Behind the Curtain: Adam Jehle, Scenic Designer for THE PROM

We spoke with Adam Jehle, our Resident Scenic and Projector Designer, bringing his skills to the Dock Street Theatre once again in designing our set for THE PROM. Get your tickets to the show here, and read on to learn about his artistic process in creating the sets for this special musical!

Share with us your artistic background. How did you get into theatre and set design?

I have been doing theatre since middle school, always acting at first. It wasn’t until college that the world of scenic design was expanded for me, and I absolutely fell in love with it. The creative expression and the seemingly endless amount of ways to create a show differently was all incredibly exciting and fascinating to me. I’ve always been a visual storyteller, but scenic design really felt different. I eventually graduated from Missouri State University with a BFA in Design, Technology, and Stage Management and immediately started at Charleston Stage doing what I love. 

Which styles of theatre do you gravitate towards the most? Why?

I have always been a modernist and an expressionist when it comes to the theatre I enjoy designing. I like to create things that have never been seen before and are emotionally story driven. I want the audience to be immersed in the world I create – not just because it is beautiful, but because I want them to empathize with the characters, feel what they are feeling, and be inspired by the journey. It’s one of the many reasons it’s so fulfilling if I’ve done my job right.

What has inspired you as you create your set designs for The Prom? What are your dreams for Charleston Stage’s visual presentation of this special show?

For The Prom, there are two I really jumped into. One was this idea of “openness.” All the characters, whether they want to or not, experience or need to experience an open mindset in order to grow. So to translate that visually, I wanted to keep the set very open and spacious, leaving literal room for the characters to grow. It’s like they are plucked out of their fully realistic world and placed in this abstract open space where they are forced to open up to each other and grow.

The other concept we chose to focus on is the idea of “assumptions.” Again, almost everyone in the show has strong assumptions about those unfamiliar to them. The Broadway stars think the Indiana folks are backwater hicks, and the Indianians think the Broadway stars are narcissistic. Scenically, that means making the set and props almost stereotypical. What does Indiana look like stereotypically? Corn fields, disheveled schools and ghost towns. What does New York look like? Broadway signs, neon lights, and a more liberal atmosphere. So I tried to make all the scenic pieces recognizable – something you have seen before and would say, “oh yea that’s exactly what Applebee’s looks like.”

What has come easily as you design this show? Which aspects have proven to be more challenging?

The easiest part for me was creating the school. I made it look and feel like my own high school I grew up in. The hardest part for me, as it is for any big musical nowadays, is the large number of different locations. Musicals nowadays are like movies – every scene is in a different location that is very distinct from the others. The challenge is to create a set that weaves in and out so the audience can follow what is going on.

What are your favorite shows of all time?

My favorite shows are Macbeth, M. Butterfly, Titanic, Cabaret and Hamilton.

THE PROM, Charleston Stage’s MainStage opening musical, runs August 25 – September 17 at the Historic Dock Street Theatre. For tickets, visit click here.

Adam Jehle, originally from Nixa, MO, is the Resident Scenic/Projections Designer and Assistant Technical Director for Charleston Stage. His credits include Projection Design for Murder on the Orient Express and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Scenic Designs for The Addams Family – A New Musical, Native Gardens, Charlotte’s Web, Black Pearl Sings! and Kinky Boots for Charleston Stage. Technical Direction for all of Charleston Stages’ 45th Season. Other credits are scenic designing shows such as Cinderella and Mamma Mia! at Crane River Theatre in Nebraska, and Titanic, Cabaret, and Groundhog Day at Stagedoor Manor in upstate New York. He received his B.F.A. in Design, Technology and Stage Management from Missouri State University in 2020. Adam is excited to be Designing other shows for Charleston Stage this season including The Prom, Clue: On Stage, A Christmas Carol, and The Trip to Bountiful.

Behind the Curtain: Cara Dolan, Choreographer for “THE PROM”

We spoke with Cara Dolan, longtime friend and choreographer for Charleston Stage bringing her skills to the Dock Street Theatre once again with THE PROM. Get your tickets to the show here, and read on to learn about her artistic process in creating the movement for this special musical!

Share with us your artistic background. How did you get into theatre and dance?

I’ve been doing theatre since I was a kid – I started taking dance around 5 and never stopped! I was really lucky to grow up near Flat Rock Playhouse in NC and train there for the majority of my childhood. I then went to Florida State University where I got my BFA in Musical Theatre. 

