What Community Means at Charleston Stage, with Board Member Chelsea Rennhoff

We are so grateful to welcome our newest Board Member, Chelsea Rennhoff, to our Board of Directors and Director’s Circle Philanthropic Group! Hear about her beginning in the performing arts and love for the Charleston community below.

Please share some of your background and how your love for the arts began.

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I trained as a classical singer when I was young, which is where my love for the arts started. I’ve moved all over the country and world for my work in HR, and I’m very happy to be in Charleston now. My husband is originally from South Carolina, so this is a really special place for us to be. As I explored opportunities to get involved in the community when I moved here, Charleston Stage became such an easy choice. I’ve loved being able to be a board member and do volunteer work to stay involved in the arts.

How did you come to discover Charleston Stage?

Since I finished college and started my career, in each city I’ve lived in I’ve strived to get involved in my community in some way. Even when you’re new in your career, often the best way to get plugged in with different organizations is to volunteer your time and skills to help others by contributing what you already know. I like being involved in one local and one national organization. I had the privilege of meeting Janet, Charleston Stage Board President, at the CityStage Gala last spring, and she asked me as someone with HR expertise to join the board. 

Something that’s really special about Charleston Stage is its diversity of focus in performing arts. Often arts organizations are uniformly focused on performances. What I found so compelling about Charleston Stage is the breadth of their work in the community by also prioritizing arts education–the number of kids in the Charleston community who are touched by their work is incredible. The shows are amazing, but I find it really unique how big of a hand Charleston Stage has in the community by being very education focused.

As a new board member, how would you like to see Charleston Stage grow?

I’m really enjoying the work I’m doing on the search committee–exploring the right leadership for someone in this critical role at such a widely respected institution but who can also offer fresh eyes to improve how we run the organization. Secondly, I think even in an organization as dynamic as Charleston Stage, on any given night at the Dock Street Theatre we’re seeing mostly folks who are older. We need to be thinking more about our next generation of supporters, and I’m interested in exploring how we can bring more young professionals to the stage and make the theatre a date-night spot. 

I’ve led work on how to bring more young professionals to an organization, and the key way is creating community, a space where you know you’ll see your buddies there. I really want to focus on helping Charleston Stage expand this.

What is your impression of Director’s Circle?

There’s an important distinction between a season ticket-holder and a Director’s Circle ticket-holder. One, it’s really fun–the environment is great! Because Director’s Circle happens at the beginning of the show I’m able to talk to so many people I know about it after I attend to come see the show later. As we emphasize that Director’s Circle is a philanthropic organization, it’s important to explain how much Charleston Stage does to improve our community with arts education and how the contribution of Director’s Circle members helps the organization do that. If you are someone who is interested in the arts and wants to meet like-minded people in Charleston, this is the place to do it!

Why do you think the performing arts is so important to people in all walks of life?

The companies I work in HR with employ people of all walks of life and experiences. What’s unique about art is its capacity to put everyone in our communities on a more even playing field and help us all feel better connected. The arts transform people out of who they are on a day to day basis and take them to a place of better relating to one another. The arts bring people together regardless of where they are in the world, especially when you’re watching a performance as a group–the differences between you and other people start to fade away. The U.S. right now feels really divisive, and I believe it’s important to look to arts organizations to help unite us.

The arts are incredibly important for kids because it provides a space to express themselves creatively, help them share how they are feeling, and more intelligently manage their emotions. 

Charleston Stage is unique because it wants others to get involved in the arts and learn the arts. The organization sees its mission to create bridges across Charleston into the arts, such as with the CityStage and TheatreWings programs. Arts communities give young people a place to feel like they belong, and oftentimes, that’s enough.

What is your favorite show?

The Music Man on Broadway took my breath away when I saw Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster opposite each other recently. And, I had the opportunity to play Amaryllis when I was younger!

Charleston Stage Board Member Chelsea Rennhoff

Behind the Character of Bob Cratchit, With Cody Elsensohn

Cody Elsensohn, a Season 45 Resident Actor, was last seen in “The Play That Goes Wrong” and “The Addams Family – A New Musical,” and will return to the Dock Street Theatre stage in our MainStage production of “Native Gardens” this March. Hear his take on preparing for the role of Bob Cratchit in “A Christmas Carol” here:

You’re a Season 45 Resident Actor with us and we are so grateful to have you here! What have you enjoyed about your work with us so far?

