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Arts & Culture(Archives)


Behind the Curtain at Keyano Theatre - The Colours of The Stage

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The amount of detail that goes in to a production the size of Into the Woods is astounding. Every hair is strategically placed, every lighting fade is on purpose, every leaf on every tree is planned. It takes big picture thinkers to come up with the ideas, themes and designs; but it’s the detail oriented people that give each element life-like characteristics.

For the Keyano Theatre Company 4-Play Drama Series productions, a professional artistic team is hired to bring each story to life. In addition to these creative minds who think up the look and design of the show, someone has to paint it, and in the case of Into the Woods, (and many other KTC productions) that person is Lisa Ruelling.

Born a northern girl, Lisa grew up in Fort McMurray before heading to Grant McEwan University to study Theatre Production. After years of working in film, TV and theatre across the country, she still chooses to come home and work here with Keyano Theatre as the Scenic Artist.

Wanting to know more about the details of Into the Woods, I asked Lisa about the painting process and how it all comes together.

“It starts with the Set Designer,” Lisa told me (in the case of Into the Woods the Set Designer was Roger Schultz). Once the Designer has completed their model, Lisa works with Roger referencing the design and move towards putting the concepts down in paint. Consulting continues throughout the painting process but Lisa is granted a fair bit of flexibility when it comes to the execution. “Roger often gives feedback based on emotions,” she says. “He might say it needs to feel livelier, or more ominous. I can take that and continue to work making sure I edit [the set piece] to portray those feelings. But nothing is ever set in stone; the design and look are fluid and depend on how the pieces all come together on stage.”

Into the Woods was one of the largest plays Lisa has worked on. She estimates it took four or five times longer than the average stage production.  Luckily she had some local volunteers who helped with the three month long project.

The set was composed of over five large components, plus 12 smaller pieces; the biggest and most detailed sections were the trees and the woods.  Each shadow, strip of bark and leaf were carefully constructed through a laborious layering process. “All the set pieces have at least three blended colours to help give depth and variety depending on the lighting and the angle you see them. I used a lot of the same colours throughout the set, but different vibrancies and techniques allowed me to differentiate between the scenes while keeping the continuity and integrity of Roger’s design.”

Every one of Lisa’s brush strokes was intentional and each colour blend was strategic. The importance of her attention to detail was proven with the magnificent results of the fairytale story told on the Keyano Theatre stage.

The curtain goes up April 20th on Lisa’s next Keyano Theatre painting project, Keyano Theatre Company’s comedy production of Run for Your Wife, which runs April 22-30. 

For information about other events that take a great deal of detail at Keyano Theatre & Art Centre visit