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‘Mary Rose’ at Brooke Hills Playhouse

July 7, 2011
From staff reports , The Herald-Star

WELLSBURG - Audiences who come to see the Brooke Hills Playhouse production of J.M. Barrie's wise and witty ghost story, "Mary Rose," to be staged at 8 p.m. today through Saturday and 2 pm. Sunday will see the result of an unusual level of collaboration between actors and technicians, according to director Charles Calabrese of Wintersville.

"We at the playhouse asked a lot of the cast of this play," he said. "Not only did the actors have to develop complex characters and make them believable, they also had to move scenery and props and assist with special effects because there simply weren't enough crew members available to handle all the technical needs of the show."

Technical director Julia Barnhart of Wellsburg agreed.

"The actors have been great," she said. "They help with all the changes. They move whatever we need. They have designated themselves to certain areas. It's been a true team effort."

Calabrese admits he had to be convinced that all the effects were necessary.

"My instinct is toward the simplest possible tech in a show, but Julie's passion for going all out with 'Mary Rose' changed my mind," he said.

Barnhart said the story of "Mary Rose" demanded the tech-heavy approach.

"It's a ghost story, so you've got to feel that eeriness," she said. "The effects include lighting, fog and doors that open by themselves. We thought it was necessary to put these things in, and it has worked really well."

Because the script goes back and forth in time more than 30 years, and to separate locations, the set had to be built for maximum speed in changing scenery, with a limited number of people available to make the move.

The main setting of the title character's home presented a special challenge, according to Barnhart.

"We had to make the scene changes as quick as we could," she said. "The first set that was built didn't swivel, so we had to come in and re-adjust it so the walls would flip with just a finger touch."

Building on the original set design and construction by Kevin Dennis of Steubenville, Barnhart brought in her husband Clay to put in the swivel effect, Mike Winters Sr. and Jr. of Follansbee to add period architectural details and Kimberly Winters of Follansbee to add artistic details to the fireplace as well as create a peacock painting that is an essential part of the story.

Barnhart's mother, Diana Mendel of Wellsburg, composed original, eerie mood music for the show and directed the cast in a choral chant that is crucial to the play.

Calabrese said "Mary Rose" is a perfect example of theater as a collaborative art.

"The collaboration is essential to the success of a play like this, where everyone, actors, technicians, crafts people, crew members and directors play an equally important role," he said.

Barnhart agreed.

"It took a whole community of us to put it together, up to the very opening night," she said. "But it's fabulous now, the audiences are enjoying it and they like the effects," she observed.

For reservations, call (304) 737-3344.

The playhouse summer season continues at 8 p.m. July 14-17 and 21-23 and 2 p.m. July 24 with Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's fractured fairy tale "Into the Woods," followed by Charles Morey's comedy "Laughing Stock," to be staged at 8 p.m. July 28-31 and Aug. 4-6 and 2 p.m. Aug. 7. The final show of the season will be "bf F?" an original play for young actors by Diana Mendel of Wellsburg, to be presented at 8 p.m. Aug. 11-14 and 18-20 and 2 p.m. Aug. 21.

The playhouse's 40th season is sponsored by WTOV-TV and the Center of Music and Art. Show sponsors include the Wellsburg Kiwanis Club, Koppers Inc., Kwik King Food Stores, Main Street Bank and Brooke County Rotary Club.

New for this season, patrons may pay for their tickets with credit cards. For information, go to

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