Which styles of theatre do you gravitate towards the most? Why?

I tend to gravitate towards musical theatre. Doesn’t everyone love it when people break into song and dance?!

What has inspired you as you create choreography for The Prom? What are your dreams for Charleston Stage’s presentation of visual movement for this special show?

The movement in The Prom is really energetic and fun. It’s more contemporary than many of the previous shows we’ve done at Charleston Stage, which has been uniquely fun to work on. I hope our audiences will feel how much fun the actors are having dancing to this score. 

What has come easily as you choreograph this show? Which aspects have proven to be more challenging?

So much of the choreography in this show is more contemporary and not your typical “music theatre” style of dance. That has been challenging, but also the most fun part. 

What are your favorite shows of all time?

My favorite shows are West Side Story, Crazy for You and A Chorus Line.  Dance shows for the win!

THE PROM, Charleston Stage’s MainStage opening musical, runs August 23 – September 17 at the Historic Dock Street Theatre. For tickets, visit

Cara Dolan received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Music Theatre from Florida State University and has danced and performed at a number of leading theatres, including The Flat Rock Playhouse, Central Piedmont Summer Theater, The Papermill Theater in NH, as well as Charleston Stage. She has taught dance and theatre for more than 9 years and has choreographed numerous professional productions including Charleston Stage’s Chicago, The Wiz, Legally Blonde: The Musical, Anything Goes, 9 to 5: The Musical, Annie, Next To Normal, Gershwin at Folly, Pinkalicious the Musical, Young Frankenstein, Catch Me If You Can: The Musical, The Producers, Mary Poppins, Hairspray, White Christmas, A Christmas Carol, Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Mamma Mia!, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Footloose, Elf The Musical, and The Addams Family – A New Musical. Cara would like to thank her boys Chris, Gavin, and Brody for all of their love and support.

Behind the Curtain: Claire Brenia, Scenic Designer for THE LIGHTNING THIEF: THE PERCY JACKSON MUSICAL

We are so grateful for the talent that Claire Brenia, Charleston Stage’s Shop Technician and Scenic Painter, brings to the table in designing the scenes for THE LIGHTNING THIEF: THE PERCY JACKSON MUSICAL, running July 22-30. Hear from her about her design process and artistic styles below:

Share with us your artistic background. How did you get into theatre and scenic design?

I got involved in theatre during high school, through my visual arts classes. The theatre kids knew I could paint and recruited me to help them with painting flats for their shows, and from there I became involved in our productions’ scenic design, performance, and even some costume design for my own roles! By senior year of high school, I knew I wanted to go to college for scenic design and I studied at the University of Southern Mississippi where I received my B.F.A. in Theatre Design and Technology.

Which styles of theatre do you gravitate towards the most? Why?

I tend to enjoy working on weirder, niche shows, because they lend themselves towards more interesting themes and employ unconventional theatre techniques (or, at least, I find that a designer has more leeway to do something unconventional).

I’m still figuring out my “style” of theatre, but of the shows I’ve worked on so far, the ones that have resonated with me most are those that are poetic, and/or pose challenging stories. I take a very literary approach when working on my shows, so it’s valuable to me when the scripts I design from have depth with their themes and an interesting use of language.

What has inspired you as you create your designs The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical? What are your dreams for Charleston Stage’s visual presentation of this special show?

Early in our process, our director (who is also our Director of Education at Charleston Stage!) wanted the show to be recognizable for our younger audiences, and so she steered us in a direction that took inspiration from the Percy Jackson graphic novels.

In the scenic design, I didn’t want to directly copy imagery from the Percy Jackson graphic novels, but rather reference the larger framework of comic book conventions. In the set I allude to comic book page layouts, print media textures, and our painting style especially takes textural influence from the first Percy Jackson graphic novel’s art style.


What has come easily as you design the show? Which aspects have proven to be more challenging?

It was easy to establish the “setting” of the show as an amphitheater because as a location it ties together the setting of Camp Half-Blood with ancient Greek architecture, which is relatable and recognizable to an audience. 

For me, it was challenging translating all of the play’s different locations into the setting of our amphitheater. I think we landed in a really interesting place, though, that invites the audience to suspend disbelief and gives our actors opportunities to explore more actions that tell us where we are in the show. 


What are your favorite shows of all time?

