Screen Shot 2021-11-24 at 4.04.57 PM.png

CHARLES TOWN – Transporting the audience to a sitting room in an English village or a land of fantasy is part of the magic of live theatre. That magic is created by the actors, but the setting for where the action takes place is also essential to a production.

Lee Hebb, the production manager and volunteer coordinator at the Old Opera House Theatre Company and Arts Centre in Charles Town, is the man in charge of scenery and props. The importance of his job is evident by the fact that Hebb is the only other full-time paid employee at the Old Opera House besides its manager and artistic director Steve Brewer.

In last month’s production of  “A Murder Is Announced” based on the novel by Agatha Christie, the set of the English drawing room featured what appeared to be heavy wooden walls and furniture of the era during the late 1940s. 

“It really looked like it. The detail was amazing,” said Brewer. Before “Murder,” audiences were taken to a fantasy world in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”

“It’s a great testament to Hebb’s work and to the community who help with volunteers and donation of materials for props,” Brewer said. “The scenery makes the play come alive.” 

On Saturday, volunteers were hard at work on the next play, “A Christmas Carol: Scrooge and Marley,” which Brewer is directing.” One volunteer, Robin Tatina, an art teacher at Jefferson High School, was hard at work periodically standing on a ladder as she painted the backdrop of a London Street. Other volunteers on hand were Teresa McBee, who is retired, and Virginia teachers Katie Wilson and Christine Brewer, who is also the wife of the organization’s director.

Hebb usually has three to four helpers for a production, and he plans for each production take place at least four to five weeks before the performance.

“We hit the ground running. Even before a show closes we start working on the next one,” Hebb said. “We have the schedule for each play in advance. In pre-production, I meet with the director, get ideas and make a model of what the set will look like. Before that, I do research.”

Some productions like musicals require different sets. Hebb said he has to make sure the scenery used can be changed quickly and is movable.

“It’s like working the pieces to a puzzle. We have limited space here, but I’ll make it work,” he said.

Originally from Baltimore, Hebb was a volunteer at the Old Opera House for about eight years before being hired full-time in 2019. He received his theatrical education at West Virginia University and Florida State University, but added that theater has always been a part of his life.

“My grandparents listened to show tunes,” he said. “I just have always done it.”

Hebb also teaches scenic design at the Old Opera House. The theater is a family affair for him. His wife Amy played Miss Marple in “Murder,” though she’s not part of the upcoming production.

ABOUT THE PERFORMANCE

“A Christmas Carol: Scrooge and Marley,” is based on the classic Christmas novella by Charles Dickens, but a few additions were made to this month’s production at the Old Opera House Theatre Company and Arts Centre in Charles Town. 

Elderly miser Ebenezer Scrooge learns the true meaning of Christmas after visits by ghosts from the past, present and future. In the upcoming Opera House production, one of the ghosts, Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s former business partner, steps forward doing some narration in the piece. 

There are 37 actors in the cast of the Opera House’s performance of the Christmas play.

“We’ve also added some Christmas carols,” said artistic director Steve Brewer. “It’s truly a timeless piece. It’s a story of redemption and love of family, friends and even strangers on the street. 

“It reminds us of what Christmas is all about.”    

Performance dates for “A Christmas Carol” take place Dec. 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, 12. Performances on Fridays and Saturdays are at 8 p.m., and Sunday matinees are at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased in advance at the Opera House website at oldoperahouse.org. Its box officer number is 304-725-4420.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.