The creator of one of the “stars” of this weekend’s production by Orpheus Theatre said he was pleased with how well his handiwork turned out. Cast and crew member, Ian Austin, credited the help of several people with helping him make the man-eating plant in “Little Shop of Horrors” so effective.
The play is being staged at the Goodrich Theatre at the State University College at Oneonta on Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. The play is about a down-and-out floral assistant who discovers an exotic plant with a mysterious craving for fresh blood. In this production, the plant “grows” during the performance through the use of four different puppets. The biggest is 10 feet tall when its mouth is open.
This is the kickoff for Orpheus’ 29th season. One of the reason’s the show was chosen is that it is a cult classic, said stage manager Steve Ranaudo. Part of the appeal for audiences is what the production does with the plants. “I think they look phenomenal,” he said. From everything he has seen, “Ian’s work is above and beyond.” He is the Orpheus scenic artist and has role in this performance as the dentist.
The community support also helps make every Orpheus production special, Ranaudo said. He also praised the efforts of the actors and actresses who put in long hours for each production, “for the love of theater.”
When Orpheus was considering what to stage for this season, Austin, who is also director of the Oneonta Teen Center, said he suggested the play. “I grew up with Little Shop of Horrors,” he said. When he was asked if he could build the plants for less than the cost of rental, being an artist who likes to make things, he welcomed the challenge. He easily met that goal.
Some of the techniques he needed, he learned from Carol Mandigo, co-founder of the Catskill Puppet Theater. She was going to do a workshop for the center, but a scheduling problem led her to show him how to make puppets and he taught the students.
Made from a foam material, the larger plants are lightweight, and the movements of chief puppet operator John Ryan, brings them to life. The “stage 2” plant he bought at a yard sale and fixed it up.
“If I was going to do this I wanted it to be a real presence,” Austin said. Ryan helps do that with his body movement. You have to have it for this role. “When he steps inside its something to see something you made come to life,” he said.
The work was also helped by the work of the show’s costumer, Mary Davis-Fralick and carpenter Dave Hogle.
“I’m a little biased, but I’m proud of the way it turned out,” Austin said.
For tickets or information call Orpheus at 432-9392, or email www.orpheustheatre.org.Tickets are also available for purchase at the box office, an hour before show time.