John McDermott, assistant professor, takes alumni and a student to work with him on the new Off-Broadway play "Sense and Sensibility."
“It’s hard to break in to New York theater,” explained John McDermott, assistant professor at Adelphi’s Department of Theatre. “It’s a small world and it’s really about getting to know people.” It’s a little easier when your professor, like McDermott, has years of experience designing sets Off-Broadway and throughout the country. He continues to design in addition to teaching, and he’s happy to connect students to his professional network and to job opportunities.
McDermott most recently landed a position for a play adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, and he brought along several Adelphi alumni and a student to work with him behind the scenes. Jessica Kidwell ’13 is the wardrobe supervisor, Jon Donker ’15 worked on electrical equipment, Olimpia Eversgerd ’17 (anticipated) helped with many technical aspects and Paul Passaro ’15 did carpentry for the show.
Joshua Shane ’14 is another recent alumnus and production manager of Sense and Sensibility. He’s worked with McDermott several times in the past, and has opened the door for many current and former Adelphi students to gain experience on productions. “Once Josh was there, he really brought in a lot of Adelphi students, and I think that’s been very helpful,” said McDermott.
McDermott has created everything from highly detailed sets to modern. “The experience can be more profound when you do it with less and let the actors do the work,” he said.” For Sense and Sensibility, the furniture and set consist of only 10 chairs, two tables and four rolling window frames, all on wheels so they can be moved around quickly to establish the different scenes and locations seamlessly. The furniture is all homogenized to a pale off-white, while the actors, characters, outfits and dialogue are all what truly makes the time period convincing. That meticulous attention to detail helped in part to garner positive reviews for the production from The New York Times.
McDermott spoke with excitement about the ambitious nature of the show. “They had to build a theater, basically,” he explained. “The theater is in a gym, so it started out as a gym and it has to return to a gym. And in the meantime we built dressing rooms, the stage floor, audience area, lighting grid and sound system.” The budget for the entire production was approximately $400,000, the largest he’s worked on.
Sense and Sensibility runs from February 14 to April 10, 2016, at The Gym at Judson, 243 Thompson Street in Manhattan’s West Village.
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