To transform the stage of the Cary Arts Center into a cozy little inn, it was all about the details: frosted windows, an 8-foot staircase and a Christmas tree adorned with candy canes, lights and ornaments.
The Cary Players theater group charged Brad Sizemore with designing the set of their production, “Dashing Through the Snow,” which began Thursday and runs through Monday.
The result, made with less than $2,500, is one of the most elaborate sets ever used in a Cary Players production. Even the smallest of details were addressed, from books nestled on the shelves to gold-painted snowflakes on the inn’s check-in desk.
“Not satisfied to just come up with something simple, Brad designed an expansive set that fills the stage at the Cary Arts Center,” said Debra Grannan, the show’s producer and an actor in the play. “The color palette was very specific, and he asked for snow in the windows and old-fashioned light bulbs on the Christmas tree.”
“Dashing Through the Snow,” a comedy, tells the story of Trina, the innkeeper of the Snowflake Inn, who is trying to prepare for the holidays while juggling a “mixed bag of challenging guests and employees who leave comedic chaos in their wake.”
“It’s a fun show and it’s a big set,” said Sizemore, a 1978 graduate of Cary High School. “One of the biggest sets we’ve done for Cary, and it’s going to be great.”
Thirty years in the theater
Sizemore, a Raleigh native, has years of experience in theater. He started volunteering at Raleigh Little Theatre as a teenager in the technical aspects of productions, including scenery and lighting. He attended the University of North Carolina School of the Arts for scenic design before traveling across the country – from New York to California – to design and build sets in more than 400 shows, including some on Broadway.
Sizemore has designed sets for two other Cary Players productions: “The Rainmaker” and “Morning’s at Seven.”
After more than 30 years in the business, Sizemore said he enjoys creating an idea of what the set should look like in his mind and seeing it come to life on the stage. While set design is constrained by the play’s description of the set and budget, he said he was able to do more in this production.
“It’s a little more fun to do, because you get to do a lot of the detailing and a lot of interesting stuff like that,” he said.
The one-room set for “Dashing Through the Snow” was the first set Sizemore had designed in about three years after suffering from two strokes that left him in a wheelchair and out of work. Now able to walk with a cane, Sizemore said he hopes to get back to doing what he loves.
“I’m unable to do as much physical work as I did before – building and painting. I’ve had to do more of the drawing work,” Sizemore said. “In this business, it’s hard to find a position where you can be just the designer.”
Putting it all together
But numerous volunteers contributed more than 300 hours of labor to help make Sizemore’s dream for the set a reality. A group of 25 volunteers, led by master carpenters Ian Robson and Bob Grannan, Debra’s husband, spent about eight hours putting together all the pieces that were constructed or repurposed for the show.
Grannan said Sizemore was heavily involved during construction and sat in a chair in the middle of the stage, pointing out what needed to be fixed. Eventually every detail was attended to, including the snowflakes painted on the check-in desk that needed to be repainted three times after first coming out yellow, then copper and finally gold.
“That is one of the things the audience will see it,” said Matt Schedler, the play’s director. “They probably won’t remember it, but I think it makes a great visual impression.”
Schedler said he also loves the 8-foot staircase.
“It really works as a staircase,” he said. “It’s not just like ... where the actors they take one step and they are not on a staircase anymore. I think that just adds so much to the depth of the whole thing.”
When Sizemore took his first look at the completed set, Grannan said he was moved.
“It was a mixture of joy to see it turning out the way he wanted it to, but I know he was sad that he couldn’t get his hands on the creation,” she said.
But Sizemore said he hopes one day he will recover enough to be able to get his hands back into the projects.
“The painting in particular,” he said.
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608: @KTrogdon
Want to go?
When: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4 and 7; 8 p.m., Dec. 5; and 3 p.m. Dec. 5 and 6
Where: Cary Arts Center, 101 Dry Ave., Cary
Tickets: $20 for adults and $18 for students and seniors in advance. All tickets at the door are $20.