I have honestly loved everything from engaging in different rehearsal processes, to performing at the beautiful, historic Dock Street Theatre, to connecting with and teaching theatre to so many young theatre artists. It has been a joy to share in these experiences with the other Resident Actors and with the larger Charleston Stage community!

How have you been preparing to play the role of Bob Cratchit in “A Christmas Carol?”

Growing up watching “A Christmas Carol” each holiday season provided a nice jumping-off point for me as I prepared to play Bob Cratchit. I had always known Cratchit to be cheery, optimistic, and kind-hearted. After reading this original adaptation by Julian Wiles, however, I found new insights into Cratchit’s character. I am a firm believer that all the information I need for my character can be found in the script: taking note of what other characters think/say/feel about mine and paying close attention to the words my character chooses to say (the power of those words, or the lack thereof) to determine an energy from the character. Playing the action of the script to elicit any emotional response rather than playing the emotion of the scene is far more compelling. That being said, most of my preparations have happened during the rehearsal process as I’ve experimented with different ways to play scenes and deliver lines, and this even continues to develop into the run of performances!

Featured: The Cratchit Family with Charleston Stage Resident Actor Cody Elsensohn as Bob Cratchit (Far Right) in “A Christmas Carol”.

Tell us more about Cratchit. What motivates him? What is he afraid of? How have you been working through these things as an actor?

Bob Cratchit is a warm, jubilant, hard working man. He is a father of seven, a husband, and is employed by Ebenezer Scrooge. I think Cratchit is most motivated by family and love. I think the fact that Tiny Tim is ill is also a huge motivator for Cratchit to take as many hours at work as he does, and could also be a major reason he is as jubilant and cheerful as he is. In a bind like the Cratchits, where a father and oldest daughter provide for the entire family, including a perhaps terminally ill child, it might be imperative to keep a cheerful demeanor around the house. I believe Bob Cratchit practices happiness as a way to maintain gratitude against the odds of his family’s circumstances. Bob primarily is afraid of losing his position at Scrooge and Marley’s because this would mean that he would lose his entire livelihood. He would no longer be able to feed his family, he could lose his son to illness, or the Cratchits would go homeless. These motivators and fears are all supported by the script, which makes working through this information a lot of fun. When there are this many layers, the stakes for the character rise and offer a lot of interesting work to play around with.

Featured (Left to Right): Charleston Stage Performance Troupe Members Noah Greisheimer as Peter Cratchit, Louie Chaplin Moss as Tiny Tim, and Charleston Stage Resident Actor Cody Elsensohn as Bob Cratchit in “A Christmas Carol”.

This show is challenging particularly as a big musical with many moving parts. What has been the most difficult aspect of rehearsals for you? What has come more naturally?

I think the most difficult aspect of the rehearsal process was getting confident with my British accent! I was determined to do it well because I find that accents can tend to be a weakness of mine, yet they are required for this production. Things like Bob’s temperament, his tenderness, and his joy came more naturally to me when working the material.

What are your standard pre-show routines as you get ready to perform?

For “A Christmas Carol” I don’t have a very demanding dance or vocal track, so my pre-show routine is quite standard and brief. I like to start with a consonant and vowel vocal warm up to make sure my speech is crisp and clean, then I like to do some lip trills up and down my range to awaken all the parts of my voice. I’ll usually do a quick full body stretch and a shakedown to loosen up, and then I’m good to go!

Tough question: plays or musicals? Why?

Plays. While I love being in musicals, I always end up enjoying playing characters written in plays more than I enjoy playing characters written in musicals. It always feels like there’s more substance to the characters, and reactions garnered from a performance in a play tend to feel more genuine than those garnered from audiences in a musical, so I like plays more!

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 Scenes of Our Holiday Shows, With Facia Lee

Facia Lee, one of our Season 45 Resident Actors, takes us backstage of “A Christmas Carol,” our holiday tradition reimagined this year with entirely new sets, costumes, and music, and “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” in our Family Series! Hear from her below:

You’re a Season 45 Resident Actor with us – we are so grateful to have you here! What have you enjoyed about your work with us so far?

I am grateful to be here! Performing this season has been such a blast, and I have learned so much in teaching our TheatreSchool classes. I’ve also certainly enjoyed how I’ve gotten the chance to meet and work with other incredibly talented Resident Actors, staff, local actors, and students. I cannot forget to mention that Charleston is absolutely gorgeous, too!

Doing two shows at once certainly isn’t easy. How have you been preparing for and handling it? 