My favorite musical is Ragtime, which I saw for the first time when I worked on it in 2019. I loved the music and thought the themes were very powerful. My favorite straight play is War Horse, produced by the U.K.’s National Theatre because it is such a cohesive design. My favorite show I have worked on is Blood Brothers, a weird rock-opera, synth-pop musical based on wives-tales in England.

Get your tickets to see THE LIGHTNING THIEF: THE PERCY JACKSON MUSICAL, running for a limited engagement July 22-30, at

Behind the Curtain: David Jordan Baxter, Costume Designer for THE LIGHTNING THIEF: THE PERCY JACKSON MUSICAL

David Jordan Baxter, our Assistant Costume Shop Manager and Cutter and Draper, has brought incredible talent to designing the costumes for our production of THE LIGHTNING THIEF: THE PERCY JACKSON MUSICAL. Hear about his artistic style and design process below:

Share with us your artistic background. How did you get into theatre and costume design?

I got my B.A. in music with a concentration in Classical Voice from Kentucky Wesleyan College and while I was there I worked as a local dresser for touring shows that would come through our theatre. I also helped a local theater company, Back Alley Musicals, with costumes for their larger productions. After graduating, I spent a few summers at the Sharon Playhouse in Sharon, Connecticut as the Costume Shop Manager, and was the Wardrobe Supervisor for the Off-Broadway production of Martin Luther on Trial.  After that I was the star dresser on the National Tour of Kinky Boots. While on tour, I applied to the M.F.A. Costume Design program at Florida State University, and was accepted to attend that fall. I spent the next three years at FSU taking classes in both costume design and technology. While I do love to design, technology has become my primary focus.

Which styles of theatre do you gravitate towards the most? Why?

I find myself being pulled toward shows with great concepts and larger-than-life aspects. I also really love puppets, so I’m definitely a fan of Avenue Q, Little Shop of Horrors, and Julie Tamor’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute. I think the reason I am drawn to shows like this is, again, the larger-than-life aspects you can achieve with puppets. To quote Tammy Faye Baker, “Everybody loves puppets!”

Featured (Left to Right): Charleston Stage Resident Actors Brendan Considine as Grover, Cody Elsensohn as Percy Jackson, and Chloë Wendler as Annabeth in The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical. Photo by Reese Moore Photography

What has inspired you as you create your designs The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical? What are your dreams for Charleston Stage’s visual presentation of this special show?

In talking with the director, Rylee Coppel, we discussed that we both really like the visual quality of the graphic novel version of Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. We talked about what aspects from the graphic novel we wanted to include, so keep an eye out for easter eggs if you’re a fan of the books! I also thought about the use of “Mist” in the novels. It is a magic spray that mythical beings use to make themselves appear human while in the human world. Playing on the idea of what these creatures would look like as the “Mist” began to wear off, I have designed some new ways to look at a minotaur or a flying fury!

What has come easily as you costume the show? Which aspects have proven to be more challenging?

The easiest part has been putting together modern costumes for the teenage characters. The more challenging aspects have been creating the designs for the monsters–as I mentioned in the previous question, figuring out where these monsters are in their transition between human and monster.

Featured: Charleston Stage Resident Actor Cody Elsensohn as Percy Jackson. Photo by Reese Moore Photography

What are your favorite shows of all time?

Okay, big toughie here. In no particular order…She Loves Me, Gypsy, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Godspell, Sunday in the Park with George, and A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. 

Save your seats for THE LIGHTNING THIEF: THE PERCY JACKSON MUSICAL, running for a limited engagement July 22-30, at

Featured: Charleston Stage Resident Actors Cody Elsensohn as Percy Jackson, Brendan Considine as Grover and Chloë Wendler as Annabeth in The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical. Photo by Reese Moore Photography

Meet Lauryn Kay, Charleston Stage’s new Institutional Giving Manager

We sat down with Lauryn Kay, Charleston Stage’s new Institutional Giving Manager, to learn more about her passion for the performing arts and community enrichment in Charleston. Read below:

Tell us about your background in the performing arts.

I grew up with a strong passion for music that came from singing in school choirs and shows. My favorite part of high school was singing and dancing in show choir, and I knew music and performing arts would always be a big part of my life. I studied music at Charleston Southern University and received my Master’s degree in Vocal Performance at the University of Florida. During this time, I sang in choral ensembles, operas, and theatre productions. My favorite roles were The Witch (Into the Woods) at CSU and Rosina (Barber of Seville) with UF Opera Theater. After college, I worked in arts administration and frequently performed with Gulfshore Opera in Fort Myers, FL. Since moving back home to Charleston this year,  I have participated in concerts with The King’s Counterpoint choir, Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, and worked for Spoleto Festival USA.  

