Lions stage performance – behind the scenes

Central Whidbey Lions Club members John Burkes and Jim Rich look at a model of the set for the play, “FrUiTCaKeS,” which will be performed at Whidbey Playhouse in November.  - Elisabeth Murray
Central Whidbey Lions Club members John Burkes and Jim Rich look at a model of the set for the play, “FrUiTCaKeS,” which will be performed at Whidbey Playhouse in November.
— image credit: Elisabeth Murray

The circular saw whines as Bill Jones pushes a panel of wood through its blade, neatly cutting it in half.

Jones is among about a dozen members of the Central Whidbey Lions Club who have been building a set for an upcoming performance at the Whidbey Playhouse, a community theater in Oak Harbor.

The volunteers have put in almost 400 hours on the project, which will be revealed to the public when the theater’s late-November production of “FrUiTCaKeS” hits the stage.

With the first performance just a few weeks away, they are working hard to complete the work.

Playhouse Business Manager Janis Powell described the volunteers’ dedication to the project as “awesome.”

“They are the kind of club where if we have needs, they come and take care of them,” she said with a smile.

Lions Club member and theater patron Jim Rich coordinated the effort. Rich and his wife Anita – who will direct the play – have a long history in amateur theater. He said he enjoys the engineering side of the productions.

Rich’s passion for this art form is apparent as he talks about set design and the hard work of the people who have made its production possible.

Other Whidbey clubs – the Coupeville Lions, North Whidbey Lions and Oak Harbor Lions – also helped out.

“This has been a major effort,” Rich said.

The “FrUiTCaKeS” set-building team started work in February. In addition to their labor, the Central Whidbey Lions Club donated the construction materials.

It is a very complex set, Powell said.

The volunteers built the kitchen background, sliding barn doors, a roof overhang, a workbench and whirligigs, among other set pieces.

The items created from the measuring, cutting, hammering and painting will live on after the final curtain has closed on this Christmas production, Powell said, as the theater will continue to use portions of the set in future productions.

She said she is especially excited about the sturdy set walls that will allow more flexibility for sets in future stage productions.

The hefty wooden table constructed by volunteers also will find a new use as a potting bench in the Coupeville High School Garden Club shed. The shed itself, along with the adjacent hoop house, also were built by the club, which has a reputation for solid workmanship.

After the play’s final performance, the whirligigs created by the Lions volunteers will be sold to raise money for the theater.

In addition to the more traditional set pieces, Rich and his fellow Lions also designed and built a unique roll-drop mechanism that allows for quick scene changes.

This handy new addition to the theater’s stage equipment will be spotlighted in an upcoming issue of a professional theater publication, and opens up the possibility for small community theaters to have professional quality backdrop changes at an affordable price.

“There has been a lot of effort going into it, but it’s been fun,” said Rich. “There’s a lot of talent around this island.”


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