I agree it’s no easy feat by any means, but luckily our responsibilities as Resident Actors are scheduled perfectly for us to be able to have time to rehearse AND relax at home when needed! As the holidays pick up, we devote the time we were teaching to getting into more shows, rehearsals, and other magic, as our TheatreSchool semester closed before Thanksgiving break.

Tell us more about your characters in “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” and “A Christmas Carol.” What motivates them? How have you been working through these things as an actor?

I am truly blessed to play both Grace Bradley in “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” then switch hats (literally!) to play the Lady Visitor/Ghoul/Beggar Woman/Debtor’s Wife track in “A Christmas Carol!” Grace is a loving mother who is devoted to accomplishing something outside of her comfort zone, while the Lady Visitors go from being rejected by Scrooge at first to being gifted by him in the end! Both roles are absolutely hilarious and require so much confidence throughout, which has helped me improve so much as an actor and in my personal life. I have learned immensely from these characters’ stories of perseverance and joy, and have grown tremendously while working with my incredibly talented directors and fellow actors in both casts.

Featured (Center): Charleston Stage Resident Actor Facia Lee as Grace Bradley in “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever”.

As an actor, what aspects of rehearsing and performing come more naturally to you? What parts are more difficult?

Though not every single song I have ever learned is easy, music is easiest to pick up on for me! Dancing and physical theatre are a tad bit more difficult for me, but of course the directors, choreographers, and other Resident Actors always hook a girl up with the extra help I ever need! 

Featured (Left to Right): Charleston Stage Resident Actors Eliza Knode and Facia Lee as the Lady Visitors and Actors’ Equity Association Member and Former Charleston Stage Resident Actor Gabriel Wright as Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol”.

What are your standard pre-show routines as you get ready to perform? 

Before every single performance, the ladies’ dressing room listens to “Plastic Off the Sofa” from Beyoncé’s newest album!

Tough question: plays or musicals? Why?

Love them both tons, but I’ll have to say musicals because of the song and dance aspects!

Facia is thrilled to work with Charleston Stage! She has been performing on stage since she was about 6 years old. Her favorite credits include Macduff (The Scottish Play), Cinderella, an in-house written children’s theatre version of the same name, and Sandra/The Witch in Big Fish. She graduated from Florida School of the Arts with both her A.A. and A.S. in Musical Theatre and graduated from Palm Beach Atlantic University with her B.A. in Theatre with Concentration in Music. Facia would like to thank her loving family, friends, teachers, and Father for all of their support.

Meet Janine McCabe, Guest Costume Designer for “A Christmas Carol”

We are beyond thrilled to have professional Costume Designer Janine McCabe provide her artistry for our upcoming production of “A Christmas Carol,” helping us make this timeless show feel reinvented and cast in a whole new light! Hear from her about her design process below:

Share with us your story of getting into costume design. 

I didn’t find my way into Costume Design until almost my Junior year in College! I did grow up dancing so I was always onstage for that but I never wanted to be an actor and had no idea that people could have careers as a designer. No one in my family was in the arts so I focused on the other things I was good at and actually started college as an Engineering major. I grew up in NJ though and beyond the excellent academics we were able to take classes in sewing, wood working, drawing and painting, metal shop and more so when I finished high school I was a proficient stitcher and would alter and create my own patterns for garments, like my prom dress!

When I realized engineering really wasn’t my passion I transferred to the College of Charleston where I took an Intro to Theatre class and learned that the department would hire Work Study students in the shops. I marched straight into the Costume Shop and proclaimed that I knew how to sew and wanted a job. After showing the professor at the time, Mary Halloway Jollensten, some sample garments, she hired me and I was sucked into the theatre world. I started taking all the classes and realized that Theatre and design combined so many of my passions and interests – sewing, teamwork, drawing, history, fashion, sociology, psychology….I was hooked.

I started designing shows my junior year and never stopped. I went on to graduate school and got my M.F.A. in Costume Design at the University of Virginia and then spent 5 years working, learning and designing in NYC. I worked under Martin Pakledinaz for multiple years on Broadway, opera and dance while designing my own shows off-broadway and for things like New York Musical Theatre Festival with friends I made along the way. I was lucky in NYC. I never worked a non-design job. It was hard work, freelance, but I loved every bit of it!

What do you love about what you do? 