Nonprofit development is a special vocation of work. What does serving the arts community in Charleston mean to you?

The arts community in Charleston has a special place in my heart. This is a city I love to call home! I feel privileged to work downtown in the same places I watched musicals and performed in choir concerts. I want to serve this community by helping to make theatre and live performances more accessible to Charleston locals and visitors. Through this mission, theater lovers are united! 

What excites you about Charleston Stage? 

Charleston Stage is beaming with quality theater productions and diverse educational programs. Amongst this, there is a sense of community and collaboration that I’m thrilled to join! 

What is your favorite show of all time?

If I had to pick a favorite, it’s the all-time classic, West Side Story. I played Anita at CSU and have seen it more times than I can count –  it never gets old! 


Behind the Curtain: Steven Prince Tate, Choreographer of “ONCE ON THIS ISLAND”

Steven Prince Tate, Choreographer of ONCE ON THIS ISLAND

Steven Prince Tate is all energy and enthusiasm, especially for his craft in dance and choreography and his artistic dreams for our production of ONCE ON THIS ISLAND, coming to the Dock Street Theatre stage this April. Hear from him about his inspirations and visions for the show below:

Share with us your artistic background. How did you get into dancing and choreography?

My artistic background is a self-made journey. I was, and still am, the kid that LOVED watching BET, MTV, VH1 and whatever awards show or artist special was on TV. I would study the hottest video at the time, learn the moves, then perform them at school dances with my cousin. Everything that I learned movement-wise was self taught until I joined my elementary school’s cheer and step team. My senior year in high school was when I was introduced to my first “dance studio.” My aunt took me to a masterclass that was being held and saw how much I gravitated to learning and picking up movement – she signed me right up! Unfortunately, that was one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had and almost made me not want to pursue dance. However, when I went to college, I signed up for my first modern dance class without knowing anything about the genre. It made me fall in love with dance and choreography. 

Which styles of dance do you gravitate towards the most? Why?

This is kind of a hard question – not because of what calls to me but because of what is wanted at the moment. The first style I learned was the social/cultural form of Hip-Hop, but now I gravitate more towards the Contemporary movement. Though every style of dance has the capability of storytelling, Contemporary allows these stories to be avant-garde. In this you can stray away from the literal and become a moving parable: having the audience search for the meaning you are sharing while allowing them the space to create their own. Though it can be all over the place at times, I enjoy the task of unpacking a theme through dance. 

What has inspired you as you choreograph Charleston Stage’s production of Once On This Island?

To be honest, what has inspired the choreography for this show are the people, the landscapes being developed, and the imagination of our design team. Collaborations are very important to me as a creative person. Being in the space with the actors while making sure we pull the best out of them, seeing how they gravitate towards different movements and characters, and the ability to adapt to changes allows room for me to create beautiful moments for our actors and audiences.

What has come easily as you choreograph the show? Which aspects have proven to be more challenging?

What has come easily to me has been creating the movement, while it has been more challenging to consider the other moving parts in the show, such as our sets and props. When creating any ballet there is a blank canvas – the only moving parts a person need to worry about are the other moving bodies and costumes. However, with theatre the dancers and choreographers always need to keep the set and prop pieces in the back of their minds.

What are your favorite shows of all time?

Now this is a hard question, but I am going to answer it to the best of my abilities! I love comedies and living in fairy tales. 

1. The Lion King: the Musical: The mechanics of the costumes and how they function with the actors’ movements are fascinating to me. My favorite scene is “Mufasa’s Face in the Stars.” This was the first musical I saw in New York when it first premiered, too.

2. The Book of Mormon: This show makes me laugh so much. I loved the social awareness tone while being salacious. 

3. Tina: The Tina Turner Musical: I loved how specific and distinct the role of Tina Turner has to be. Whoever plays her MUST do their research!

