Arvada Center Blog
Building the world of Bright Star
By Leslie Simon
How do you transport audiences from a wooden stage in Arvada to different locations and decades in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina? Award-winning Scenic Designer Brian Mallgrave puts deep thought and colorful imagination into creating immersive environments, something he has done for over 100 Arvada Center productions.
Brian’s latest work is for our fall musical Bright Star, by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell. His designs for this musical take the audience to a specific place – Appalachia – and portray the passage of time as the musical flashes back and forth between the 1920s and 1940s.
“The main vision of the setting envelopes the story through the use of a vintage 1930s map wall to “marry” all periods and locations- ascending into a silhouette of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The flooring is representative of the porches and decking attached to our various cabin dwellings, grounding all moving scenic elements.”
Brian uses the floor to create various locations as well as add extra symbolism. “The flooring creates the symbol of a connecting star in the center- as all characters connect and grow- and starfields illuminate the sky areas above to encompass our Bright Star theme.”
In general, the set is representational – meaning it creates an illusion of reality rather than fantasy. Lighting creates an extra dimension in the two-dimensional buildings and cabins. “Much of the play is memory, and the cabin slatwork, being semi-transparent, offers interesting opportunities for lighting, representing the layers of transparency and fragments that our story often revisits.”
This use of light and movement works with the movement and passage of time in the musical. It covers a span of over 20 years – moving back and forth in the story. “There are many moving parts in the line set (used to move things up and down), background structural elements, and castered (rolling) furnishings that move to parallel the storyline as it seamlessly transitions through time periods.”
Based on music, book and lyrics written by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, Bright Star’s bluegrass and Americana-tinged sounds influenced the stage design that Brian created. “The musical style is a big motivator and regional influence, thus the band is featured onstage, to reinforce the impact of this element.”
Whether you are a lover of bluegrass or just a fan of a good story, there is something for everyone in Bright Star. Tickets are on sale now – it opens September 6!
7 Arvada Center classes you’ll FALL for this season
By Leslie Simon & Amberle N.
Classes for adults
Monday, November 25 – December 16, 1:00 – 4:00 pm, 4 weeks
This workshop focuses on the endless design possibilities of the thrown cup. Students are challenged to develop ideas for form, function and surface, and create 20 unique cups from clay.
Saturday, October 5, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm / Saturday, October 19, 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
Held at The Furnace, A Glassworks
Celebrate autumn in this class where you make your own glass pumpkin while working with professional glass artists. Color and sculpt your creation to your desire, no prior experience necessary.
Classes for adults and children
Saturday, November 2, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm, One-day workshop, ages 14-adult
Join us in this one-day workshop, conducted by caricature artist and illustrator, Jason Sauer and learn how a professional caricature artist draws those funny pictures of people!
Wednesday, October 2 – October 23, 5:30 – 7:30 pm, 4 weeks, ages 12-adult
Students design and fabricate wearable technology components for their favorite Cosplay or Halloween costumes learning how to make costumes come to life with light and sound.
Monday, November 4 – January 20, 6:30 – 7:30 pm, ages 14-adult
A fusion of lyrical, jazz, hip hop, modern, and ballet, Contemporary Dance allows students to explore organic powerful and emotional movement. For teens and adults with just a year or more of any style dance training.
Classes for children
Sunday, September 15 – November 17, 1:30 – 2:30 pm, 10 weeks, ages 4-6
A great beginning class for creative kids to discover theatre. Students are led on an imaginative journey each week, creating environments and characters.
Tuesday, September 10—November 12, 4:00—5:30 pm, 10 weeks, ages 9—15
In this class, students delve into the world of sequential art and animation, bringing life to their own ideas and stories through the art of Japanese cartooning.
The Making of Bright Star
By Amberle N.
The story of the musical Bright Star begins with garlic crackers.
Steve Martin met a rather shy Edie Brickell at a dinner party and offered her some, causing the renowned comedian and the indie music legend to become fast friends that night. Such a small story of breaking the ice set the stage for their friendship. In 2011, after listening to Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers’ album Rare Bird Alert, Brickell praised his songs and proposed writing music together. As Martin would admit to Stephen Colbert – though he’d written songs on his own and played banjo for other people’s songs – he had no idea how to write a song with another person from scratch but he went ahead and said yes.
Their musical partnership resulted in the 2013 album Love Has Come For You. In 2014, the title song won the Grammy for Best American Roots Song – a vindication of Martin’s musical talent with the banjo and Brickell’s return to the music scene after a long hiatus.
The idea for the musical came while Brickell and Martin were composing the album. One of the banjo compositions they created inspired the writing of a “train song,” and Brickell’s curiosity led her to discover a fantastic event in the history of the Iron Mountain Railroad. The traditional folksong “The Iron Mountain Baby” inspired Bright Star and forms the core of its narrative – an ideal story for the event of a lifetime.
Describing her appreciation of the Iron Mountain Baby to CBS, Brickell said “I love miracles and I read that story and said, it’s such a beautiful miracle and it’s so weird that anybody can do such a thing. And it just did – it sparked my imagination.”
The songs of Love Has Come For You are themselves a set of tiny stories, some funny and some serious. The album’s songs heavily inspired Bright Star, capturing the adventuresome highs and lows of the setting and serving as a point around which many characters were crafted.
In a 2016 interview with Steven Colbert, Brickell described her experience of Bright Star’s lyrics as “singing a character’s heart,” in terms of who they are and how they feel. Martin sent her banjo compositions and she would sing to them until a song solidified, and that spirit carried into Bright Star as the two of them composed songs around the characters.
One of the first lines from the musical is, “If you knew my story, you’d have a good story to tell,” and the entire narrative occurs as a deeper look into the lives of characters who are stepping out of a background role as writers for others to tell their own story. It’s a story that does the work of paying attention to love, and the musical carries a sweetness that is rooted in tradition and the optimism of post-war America.
Bright Star plays at the Center from September 6 – 29.Buy Tickets