It’s the collaborative aspect that I love most. Working with a team toward this shared goal of bringing a story to life in the best way possible for the audience…I can’t imagine anything better. And it is always something new. Each play, musical, dance piece brings you to different research, expands your view, allows the opportunity to learn about different cultures, time periods and other people’s journeys.

What is your favorite time period to design costumes for?

I get asked this a lot and I am not sure I have a favorite…they are all so interesting when you really start getting into the research and details. I do love when I get the opportunity to create a look that combines periods and creates some sort of timeless feel or look of another time and place that is undefined for the audience.

Tell us about your artistic inspiration behind the costumes for A Christmas Carol. 

All Julian had to say was that he wanted a more colorful approach and I was hooked. My design style tends towards the use of saturated color and textures so this was a chance to really play with that. There were movies he mentioned where the use of color served as inspiration for the team but then getting into the historical research of the early to mid 1800s demonstrated a fantastic use of color and mixing patterns and textures in the time period.

What would you like audiences to know about the costumes for this show?

This has been a really special process for me, one because I am thrilled to have the opportunity to design with such a passionate team and be part of Julian’s last production and two, because I was able to work with two amazingly talented students who will definitely become names people know, Brandon Alston and Molly Rumph. We started the summer brainstorming, researching and working together on a number of design projects. Through a SURF grant from the College of Charleston, Molly was able to work full-time for 10 weeks as an Assistant Costume Designer. Molly and I have had a blast working on the research, colors, renderings, shopping and planning together all summer and we really are looking forward to realizing the design with the Charleston Stage staff.

Rendering of Topper and Ms. Tilly Topper in “A Christmas Carol” by Costume Designer Janine McCabe.

Rendering of Mrs. Cratchit and Tiny Tim in “A Christmas Carol” by Costume Designer Janine McCabe.

Rendering of the Ghost of Christmas Past in “A Christmas Carol” by Costume Designer Janine McCabe.

Rendering of the Ghost of Christmas Present in “A Christmas Carol” by Costume Designer Janine McCabe.

Rendering of Mr. Wiggins and Mrs. Tabor in “A Christmas Carol” by Costume Designer Janine McCabe.

The Addams Family Butler: Patrick Brett, Former Resident Actor

Patrick Brett a Season 41 Resident Actor, has returned to the Dock Street Stage for the roles of Lurch in The Addams Family – A New Musical, currently playing, and Jacob Marley in A Christmas Carol coming November 30th. While onstage this fall he’s appeared quite “stiff” in the role of the Addams Family’s half-dead butler, you can get to know his joyful personality here!

You’re a former Resident Actor with us – welcome back! What are some of your favorite Charleston Stage memories? What have you been up to since being with the company?

It’s good to be back! Charleston Stage feels like a second home to me. There are some incredible people in this company and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to return. I was a Resident Actor in Season 41, and my experiences have shaped the kind of actor that I am today. 

My most treasured memories from those bygone days always include Colin Waters. Colin entered the program as a tour de force and quickly became a leader among our fellow Resident Actors. He was the mastermind behind our legendary Halloween costume (Inside Out), a founding member of PTO, and shared his love for his favorite day, sitzprobe. I was very proud, albeit not surprised, when he was asked to join Charleston Stage full-time as the Education Program Manager.

In the role of Beast in Beauty and the Beast I got the chance to fly with Fly by Foy during the character’s transformation from beast to man, and there’s nothing like it. I remember coming in for a training rehearsal, putting the harness on, and getting lifted off the ground by two metal wires thinner than my pinky – each one strong enough to bear 800 pounds. I’m notoriously afraid of heights, and I was so scared when the ground disappeared from underneath me. My heart skipped a beat when I was told I’d be doing three backflips while spinning uncontrollably; Oh, and simultaneously take off my Beast costume. After a few trial flights I was hooked. I’m very excited that I will be given that same chance in A Christmas Carol this year.

Featured (Left to Right): Former Charleston Stage Resident Actors Patrick Brett as the Beast and Levi Denton-Hughes as Belle in “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast”.

After the curtain fell on Beauty and the Beast I traveled around the country performing in various shows. I saw the northern lights in Alaska while slinging arctic keta at a dinner theatre run by a cruise line. I was in a two person show, sometimes in ten different schools a week. Before the year ended I had moved to Chicago to pursue acting and improv. It wasn’t long before Covid came along and my focus shifted to a different vein: survival.

