Marshall McMahen’s memories of stage production date back some two decades, when as a little boy he and his siblings would put on living room plays.
“I remember building things and putting on shows as a kid; making my sisters be in my little productions that I would direct them in, dressing them up and bossing them around, hanging things from the ceiling; all the same kinds of things that happen in real theatre,” says 28-year-old McMahen, Pacific Opera Victoria’s associate designer in residence for the 2014-15 season.
The UBC Theatre grad is now involved in productions on a much bigger scale, participating in a year-long practicum of sorts to gain experience as a set, lighting and costume designer in a professional setting. “One of the things that happens when you’re a designer is that your company always just has one designer for something, so often you’re just learning from your own mistakes and your own successes,” McMahen says. “There’s only so much you can learn from yourself without being exposed to others’ artistic practices, so I thought this was a great time to go back to school, in a way, and learn from really fantastic, and experienced, established designers.”
After working closely with POV costumer Nancy Bryant on October’s major production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold, McMahen is taking on a more leading role for November’s semi-staged collaboration with Victoria Symphony: Camelot in Concert. He’s assisting on both costume and set design.
“Camelot will be different than the other POV operas in the season. It’s a musical in concert. So rather than having people stand at music stands, it’s staged, people are moving around and using the staging to tell the story,” he says.
One of the big challenges the designers face is figuring out how to stage the show, given that the Symphony orchestra will also share the stage with the actors. “Camelot is really going to be quite different than anything people are used to seeing. It’s going to be exciting to see the orchestra right there on the stage, because we’re integrating them into the action of the piece.”
Camelot in Concert runs Nov. 22 and 23 at the Royal Theatre. For info and tickets, visit rmts.bc.ca