Friday, April 6, 2012

HOLY GHOSTS Inspires Reflections on Art, Faith and Work

A conversation with Tim Stapleton
It is no secret that our Resident Scenic Designer Tim Stapleton is talented. Just look at our sets this season! What we are discovering now, however, is that his talent and artistic integrity knows no bounds.
Tim Stapleton (center) with PAC
students in HOLY GHOSTS
(photo: Owen Carey)

We are happier than a ticks on a fat dog, as they say in the South, to feature Tim (along with other guest artists Jim Davis, Michael Fisher-Welsh and Cate Garrison) in our upcoming production of Romulus Linney’s Holy Ghosts, directed by Beth Harper. PAC is also proud to show Tim’s series of paintings entitled FAITH and WORK throughout the run of Holy Ghosts, with a special reception on April 18 from 7-9pm.

Tim recently took time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for us about his experiences and influences as a scenic designer, actor, and artist.

PAC: Can you tell us about your inspiration for the look and feel of the Holy Ghosts set? How much have you drawn from your own experiences to develop the design?

TS:  The entire PAC season was done as one "unit" design. The foundation for all three shows has been there on stage since Reckless. What changed were the needed particulars to tell each story. This helped with time, labor, and expenses, and also helped the students see exactly how a designer thinks. I actually designed Holy Ghosts first. Beth and I talked about our experiences growing up in the South. How the churches there looked and felt. Romulus Linney says that it takes place in a room in a house. Well, I drew on my experiences of going to grange halls and makeshift buildings where revivals took place. We both wanted a plank floor, and felt the color scheme should be subdued and rather brown. These people are grounded in the earth.

PAC: How do you feel about being onstage versus working behind the scenes? Is the experience what you thought it would be? What is it like acting alongside the PAC students?

TS: I love designing. It has been my life's work for 30 years now. What I find interesting is that I get to move around in an environment that I imagined. Actors can't see themselves...and therefore it can difficult to see the surroundings as you move through the space. However, throughout this process with Beth's inspirational direction, we are all in the room, and we know we are. Acting with the students is a gift. These students are so devoted...they rise to the challenges...and give of themselves. Wholeheartedly. Who wouldn't want to be on stage with that?

PAC: Can you describe your character, Cancer Man? We know he is struggling and surviving with cancer. What is your favorite thing about him? What is challenging about the character?

TS: Cancer Man is the only character in the play without a name. He is only referred to as Cancer Man. He is an elder in the church, and the services do not start without his presence. He is benevolent. He has accepted and owned his disease, and says so right when he enters the room. Therefore, he is accepting of all things and all people, especially the ones in his church community. Although he does not show frustration, that would be judgmental and he isn't, I think he just can't understand why people won't "let go and let God." My favorite thing about him is his unconditional love for others and his undying faith. One of the challenges is to be complete and authentic. Because he doesn't tell his story, as the other church members do, he IS and must BE his story.

PAC:  How did you develop the idea for FAITH and WORK? Where do you draw your inspiration for your paintings and what motivates you to do them? What would you like people to know about the art show and the paintings?
acrylic and metallics on canvas
16" X 20"

TS: The idea for the exhibit came about during an afternoon/evening on my deck with Beth reading short stories and poetry by Southern writers. She had a vision that we would do this show together. During this time, she offered me the design position and the role. Having grown up in Appalachia, as an artist I am interested in my people. My father was a coal miner. I had been reading some material about faith in the Kentucky coal fields, and it came to me that those men who went underground were saints. They sacrificed their lives so their families could have all the necessities of life. So, why not coal miners as religious icons? I went to Michigan over break and produced most of the exhibit. Beth has helped curate, in that she wanted some female imagery in the exhibit. I have included pieces about my grandmother who worked the land much like Beth's ancestors did.

PAC: What medium are you using in your paintings and can you tell us something about your choice of medium - is it influenced by the subject or other factors?

TS: The paintings are mostly acrylic on canvas. There are a couple with paper and acrylic on canvas, and two mixed media pieces (paper, wire, jute, canvas, beeswax, acrylic on plywood). The two mixed media pieces are visual statements about my grandmother - the media were chosen specifically for those two pieces. There are four or five pieces that also have metallic leaf on them - the metallics are used to evoke a "play" on Byzantine religious iconography: coal miners as saints.
Holy Ghosts runs April 13 through April 29, with previews on April 11 and 12. Tickets can be purchased online at or by calling (503) 274-1717. Tim's paintings will be on display for the run of the show and all are welcome to attend the artists reception on April 18.

On the final Saturday performance, April 28, PAC is asking patrons and friends to join them with a night of Southern hospitality. Live music and a gallery showing of Tim’s work will precede the production. And a reception complete with some Southern food favorites will follow. Please contact the box office at (503)274-1717 to upgrade your ticket.