Black Hills Playhouse
Walter M. Lee Theatre
June 2016
South Dakota Premiere

Direction by Bill Russell
Musical Direction by Vonnie Houchin
Choreography by Blair Bybee
Costume Design by Gene Salgado
Lighting Design by Darren E. Levin
Scenic Design by Victor E. Shonk
Sound Design by Tyler J. Micheel
Stage Management by Dayne Sundman

Pageant explores the complicated and controversial world of beauty pageants in a light hearted and satirical manner. Written and directed by Broadway librettist and lyricist Bill Russell, the show utilizes six men dressed as women portraying contestants from across the country as they compete in the staple categories of the American beauty pageant. At each performance, Miss Glamouresse is chosen by a panel of five judges selected from the audience, hence creating five slightly different endings to the piece. The pageant is sponsored and promoted by the fictional company Glamouresse, which implies extensive product promotion, extensive branding, and also places satirical social commentary on the sale of beauty products. This dictated that the design of the production not only reinforces the “beauty” of the pageant, but also address the social and societal statements addressed by the show.

Pinup paintings of the 1950’s and 1960’s provided the basis for the lighting design of Pageant. The work of Rolf Armstrong provided significance influence into the lighting design through his rendering of light on fabric, use of color, and revelation of the body to the viewer. These principles were utilized throughout the production to create compositions varying from isolated product promotion sequences lit very simply and classically to large production numbers featuring saturate colors, and sculptural composition. This was accomplished through a system of down specials with color scrollers which allowed for easy isolation throughout the piece and provided pops of color when justified.

A system of LED down light and an additional system of incandescent down light with color scrollers further enhanced the color flexibility of the plot. Pageant ran in repertory with Nunsense, creating a large challenge in deigning two deeply contrasting shows. These two systems provided the inherent flexibility in color required for both shows and allowed the changeover to be completed in the specified amount of time (under one hour). Low and medium saturation colors were selected for the three systems of front light, two high side systems, and dance boom systems. These colors created additional flexibility in the plot and worked alongside the scroller colors to create a wide variety of color compositions.

Practicals played a vital role in the visual success of Pageant. The most stunning feature is the mini-stage portal consisting of 189 button lights which were wired in a three circuit chase. This allowed for great movement and pulsing effects to be integrated into the high energy company dance numbers. It also served a very important role in the composition of the cues. Due to the lack of instrument inventory, lighting scenery is often very difficult. Button lights in turn provided additional depth to the design and created another layer of separation between performer and scenic element. Chasing lights were added around the mini-portal, stair unit, and runway creating additional movement and visual interest.