Steven Prince Tate is a Memphis, TN native and began his dance training attending Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, TN. While attending MTSU, he performed works by River North Dance Company’s Mari Jo Irbe, Bill T. Jones dancer and choreographer Stefanie Batten Bland (CSBB), Cloud Gate Dance Theater and CSU dance professor Chung Fu Chang, Venus Fly Trap B-Girl member Teena “Teena Marie” Custer, Dance Magazine’s 25 Choreographers to Watch (2006) Ursula Payne and many others. Furthering his dance training , Steven received scholarships from the American Dance Festival (2007-2009), apprenticed for Shelter Dance Repertory and Company Stefanie Batten Bland, has attended the Alvin Ailey school (2011) and Complexions Contemporary Ballet Intensive (2016) performing commissioned works by Rudy Perez, the William Forsythe project, Butoh company Dairakudakan, Laura Dean, Mark Haim, Hair: the Musical performer Judine Summerville, Kim Neal Nofsinger, and Dwight Rhoden. Steven holds a degree in Theater and Dance with a minor in Gender Studies and is a member of Alpha Psi Omega Theater Honor Society.

In 2010, Steven became a trainee and company member for New Ballet Ensemble and School. He has performed in works by Frankfurt Ballet dancers Francesca Harper (The Francesca Harper Project), Elizabeth Corbett, Pittsburgh Ballet Principal Alan Obuzor (Texture Contemporary Ballet), Soloist Kaori Ogasawara, Opera Memphis’ “Aida”, guested for Dmitri Roudnev Children’s Ballet Theater’s annual Nutcracker performance: the Prince and Arabian. In 2013, Steven’s talent was featured in a commercial for reality dance show So You Think You Can Dance Season 10 Memphis Audition. In 2014, Steven was appointed Associate Director of contemporary dance company Bridging Souls Productions and has choreographed several works for the company: From Me to You (2014), Until Daybreak (2015), HIM (2016) and social justice piece While We Are Dying (2016). He has taught classes and workshops for the Memphis Grizz Girls, Ohio University, James Madison University, University of Memphis, Sugar Strut
Dancewear: The Sugar Tour, Crosstown Arts, Crosstown High School, Project Motion, SubRoy Dance Studios, The Buckman Conservatory, Young Actors Guild, Kipp Collegiate Elementary and Middle School, DanzHouse, Studio Gray, The Boys and Girls Club of West Memphis Arkansas, St. Mary’s Episcopal School, STAX Music Academy, Christina’s Dance Center (Nashville, TN), Memphis Jewish Community Center Summer Camp, Memphis Black Arts Alliance, Company d, Dazzle Baby Ballerina Certified, Woodland Presbyterian, Marion Visual and Performing Arts Center, and Tennessee Ballet Theater, and Children’s Ballet Theater. Wanting to foster the Memphis community through dance, Steven developed his own emerging artists workshops “The Move” (2014), and “Vib-ology (2021) as well as professional and community based movement classes “ Nu-Flo & S.T.R.U.T.” (2018).

Recently, Steven’s work was featured in Essence, Yahoo! and for a viral Beyonce’ inspired “Baby Reveal” video. He has choreographed for Grammy Nominated artists Southern Avenue and Marco Pave, NBC the Voice Season 21st season runner-up Wendy Molten, featured artist Nedy, NBA Memphis Grizzlies’ Grizz Girls, Grandmas & Grandpas, NBE’s senior students and company, Memphis based female tap company Hot Foot Honeys, NPC Battle on the Bluff: Fitness Competition, The Buckman Conservatory, Tennessee Ballet Theatre, MBAA (Black Broadway Cabaret) Rhodes College (I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change), Playhouse on the Square (Ain’t Misbehavin’), Theater Memphis (Mary Poppins Jr.), Desoto Family Theatre (High School Musical Jr.), Company d, Opera Memphis and various musicians in the Tri-State area.

Behind the Curtain: Courtni Riddick, Costume Designer of “ONCE ON THIS ISLAND”

Courtni Riddick, Costume Designer of ONCE ON THIS ISLAND

Courtni Riddick, our Costume Shop Director and Costume Designer for ONCE ON THIS ISLAND, has brought her talent to many of our shows since joining our professional staff in season 44. Learn about her artistic tastes and processes for designing this fantastical production, onstage at the Dock Street Theatre this April, below:

Share with us your artistic background. How did you get into theatre and costume design?

I originally started school in fine arts. While in school I was offered a work-study position in costume coordination. I fell in love with it, and the rest is history.

Which styles of theatre do you gravitate towards the most? Why? 

I love the esoteric and the fantastical. Anything that gives me an opportunity to try a new approach conceptually and artistically is interesting for me.

