It’s show week for “Clue,” and we couldn’t be more thrilled. This will be our first fully live and in-person production since “Our Town” in early 2020, and it has come together quickly — from the audition deadline of April 1 to the three shows this weekend, nearly four months later.
Our student actors and crew members have been working hard to nail this fast-paced one-act play, and backstage folks have also been toiling to create the set — one of the most complex that CYT has ever used. We want to take you behind the scenes to show you how it has all been coming together, and to explain a little bit about a feature that we’re excited to use for the first time.
Before a show moves onto its home stage, the pieces that delineate the space have to be built elsewhere. Enter Steve Yauch, who has been CYT’s set builder since stepping in to help with “Thoroughly Modern Millie” in 2015 and whose daughter Lexi is a CYT veteran. He’s been working on the platforms and walls that will bring the rooms — well-known to anyone who has played the board game on which the play is based — to three-dimensional life: the grand hallway, library, billiard room, conservatory, kitchen, study and dining room. Steve says it’s “by far” the most involved CYT set he has worked on, and he has the lumber to prove it.
Typically, for CYT’s musicals and plays, Director Nikki Dyke sketches out ideas for the set, and Steve and set artist Julia Kapke collaborate to make it happen. “Clue” has presented some creative challenges, as it is being staged in a new-to-us venue, the A.J. Fletcher Theater at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh.
What’s especially exciting about the Fletcher Theater, though, is that it has a fly system — a set of lines, pulleys and counterweights that allows stagehands to “fly” or hoist large set pieces (and sometimes people) in and out of the audience’s view. To take maximum advantage of this feature, Nikki hired Chris Bernier, the full-time production manager and technical director for Theatre Raleigh, to design the “Clue” set.
A hallmark of a fly system is that it facilitates quick changes between scenes and spaces. “Clue,” a zany murder mystery with more than a dozen characters, requires “smooth scene transitions so that the momentum of the show doesn’t fizzle and the comic moments don’t fall flat,” Nikki says. Chris designed a “thoughtful and smart” set inspired by the board game layout that puts Boddy Manor, the house where the action takes place, in full view of the audience. The dining room and study walls will “fly.”
A fly system also helps to free up wing space, which is always a concern in a theater, especially a small one. “Audiences would be shocked by the Tetris game happening in the wings during a typical CYT show,” Nikki says. Scenery that would ordinarily be stored just offstage can be housed overhead, maximizing room for the actors, crew, prop tables and furniture.
Speaking of props and furniture, “a house isn’t a home, and Boddy Manor isn’t a creepy manor house, without the details,” Nikki says. To that end, CYT prop maven Chris Yauch, Steve’s wife and Lexi’s mother, has been scouring thrift stores, flea markets and her mother-in-law’s house to supply the decor for “Clue” — not to mention the array of murder weapons in the show (fake, of course … well, mostly).
“Clue” will run July 23, 24 and 25 at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh. Tickets may be purchased at www.ticketmaster.com or at the door. The box office will open 1-hour before the performance.
Carolina Youth Theatre (CYT)
Carolina Youth Theatre is a community theater focused on providing theater arts education and performance opportunities to students across the Triangle.