PerformInk takes you inside Kansas City Actors Theatre’s production of SKYLIGHT through blog posts written by the people behind the scenes. To read past “Inside” articles click here.
By Elizabeth Sampley
I am normally a Stage Manager, put love to do Props Design on the side. Our director, Darren Sextro, came to me in September and asked if I would be interested in working with him on this simple three-person play. I said yes without hesitation and learned quickly that “Skylight” would not be a simple design.
Throughout the first act, Kyra, the main character (played by Katie Karel), cooks a full meal of spaghetti during the action of the scene. Darren tasked with me the challenge of calculating the best times to start prepping, chopping, and cooking the entire meal. I had to take into consideration not only how long it will take to cook or chop certain items, but also when it fits in with the acting moments of the scene. My initial thought was: “This will be easy.”
I soon found out that this was wrong.
After reading the play, realizing how long she is cooking, and how much she does during the scene (she makes a homemade sauce, after all). I realized that I would need reinforcements. So, I enlisted my fiancé and our friends to come over to my house to help me with this prop design, promising them food after.
It was an interesting experience. Two of them read the lines and the stage directions while two of us cooked, following the stage directions and our own knowledge of cooking. For the first 20 pages of the scene everything was going great; we made notes of when we had starting chopping, boiling, and heating the pans.
But this feeling of accomplishment was shot down after every stage direction that contradicted our cooking. The first time reading the scene, we had already made the sauce and were cooking it, when we read the stage direction, “He has gone to the kitchen and now watches as she pours the olive oil into the frying pan.” Our hearts sank.
We would then scrap everything and start again with reading and cooking. By the end of the night we had it all worked out and I passed my knowledge of when prepping, chopping, and cooking should begin along to Alex Murphy, our Stage Manager, and Darren, who informed Katie when they started blocking.
The first day on stage was an exciting and terrifying moment for me as I watched Katie interact with the working sink, fridge, and stove on stage to create this very real meal. I enjoyed getting to jump up and on to the stage as I showed her the best way to chop an onion and dice garlic. But ultimately I enjoyed the first moment that she put them into the pan and heard the sizzle and saw it cooking, her face was priceless, she was so excited to be actually cooking on stage!
I hope that all of our audience members have the same joy as Katie did when they realize that the kitchen and food is not pretend and that everything is indeed real. If the sound doesn’t sell you on this truth, the smell will, guaranteed.
See all the cooking and emotional journeys in “Skylight,” by David Hare, now playing at the City Stage in Union Station until June 10. Tickets and info at www.kcactors.org or by calling the Central Ticket Office at 816-235-6222.
Elizabeth Sampley is Properties Designer for Kansas City Actors Theatre’s production of “Skylight.” Previously she has worked with KCAT on “And Then There Were None” and “Sea Marks.” Her past credits also include “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, “The Nutcracker” at the Kansas City Ballet and “Secret of Courage” at the Coterie Theatre. Elizabeth received her MFA in Theatre Design & Technology at the University of Missouri – Kansas City.