What has inspired you as you create your designs for Once On This Island? What are your dreams for Charleston Stage’s visual presentation of this special show?

The framing for ONCE ON THIS ISLAND is that of a community coming together to share and tell a story, utilizing whatever they have on hand to convey the beauty of a shared lore and history. I want to help the audience feel immersed in this telling, like they’re being let in on something special. With all the hard work our team is putting in, I absolutely believe they will be.   

What has come easily as you costume the show?

Collaborating with our Director, Crystin Gilmore, has been thoroughly enjoyable. She is open to and welcoming of our ideas. Her energy, attitude, and approach to this show and our team has been so inspiring.

Which aspects have proven to be more challenging?

The most challenging aspect has surprisingly been access to the unique resources and fabrics we need. Most of our really interesting fabrics we’ve had to travel hours to get or have them shipped in. 

What are your favorite shows of all time?

I would love to one day design for Sweeney Todd and Ti-Jean and His Brothers.

Courtni has been designing and building costumes for more than 15 years. Originally from central Florida, she graduated from Florida State University with an M.F.A. in Costume Design. She loves to create for the big and fantastical as well as the intimate and detailed and she is thrilled to be a part of the historic Charleston Stage team. Her recent credits include Bright Star and Murder on the Orient Express. Other credits include The Importance of Being Earnest and Eurydice.

Behind the Curtain: Seth Howard, Scenic Designer of “ONCE ON THIS ISLAND”

Seth Howard, Set Designer of ONCE ON THIS ISLAND

We consider ourselves insurmountably fortunate to have the talent of Seth Howard for our ONCE ON THIS ISLAND scenic designs, playing onstage at the Dock Street Theatre this April. Get to know him and his bright, wonderful visions for the show in our interview below:

Share with us your artistic background. How did you get into scenic design?

Like most people in the industry, I started doing theatre in high school by joining the backstage crew. It was there that I fell in love with creating and fabricating set pieces for our shows. After high school I left the theatre world and went to school for mechanical engineering. 3 years in I realized that I wanted to change my major; engineering didn’t feel right for me. Luckily, my love for theatre never died and it just so happened that the college I was attending had an amazing fine arts program. I applied, and after a few rounds of interviews I was admitted into the stage design program at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM)!

What artistic styles do you gravitate towards the most? Why?

I tend to say that my overall design style is very “architectural.” I tend to see large shapes and structures when I’m imaging and sketching up shows. From there I break those large shapes down into individual elements that make up the show. However, I’m still on a personal journey to discover my style – I think this is something that takes designers years to really figure out.

What has inspired you as you design Charleston Stage’s production of Once On This Island?

I’ve been really drawn to the architecture of Haiti at large during my design process for this show. Haiti is full of culture, texture, and diverse styles of structures. It was my goal from the beginning to create a smorgasbord or all the interesting materials and architectural motifs found on the island.

What has come easily as you design the show? Which aspects have proven to be more

The overall idea of creating a market that serves as this communal space for all of the social classes that exist in the story came pretty easy to me. For me, the most challenging aspect was figuring out how to depict the “two different worlds” that occupy the story. I constantly asked myself “How do we visually show the difference between the peasants and the wealthy?” After a while of sitting with my thoughts I finally thought of the idea of using the street art (that is commonly seen on the island) as a way to show the different worlds. As you look at the set you will see that all of the portals that frame the space are covered in graffiti-esque murals where one side shows the homes of the peasants and the other showing the homes of the wealthy.

What are your favorite shows of all time?

I’m a sucker for Wicked! It was the first show that drew me into theatre and more importantly, piqued my interest in set design. But some of my other favorites are Heathers, The Secret Garden, and The Wiz!

Seth Howard (he/him) is a freelance scenic designer based out of Orlando, FL. He has
designed many regional productions and themed experiences across the country and is excited
to join the Charleston Stage team for this production of
Once on This Island. Some of his recent
design credits include
Deathtrap (Constellation Stage and Screen), Jersey Boys (Theatre
Aspen), and
Princess and Frog: The Musical (The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati). He received
his B.F.A. in Stage Design, Props, and Scenic Art from the University of Cincinnati College-
Conservatory of Music (CCM). Check out @sethhowarddesign on Instagram for more.

