Kayla may be a little less eager to.” While Kayla has been in other mainstage productions, this one has created a new experience that has given her a new appreciation for the intimacy of a space like our Balcony Theater. She divulges, “I’ve never been in a Balcony show before, so it’s very intimate – both literally and emotionally. I’ve worked in a couple of great (comedic) ensembles before, but this cast is comprised of a smaller group of people with very close ties to one another. Every night I’m just reminded how much a love working with a small cast. It really just lets us connect on a different level, which allows us to do more honest work.” Picnic has given our T&D actors a great opportunity to learn more about their craft and the world around us.
Adam Jehle designed the set for Picnic and put in a great deal of thought to the elements he wanted portrayed on stage. He found inspiration through the characters and the overarching themes throughout the show regarding women and their role in society, both now and then: “The show is primarily about women and the societal expectations of them. For Madge specifically she wants to leave and have an exciting life. So I needed to make her surroundings bleak and desperate. I made the walls transparent so she and the rest of the women are constantly looking at their surroundings, or ‘future.'” Adam also used imagery and metaphor for the characters to provide more intimate details of the set. He explains his use of hummingbird feeders throughout the set, one of his favorite elements of his design. He imparts, “Also there is a lot of hummingbird feeders. Hal, to me, is a hummingbird, the symbol of love, and these women of the show have set up these feeders to attract ‘Hal’s’ to their home to take them and fly them away from this place.” With two porches and a small space, Adam was given no easy task in terms of design, but he was able to be innovative and detailed in the way he brought the world to life.
Picnic runs February 20-21, 24-28, and March 2-3 at 7:30PM with Sunday matinees on February 23 and March 1 at 2:30PM in Balcony Theater. This is a powerful show that is able to stand the test of time and reach audiences universally. Don’t miss out on an opportunity to see these T&D Bears and the immense work they’ve put into this production.