During my hiatus from the stage I had a variety of different roles that I began to fill. I half-heartedly earned my residential leasing agent license and began concurrently showing luxury apartments while waking up around four in the morning for my front desk job at a fitness studio. For a time I was Chicago’s worst real estate broker. I thought about becoming a plumber, and was laid off from an HVAC company. The hustle never ended. I eventually ended up working at Second City (where Chicago goes to laugh!) as a server. My favorite job by far. 

It wasn’t until 2021 that I returned to the stage in a theme park’s production of A Christmas Carol -though long story short, Covid shut down the production and I’m not allowed to be a Harlem Globetrotter. In April of this year I returned to Alaska along with my gorgeous partner Mary Kate, who I met at Charleston Stage during our time as Resident Actors. 

I’m having a blast in rehearsal. My return feels like a wonderful bookend to the last three years and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.   

Featured (Left to Right): Charleston Stage Resident Actor Cedar Valdez as Gomez Addams and Former Charleston Stage Resident Actor Patrick Brett as Lurch in “The Addams Family – A New Musical”.

How have you been preparing to play the role of Lurch in “The Addams Family?”

Lots of grunting, especially at the dinner table. Haha – Lurch does not say anything during the show. He is a large, lugubrious presence. So I’ve been practicing standing up straight and absolutely still while looking glum. And when he does move, he’s incredibly slow. To help with that I walk on a treadmill for 15 minutes a day in his gait. I’ll tell you, it would take him well over an hour to walk one mile. I’m excited for audiences to see Lurch’s mouth. Obviously in rehearsals we were masked, but when we get to tech my cast-mates were able to see a completely new dimension to my character.

Featured (Far Right): Former Charleston Stage Resident Actor Patrick Brett as Lurch in “The Addams Family – A New Musical”.

This show is very physically challenging, as with any big musical with multiple dance numbers. What has been the most difficult aspect of rehearsals for you? What has come more naturally? 

I unfortunately couldn’t arrive until a week and half into the rehearsal process: music was already learned, a few dances were choreographed, and half the show was blocked. A lot of information came at me very fast, and it was hard to not let the pressure of meeting my own expectations and standards get to me. Returning as a guest artist, I gotta show up, not throw up. I have to bring my A game. The cast was incredibly welcoming and supportive of my arrival.

As far as things go that come naturally, just standing around as Lurch. To quote my JV volleyball coach, “You can’t teach tall.”

What are your standard pre-show routines as you get ready to perform?

I don’t have any, I probably should…showing up on time, I guess.  

Tough question: plays or musicals? Why?

This is a tough question because I’m a horrible student of my craft. I was very fortunate that when I was in elementary school we’d take field trips to see children’s theater. I remember seeing Mr. Popper’s Penguins, The BFG, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but I wasn’t exposed to musicals till the sixth grade. The music was a nice caveat, but I think I like watching plays more. Like: “Oh, here’s an Office style mockumentary adaptation of Henry V” (do it, you cowards). There’s some weird stuff out there and that’s the work I want to do. So throw me some monologue suggestions: the fewer words, the better.

Patrick would like to thank all the powers that made it possible for him to return to Charleston Stage as a guest artist. He was last seen onstage in the 2019 production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast as Beast and could not be more excited to be back. Special thanks to his parents, MK and all friends, old and new, who have come to watch. Follow him on Instagram at @party_patbrett.

Meet Our Wednesday Addams, Resident Actor Jenna Barricklo

Jenna Barricklo, a Season 45 Resident Actor with us, has shined on our Dock Street stage in the role of Wednesday Addams in “The Addams Family – A New Musical,” performing until Nov. 6th. Hear from her about her preparations for the role below:

You’re a Season 45 Resident Actor with us. What have you enjoyed about your
work with us so far?

I love that I get to fulfill all sides of why I love theater! It is amazing to work with my students during the day teaching them what I know and then come to rehearsal at night and explore my acting abilities. This is such a special company that really supports us and encourages us to be brave both in rehearsal and in life. It has been so much fun getting to learn and grow as an educator and challenge myself as an actor at the same time. There are not many places where we can get both of these things at once.

How have you been preparing to play the role of Wednesday in “The Addams

The amazing thing about performing Wednesday is there is so much source material to pull from! I have been watching the original TV show from the 1950s as well as the live action Addams Family movies. While Wednesday is a slightly different age in each iteration, six and twelve years old respectively, there is a lot to learn about her relationship with her family, what motivates her, and what makes her unique. Wednesday does not have your average coming of age story, and it’s been very fun to dive into what her upbringing was like. The original Charles Addams cartoons have been great material to learn from as well. There are so many small details in the musical that are taken right from those original cartoons.

