by Lenise Willis

The magic behind the tale


Turning a stage into a magical wonderland requires a list of illusions, which is why Twin City Stage has a few tricks up its sleeve for its production of “Into the Woods.”

The first show of the theater’s 80th season is a romantic musical that weaves together classic fairy tales and explores the dark possibilities of happily ever after.

“I like the way the story, though seemingly simple and predictable, is an allegory for everyday life,” director Steven LaCosse said. “The characters have to go through the woods to confront their hopes and fears.”

To transport the audience into the world of their favorite childhood stories, the theater first exercised their creativity behind the scenes.

“Theater folks are masters of disguise, settings and illusion””all things that create magic,” executive director Maureen Daly said.

The most immediate wonder that the audience encounters is the scenic design, which literally sets the stage for the plot, mood and atmosphere.

“We have a growing beanstalk, fantastic lighting effects and some special magic that you will have to come see the show to experience it,” LaCosse said.

To reveal only a few of the secrets, the village, Rapunzel’s tower and the mysterious forest are made up of plywood shapes held rigid by one-by-fours.

Although the painted houses and trees are shadowed to look 3D, they’re completely flat so that when they’re raised out of the way, they’ll fit in the 18 inches of space between the pipes above the fly space.

Rapunzel’s tower is another story. Even though it’s flat, it’s too large of a piece for the crew to quickly move in between scene changes, so it will instead be rotated between scenes so that it’s thin side can blend with the trees and appear to disappear.

“We’re doing everything we can, without y’all knowing it, to move from one scene to the next,” Elizabeth Rief from the stage crew said. “We don’t want to take away from the actors telling the story.”

Other tricks include the props on stage, which aren’t always what they appear.

“Roast beef looks just like pumpernickel (bread) from that far away,” Rief said.

Besides the scenic design, it’s the costumes that help place the audience in a particular time and place.

“(Into the Woods) gives me the opportunity to create clothing for iconic characters that everyone knows and give them a contemporary twist,” said Justin Hall, costume designer, who created the witch’s robe out of a retired graduation gown.

Hall’s costumes not only help to set the time and place of the play, but they set the tone, as well, especially when the musical takes a dark turn.

“The difference comes in the second act,” said Hall. “We’re directly relating the color palette for this show to the tone of the storytelling. The first act ends brightly with happily ever after; the second act takes a more cynical and realistic view of what happens after happily ever after, and this is represented in the darker tones of the clothing.”

Of course, not all of the magic happens before the show. Hidden in the wings, off stage, on production night is a team solely dedicated to getting actors in and out of their proper costumes. The “dressers” have their own tricks, too.

“(Velcro) is the only reason everyone shows up on stage clothed,” laughed Annalisa Ebbink, a volunteer dresser. The Twin City Stage dressers also admit to stapling actors into costumes in the event of a mishap and a time crunch.

When it all comes together in production, the magic should be invisible, letting the audience simply enjoy a seamless performance.

“The overall message is that there is light after the darkness,” Daly said.

“We’re trying to make sure that we underscore that even though life will throw you curve (balls) you can learn from them and come out on the other side better people,” LaCosse added. !


Twin City Stage’s adult-only play, “ Into the Woods,” runs Sept. 19-28 at the Arts Council Theatre, 610 Coliseum Drive, Winston-Salem. Tickets are $25. For tickets and more information visit or call 336-725-4001.