Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Civic Volunteer Album: Meet Karen Tislow.

The "In the Wings" series of blog posts highlights the directors and actors of each Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette production. And while it makes sense to promote them on the blog -- actors are the face of a production, and directors are the brains -- there are whole groups of volunteers who go unrecognized, not only on this blog but also perhaps by the playgoing public.

The "Civic Volunteer Album" will highlght various Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette volunteers who more often than not volunteer behind the scenes of productions as stage managers, designers, backstage crew and much more. They are the backbone of each production, supporting what everyone else can see and hear on stage.

Karen Tislow has volunteered at Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette as properties mistress, backstage manager, backstage dresser and usher for several productions, but her love of theatre started an early age.

"I have loved theatre since I saw my first stage production when I was in seventh grade," Karen said. "My music teacher took my class to see a production of Brigadoon, and I was hooked."

Karen's first experience with Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette was the production of My Fair Lady held at the Long Center for the Performing Arts in the 2004-2005 season. Linda Horton, the production's choreographer and one of Karen's friends, asked if Karen wanted to be involved.

"I assisted Debbie Hobaugh with the gazillion props for that show," Karen remembered. "She was so amazingly organized, I was impressed. Debbie took me under her wing and taught me how to be a properties mistress."

Since that production, Karen has been part of the crews of Lend Me a Tenor, The Case of the Hopeless Diamond, Steel Magnolias, Crowns, The Odd Couple, Greater Tuna, Proof and The Man Who Came to Dinner.

She fondly remembers being one of the backstage dressers for the 2006-2007 season's production of Greater Tuna.

"Anita Weston, Rachel Bundy and I dressed and undressed the two actors multiple times during the show in a matter of seconds," Karen said. "The pace was hectic to say the least, but there was such a feeling of triumph when we got the actors into their costumes and back onto the stage for their cues.

"Anita, Rachel and I wrote a spoof of the play, videotaped it and held its world premiere at the final cast party."

Karen said she feels a thrill when she hears and sees an audience's reactions to the actors.

"When an audience reacts and 'gets it,' it makes all the work that the cast and crew have done to present the production worthwhile," she explained.

Karen concluded by sharing what prospective volunteers may experience when they work on a production at Civic Theatre of Greater Lafayette.

"If anyone has the slightest interest in theatre, they will love being a part of the Civic family," she said. "It is such a satisfying feeling to work together with a group of people -- some whom I know, some who are new -- and to all have the same goal of putting on a quality production. From the first read-through of the script through the highs and lows of rehearsals, the laughter and the frustrations, the pulling together to create the magic moments on stage make the time commitment and the hard work all worthwhile.

"I have no talent for being an actor on stage, but I am able to use my organizational skills behind the scenes. And, without a crew of technicians and artists, the actors on stage wouldn’t be able to practice their craft. The behind the scenes crew is just as vital to a performance as the actors and director."

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