Tell us more about Wednesday. What motivates her? What is she afraid of? How
have you been working through these things as an actor?

At this point in Wednesday’s life, she is ready to be out on her own exploring. She is definitely a daredevil, and I think she is looking for the next adventure in life – in this case, love. She is very independent and always wants to prove that she can get by just fine on her own. At the same time, though, I think falling in love proves to her that there is so much she has yet to experience and understand.

While there is not much Wednesday is afraid of, I think falling in love with Lucas makes her more vulnerable. She doesn’t know how to handle the emotions that come with letting your guard down, and I think she is afraid of letting people down. While she is very independent, she really needs her family’s approval and love in her choice to marry Lucas. She has learned to value her family above everything, and I think she is now grappling with how to let new people into her heart.

The easiest part of Wednesday for me to connect with is her love for her family. While the Addams are anything but average, their family bond is something I can strongly relate to. Wednesday’s decision of whether to leave home is a similar experience to what I am going through at the stage of life, a native New Yorker now transplanted in Charleston.

Resident Actor Jenna Barricklo as Wednesday Addams in “The Addams Family – A New Musical”.

This show is very physically challenging, as with any big musical with multiple
dance numbers. What has been the most difficult aspect of rehearsals for you?
What has come more naturally?

I think the hardest part is getting Wednesday’s physicality down. All of the Addams’ move unnaturally – a little off. It is hard as an actor to resist the urge to react with your body, but Wednesday is very still – not much phases her. I had to rethink my impulses and really get into her mindset, noticing how her body language is different around her family than it is with Lucas, as he brings down her guard a little.

What has been most fun for me is any time I have the opportunity to dance. Wednesday doesn’t necessarily dance a ton in the show given her stiff nature, but I get to have my moments! I had a really fun time with Raymond, our Lucas, choreographing a little dance duet for an Act II number. Any time I got to throw in a little dance event makes my soul happy!

Resident Actors Raymond Cronley as Lucas Beineke and Jenna Barricklo as Wednesday Addams in “The Addams Family – A New Musical”.

What are your standard pre-show routines as you get ready to perform?
The music in this show is quite a beast, especially for Wednesday, so most of my pre-show routine is making sure I’m vocally warm. I do my standard warmups as well as a few that are specific to get my voice ready for this style of show. I then sing all of “Pulled,” Wednesday’s big solo, through a straw. It’s a technique I learned from my voice teacher to get my voice exactly in the spot and positioning I need it to be in that song, and I do it before every rehearsal and performance to remind my voice what it needs to do!

Tough question: plays or musicals? Why?
I have to say musicals. The music piece of a story is what always draws me in – there is so much storytelling that comes from song and dance. It can be introspection, a glimpse into a character’s thoughts, and allows the audience to dive further into a character’s point of view.

Jenna is so excited to be joining Charleston Stage for its 45th season! She received her B.F.A. in Musical Theater from Shenandoah University. Professional Credits: Lisa (Mamma Mia!), Rosalia (West Side Story), Female Newsie (Newsies), Fannie (Mary Poppins). Jenna grew up in New York City and most recently resided in Boston! She is so grateful to her parents and brother for their endless support. Keep up with Jenna on her website and on Instagram: jennabarricklo.com / @in_jennaral

“Darling, I always wear black!” Designing costumes for “The Addams Family – A New Musical”

We are so thrilled with the design work that Hayley O’Brien, our Associate Costume Designer and Construction Coordinator, has sketched, sewn and built to make the characters in The Addams Family – A New Musical come to life. Hear from her about her particular design process for this spooky show!

What makes “The Addams Family – A New Musical” different from designs you’ve done in the past?

Designing The Addams Family is very, very different from previous shows I’ve done! This show is very unique since it is so dark, visually and in terms of comedy. Every member of the Addams family is traditionally dressed in dark tones, yet the humor and personality of each character is very playful and quirky, even light–as they joke about death! 

What creative inspiration did you draw from to make these designs?

During the design process the director and I really wanted to stay true to the iconic silhouettes of the original Addams family as our pop culture knows them. I referenced the illustrations of Charles Addams along with the 1964 TV show and, of course, the 1991 and 1993 films. For the Beineke family, I was mainly inspired by the classic 1950’s “All-American” family to create a distinct visual contrast between the two households that highlights their differing behaviors and tastes as well. In regards to the ancestors, I enjoyed looking through history with a costuming lens and focusing on time periods and silhouettes that would be distinct from one another and also plenty of movement for our actors to dance in.

