Dr. Seuss gives you some weird challenges as a set designer: How do you make a cat fly by in a helicopter? A six-foot airborne eagle? Truffula trees 20-feet tall? A nest in a tree an elephant can sit in? When your source material is lighter than air and routinely breaks the laws of gravity, proportion, balance, and human physiognomy…the tough get going. The cast and crew of “Seussical the Musical” at Stone Bridge High School are digging in for the fight of their imaginative lives.
“To me, Dr. Seuss means sproingy curlicues, impossible structures with no visible means of support, bulbosity and fluff,” said director, Glen Hochkeppel. “The question is: how do you deliver that on our real-world stage. You cannot suspend the laws of physics.”
Instead, you bend them—and everything else. The construction crew is using a lot of unconventional building materials, like stiff insulated wire that holds its shape for that extra boing, insulation foam to create lightweight 2-D versions of Seuss’s impossible-to-build 3-D pieces, even some wild-growing bamboo to recreate that classic bit of fantasy flora, the Truffula Tree.
Dan Thiewes, parent of sound designer and student producer Jake Thiewes, found a stand of literally hundreds of humongous stalks of the bamboo, which he claims “grows like a weed” in Viriginia. A word to the wise: don’t plant it in your yard; you will never be rid of it.
Sophomore A.J. Pendola, who has a history of puppet-building, is working on the six foot effigy of Vlad Vladikoff—the evil black-bottomed eagle who drops Horton’s Who-clover in a great patch of clovers, one hundred miles wide—a creature of chicken wire and quilt batting, ping-pong balls and fake fur. When complete, the beast will be able to swoop over the audience’s heads flapping its wings and cackling like a—well, like a black-bottomed eagle.
Crystal Bae, Kelly Alexander, and Cindy Long are working on a “Pill-Berry Bush,” jiggling shrubbery with seven giant disembodied hands holding oversized bottles of bird-feather-growth hormone. Naturally, old Gertrude McFuzz will go too far, and get stuck with more tail than she knows what to do with.
“Hopefully, it all adds up to a fantastic time for kids and adults alike,” said Hochkeppel. “We want another visual surprise around the corner every two minutes.”