Meet Cody Elsensohn, Starring as Pablo Del Valle in “NATIVE GARDENS”

Cody Elsensohn, a Season 45 Resident Actor, has previously been seen on the Dock Street Theatre stage in The Play That Goes Wrong, The Addams Family – A New Musical, and A Christmas Carol. Now in the weighty, yet buoyant, role of Pablo Del Valle in Native Gardens, his acting skills are particularly shining. Hear from him about his preparation for this role below:

Season 45 Resident Actor Cody Elsensohn starring as Pablo Del Valle in NATIVE GARDENS.

What do you love about theatre as an art form?

I love the energy that is created by the audience and the actors. From the moment the stage manager calls “house is open” and voices of an audience begin to hum over the monitor, it’s as if a pulse for that day’s show has started. By the time “places” is called there’s a buzzing, electric energy in the theatre. The best part is when the curtain finally rises and the audience and actors share in that energy together; the actors playing off the audience, the audience engaging with the actors. There’s a heightened, supported, intimate feel when we’re all engaged in the story together. That synergistic relationship is something I love about theatre. 

How have you been preparing for the role of Pablo Del Valle in Native Gardens?

My process is pretty similar for any role I do. First, I like to listen to music that inspires me. For example, if the show is set in the 1920s, I will listen to instrumental music from the era while I work to aid in world building. For Native Gardens I looked up traditional and pop Chilean music, just listening to new sounds and getting a sense for the energy that Pablo grew up with in Chile. The next step is considering who this character is, what he wants, where he is, why he wants it—the preliminary questions to get to know who this character is at the top of the show.

Next I go through the script and Google literally anything I don’t understand, any pronunciations I need, any words I don’t know, and learn those things. For Pablo I needed to familiarize myself with topics mentioned in the script: native gardening, D.C. squatter’s rights, Lockheed Martin, life as an attorney. All these things help me know what I’m talking about and have a clear mental picture when I deliver lines. 

I’ll also list out what other characters mention about my character to get a clearer picture on his relationships with others. After I’ve done all of this preliminary work, it’s just about playing with lines and dynamics with my scene partners; exploring Pablo through interactions with the others. 

Tell us more about your character. What do you want us to know about him?

Pablo is a rising, successful, young attorney at Smith, Krause, & Wilson; a law firm in D.C. Pablo is originally from Las Condes, Santiago, Chile, attended boarding school in America, met in college and married Tania, and was disowned by his father for this. Years later at the top of the show, he and his expecting wife Tania have just moved into a long untended, fixer-upper house in an old, historic neighborhood. He’s viewed as a foreigner in his law firm, and feeling like an underdog leads him to try to be someone he imagines his colleagues will like. His pressures at work ultimately result in him having to scramble to stick true to his word, no matter what. 

What I want people to know about Pablo is that he feels he has something to prove. He wants to provide for his family, support Tania’s interests, and rectify his relationship with his father through a new relationship with their baby. He feels a lot of pressure to do all of these things, but that pressure comes out of love. 

What do you hope audiences will receive and ponder after seeing this show?

I hope our audiences’ notions of race and class are challenged by seeing the show, that they gain new perspectives about those who seem different. I hope people are excited by the show, and I hope they can walk away from it and see someone pass them by on the street and recognize their humanity just a little more clearly. 

What is your favorite show of all time?

For a musical, I’d have to say Cabaret; I just love the aesthetic, the story, the mood, etc. For a play I’d have to say Nick Staffords’ War Horse, which is a magnificent play with singing, interesting staging, and a massive multi-person operated horse puppet. 

Cody is ecstatic to join Charleston Stage in its 45th season as a Resident Actor! A native of New Orleans, Louisiana, Cody earned his B.F.A. in Acting from the University of Southern Mississippi in May of 2022. Some of his recent credits include Billy Cane in Bright Star, Jerry Hyland in Once in a Lifetime, Actor 1 in The Stinky Cheeseman, and Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Cody would like to thank his family, friends, and teachers who endlessly encourage and support him; it is highly valued! Keep up with Cody by following his Instagram: @cody.elsensohn

Behind the Curtain: Crystin Gilmore, Director of “ONCE ON THIS ISLAND”

Speaking with Crystin feels like speaking with a longtime friend who cares deeply for you, even if you’ve only just met. A former Resident Actor with Charleston Stage and current Equity Actor in New York, we consider ourselves fortunate beyond measure to be graced with her talent and bright, compassionate personality from time to time whenever she appears as a guest artist in our productions. With ONCE ON THIS ISLAND, on stage at the Dock Street Theatre in April, she’s making her directorial debut, for which we are so proud and grateful. Read more about her process in preparing to lead this show below:

Crystin Gilmore, Director of ONCE ON THIS ISLAND

You’re worked with Charleston Stage before many times — welcome back! What are your favorite Charleston Stage memories?