What was rewarding about designing this show? What was challenging?

It was very rewarding to design this show with the production team and work with all actors, especially since this was the first show of the season I designed with our new Resident Actors. It was amazing watching our talented actors come in for fittings, put them in costume, then see how excited they were to transform into these characters. I really love this show, and it has been so rewarding to see it come to life and share the excitement with the rest of our cast, crew, and production team. 

The most challenging part was figuring out all the makeup for the show. Makeup and wigs are essential to creating these characters. And there’s a wide range: from spooky, glamorous makeup and a long black wig for Morticia to bald caps and full-head makeup coverage for Fester to turning a whole ensemble of actors into ghosts that are in head-to-toe grayscale! However, I found a lot of joy in this challenge of problem-solving and exploring all the possibilities!

What are you eager for audiences to see and notice in your designs when they come to the show?

I make many references to the original Addams Family that longtime fans of the characters will recognize. My interpretation infused a new variation to an old love. I am also eager to introduce the audience to a whole new group of characters: the Beineke family. The Addams are very dark and textural, while the Beinekes are brighter with pops of color. On top of that, there is an ensemble of dead, ghostly ancestors! Overall, I hope our audiences notice the fine details in every costume and enjoy this kooky group of characters!

(Left to right) Costume Designer Hayley O’Brien’s rendering of Gomez and Resident Actor Cedar Valdez as Gomez.

(Left to right) Costume Designer Hayley O’Brien’s rendering of Morticia and Resident Actor Eliza Knode as Morticia.

(Left to right) Costume Designer Hayley O’Brien’s rendering of Wednesday and Resident Actor Jenna Barricklo as Wednesday.

“They’re creepy and they’re kooky!” A closer look at the props for our production of “The Addams Family – A New Musical”

Aline Toloto, our super-talented new Properties Supervisor, has been working particularly hard on props for this huge upcoming show! Hear more about her work as a designer and the specificities of “The Addams Family – A New Musical” here:

What makes “The Addams Family – A New Musical” different from designs you’ve done in the past?

The direction we decided to go with the Properties Design Concept for the show was not about historical accuracy, but about how we could make fun props that feel like they would belong to the members of the Addams Family. That provided a great space for my creativity and imagination as an artist that sometimes, depending on the story we are telling, is not possible in other shows. 

What has been rewarding about designing this show? What has been challenging?

Connecting this answer with the previous, it’s been rewarding to be able to freely create this world of the Addams with our design team. Yet this freedom has also proven to be a challenge! We are constantly brainstorming and problem-solving–trying different things that sometimes don’t work as expected.

What are you eager for audiences to see and notice in your designs when they come to the show?

I believe the props are the “cherry on top” in theatre. In the world we create onstage it’s the little things that complement and bring life to the overall space. The goal is not to make the audience distracted by something exuberant, but the opposite: we aim for simple details that sometimes can be imperceptible to the audience. We collaborate with the actors and let them inspire the audience to believe in the story that is being told. 

What creative inspiration have you been drawing from to make these designs?

In one of my first meetings with the Scenic Designer he told me he was interested in a spooky concept–not scary-spooky but goofy-spooky! I loved the direction he desired for this design and kept that in mind throughout the process. We also established a muted color palette with grays, purples and blues for both scenery and props, letting the light and costume designs bring brighter colors into the space. 

Properties Supervisor Aline Toloto crafting a bear rug for “The Addams Family – A New Musical”
Properties Supervisor Aline Toloto’s process of building a rocketship prop for “The Addams Family – A New Musical”
Shop Manager Josh Teal holding a prop designed by Properties Supervisor Aline Toloto, with inner lights installed by Lighting Designer Caleb S. Garner.

Get a Sneak Peek at our Set Designs for “The Addams Family – A New Musical”

If there’s one thing that’s fun for a scenic designer, it’s a spooky set full of tricks and surprises. Adam Jehle, Charleston Stage’s Technical Director and Resident Scenic & Projector Designer, shares more about his design process for this quirky Halloween show:

What makes “The Addams Family – A New Musical” different from designs you’ve done in the past?

I haven’t done a show with so much outside content and source material before. In my research process I’ve found a treasure trove of ideas–I’ve thoroughly enjoyed going back and looking at the old comics, TV episodes, and movies to find inspiration to make a set design that blends the nostalgic with the new.