Thank you! My relationship with Charleston Stage runs deep. I have a plethora of memories that touch my heart. My first show with Charleston Stage was Beehive: The 60’s Musical! It’s a show with hits from all the 60’s girl groups. I loved it because the songs took you back in time and made you dance in your seat. As a previous Resident Actor, I thoroughly enjoyed teaching acting classes and working on the summer shows. There’s nothing like watching a child shine on stage at The Dock Street!! I have too many favorite shows to name but if I had to choose my top 3, I’d say Mamma Mia!– it’s the music, comedy and the dancing, The Seat of Justice– Julian Wiles‘ writing and commitment to the story is unmatched, and my upcoming show Once On This Island because It’s a story about unconditional love and it’s my directorial debut!

Share with us your artistic background. How did you get into theatre, acting, and directing?

My mother says I started acting straight out of her womb! Haha! I’d agree. I’ve always been a storyteller and a lover of people. I’m also the daughter of a southern preacher and an educator so this field suits me well. I started singing in the church at a young age, I participated in school talent shows and many church programs and I discovered a love for directing in college. I realized then that a collaborative is the best way to tell a story. 

Which styles of theatre do you gravitate towards the most? Why?

I gravitate mostly to straight plays though my resume is filled with musicals. Dramas and comedies rely on the actors ability to connect to the text and leaves no room for error. Some musicals leave you humming the songs and engrossed in outstanding vocals, all of which are just as complex and require another layer of expertise. I love musicals and I have friends who can sing effortlessly all times of day but singing requires me to cut out dairy from my diet and go on vocal rest outside when I’m not performing. I’m more aware of how I use my instrument in my daily life so straight plays take top billing for me.

What has inspired you as you study the script of Once On This Island?

Once On This Island has inspired me to be more vulnerable in giving and receiving love. This story has enriched my life in so many ways. My hope is that the cast and the audience members leave this production feeling inspired to give the love they desire freely and unconditionally.

What are your dreams for Charleston Stage’s own production of this special show?

Our version of Once On This Island will hopefully remind people that what they have in life is enough and that desiring what other people have is a waste of time. There is only one you and your life is sufficiently beautiful, individual and unique. 

What has come easily as you prepare to direct the show?

I’ve had a fantastic time in the collaborative process. My technical creatives have been fantastic in their flexibility and visions. They have made this process very easy in making my/our desired vision come to life. 

Which aspects have proven to be more challenging?

The most challenging part of a musical is adding all of the components together. It’s fantastically complex and beautiful at the same time. I trust that the actors and musicians will shine once the curtain opens on opening night.

What are your favorite shows of all time?

My favorite shows of all time are shows I have done or can see myself in like The Color Purple, Hamilton, School Girls; Or The African Mean Girls Play, The Mountaintop, and dare I say, Mamma Mia!

Performances of Once On This Island run April 12th – 30th at the Historic Dock Street Theatre. For tickets, visit

Crystin is grateful to have the opportunity to be back at The Dock with Charleston Stage making her directorial debut with Once On This Island! She was a Resident Actor with Charleston Stage many years ago and will forever call the company family. Crystin last graced the Dock Street Theatre stage in Black Pearl Sings! as Pearl. You may also remember her in The Seat of Justice as Mrs. Ruby Cornwell, in Mamma Mia! as Rosie, in Hairspray as Motormouth Maybelle and in Chicago, The Musical as Matron Momma Morton. Some additional credits include School Girls; Or The African Mean Girls Play in the role of Headmistress, The Color Purple as Shug Avery where she received an IRNE and Arts Impulse Award with Speakeasy Stage Co., The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin as Miss Pain with Progressive Theater, Letters from War as Mae with North Shore Theatre, Smokey Joe’s Cafe as Brenda with Show Palace Dinner Theater and Beehive! The 60’s Musical as Wanda with Greenbrier Valley Theatre. Crystin also enjoys being a motivational speaker, doing commercials, voiceovers and she hosts a podcast called POVwCrystinGilmore. Special thanks to her family, friends and the Lord. (Philippians 4:6-8) Wanna connect? @crystingilmore /