What creative inspiration have you been drawing from to make these designs?

The biggest inspiration I drew from was the original Charles Addams and Edward Gorey comics. Their use of texture and scale were striking to me, and I drew heavily on that idea. Another idea I found funny and interesting from the Gorey was the house being in such a dilapidated state, but to the Addams parents that was their perfect version of their house. So naturally peeling wallpaper and dirt stains were a fitting route I went down.

What has been rewarding about designing this show? What has been challenging?

I’ve felt so rewarded in seeing such a large scale show seamlessly come together thanks to everyone’s hard work and thanks to the talented cast, crew, and production staff. The team I work with in the scenic shop is nothing short of amazing, and it makes me so proud to see all that we can build when we come together.

On the flip side, ironically, the scale has been the biggest challenge. With so many locations set in this show, furniture, and props, The Addams Family – A New Musical makes for a massive design challenge to bring all those pieces together cohesively. 

What are you eager for audiences to see and notice in your designs when they come to the show?

I want the audience to leave thinking what they saw felt like the true “Addams Family,” with call backs to the original show and vintage comics. But also I want them to feel like the story and set they experienced was a fresh take on this classic series. Our Design Concept for the show is this phrase “Everything is not as it seems.” I hope audiences will take a good look at the set in each scene, because that very well may be true. You’ll be delightfully surprised by all the tricks we have up our sleeves!

Rendering of a scene for “The Addams Family – A New Musical” by Adam Jehle
A set in the process of building for “The Addams Family – A New Musical” by Adam Jehle

“Theatre as a Means for Connection:” Resident Actor Brietta Goodman on the Meaning of Live Theatre

We sat down with Brietta Goodman, a Season 45 Resident Actor, to hear her express how the power of live theatre has impacted her life as a human and an artist. Read on below:

I always enjoyed the performing arts as a child. It was a way for me to express myself freely as a person and as an artist. And with being the last of 8 siblings, it was my calling to be the artsy one. My first encounter with live theatre was seeing Phantom of the Opera at The Orpheum in Memphis, TN–needless to say, it was beautiful! That was the start of a tiny seed that sprouted my love for theatrics. I was a choir kid from middle school to college. Starting off, I participated in show choirs and several other ensembles throughout high school and college. My first love was music, and while it is still a big part of my life, overtime that love grew into live theatre. Aside from choir, my high school’s drama club was the most comfortable place where I felt safe and a sense of community with my peers. 

I did not pursue theatre until my second semester of freshman year in college when my professor, Sadie Shannon, said she wanted to take me to a musical theatre competition but that I had to be a theatre major in order to go. So, I changed my major from General Studies/Hospitality to Theatre. Being cast in my first musical that semester, Calvin Berger, was my first experience acting onstage, and I loved it. I enjoyed coming up with backstories for the characters and collaborating with so many talented people on and offstage. I was able to travel to New York for a week to participate in a week-long Broadway Intensive Bootcamp, which was the most eye-opening week of my college career. During that week, I realized that theatre was what I wanted to do with my life, and I’ve never felt more passionate about creating and performing live theatre than in that week. 

My love has only grown for all the wonderful elements at work on and offstage that make live theatre so amazing. To me, live theatre means community, passion, and outreach. Everyone involved is so driven and dedicated to creating one final cohesive beauty of a production that the audience witnesses. It gives me more awareness about myself and about others that I haven’t been able to find anywhere else. Live theatre doesn’t have a barrier–it can reach and affect everyone in it and those who watch it. I am so grateful to be able to create and perform art with such a beautiful community here at Charleston Stage.

Brietta (she/her/hers) is ecstatic to be a Resident Actor with Charleston Stage this season! Originally from Horn Lake, Mississippi, she received an A.A. in Theatre from Northwest Mississippi Community College with credits including: Polly Benish in Play On!, Aida in Aida, and Ellen Van Oss in Two Rooms. Recently a graduate from University of Southern Mississippi with a B.A. in Theatre with credits including: Cathy Haitt in The Last Five Years, Bunny in Detroit ’67, and Lucy Grant in Bright Star. While at USM, she was an Irene Ryan Finalist and was awarded First Place in the Musical Theatre Initiative Region IV Competition. She is so grateful for this opportunity and the support she has received from her friends and family going on this new journey! Stay Connected: https://briettagoodman99.wixsite.com/actor-performer