Monday, March 2, 2015

"Shrek" Behind the Scenes: Making Magic

Local Team Creates Magic While Bringing "Shrek-The Musical" to the Stage
A behind the scenes look at pulling together "Shrek-The Musical" - set to open Thursday March 5, 2015 on the Chanhassen High School stage. Presented by Chaska Valley Family Theatre, comprised of more than 200 exceptionally talented cast, crew and production team members. This is one not to be missed...
Randy Herget, Set Design/Construction Extraordinaire showing Co-Director, Josie Ross
his renderings for the on-stage revolving castle.
“I wasn’t getting anything else done,” Herget said. “There was never enough time during art class to finish my projects, and it’s all I ever wanted to do.”
His passion for art continues today and has been described as ingenious by many. Herget, a Carver County resident and business owner of the creative agency, Creative Design Services, also volunteers at Chaska Valley Family Theatre.
As one of Chaska Valley Family Theatre’s original members, he has used his creativity and talent to invent remarkable set pieces for more than 50 shows in the organization’s 19-year history. “Shrek: The Musical” is his latest endeavor and promises to deliver a delightful theater experience for all ages.“Theater has always been an excellent outlet for what I do,” Herget says. “Even in high school, there wasn’t much opportunity for art classes, but theater offered the chance to paint, build, and design.” 
As a Medford (Minn.) High School graduate, Herget benefited from a small school population.“While you had to audition for parts in a show, all you needed to do to work backstage was show up,” Herget says. “Back then, things weren’t so divided. Everyone was involved in everything.”Fast-forward to his creative agency located at Edward Sales in Chaska and you’ll find Herget building a trade show booth for a corporate client, transforming an event space, or crafting mechanics for large-scale commercial props. His clients are located across the U.S. Herget is well known in the event industry and is on the popular entertainment database, IMDB. One of his previous jobs always attracts extra attention.
“I used to work for the show ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000,’” Herget says. A cult television hit produced locally, MST3K featured a man and his robots stuck in space, forced to watch B-movies.
“I worked along with the in-house art team on set design and construction,” Herget says, “... I even helped develop the logo.”
One of the outstanding aspects of MST3K was its ability to convert mundane, everyday items into extraordinary props and set pieces, a skill Herget exemplifies in his partnership with CVFT.
“Randy is the epitome of ingenuity,” says Katie Spille, “Shrek” stage manager. “The things that man is able to create out of foam are pure magic. He can take pop bottles and make them look like sophisticated wall sconces. It’s sheer brilliance. And ‘Shrek’ will be no exception.” The current challenges Herget faces with “Shrek” are — literally — huge.
“We’re constructing a three-sided castle tower that is 11-feet wide and more than 18-feet tall. It’ll be the centerpiece of the set, and used for a princess tower, a cathedral, and a dragon’s lair.” Smiling, Herget adds, “and it rotates.
The initial drawings
The 3D rotating castle model
nother creation Herget is working on is the wings of the dragon. With an estimated 24-foot wingspan, it will take four puppeteers to unfurl and wave around.
“Patterned after a bat wing, it’s made from PVC piping and foam for the frame,” Herget explains, “and some fabric for the membrane. It has be lightweight so it can move, but stay rigid.
“I’d say, from start to finish, from concept drawings to final product, the wings alone will take over 50 hours to complete,” Herget explains and laughs. “But we’ve been planning ‘Shrek’ for two years, so it doesn’t seem that bad.”
Herget claims that this type of commitment isn’t unusual, and saves time in the long run. Much of his work occurs on the front end of the process: Sketching designs, creating blueprints for the set, and making scale models. Sometimes, though, he’s not sure where to start. “That’s when I just jump right in and figure it out as I go. It usually works out.”
Once he has a good grasp on the design, he and his crew begin construction, which can bring its own difficulties.
“We can’t use the stage as our scene shop,” Herget says. “Everything has to be made off-site. So, everything has to be transported. We’re building the castle tower in sections at our warehouse, and then we’ll assemble it all together once we get on stage.”
After collaborating with CVFT for 19 years, Herget has developed a certain knack for logistics and knowing what will work, and what’s worth giving a try.
Father/daughter Director Team seeing Herget's
handcrafted "Shrek" props for the first time.
“A lot of people will ask me how I knew to do something a certain way,” says Herget. “I’ll tell them it’s a lot of experimentation and exposing yourself to the physics of things, whether it’s figuring out which paint looks best in which light, or knowing the benefits of a hinge-based or screw-based set. Just a lot of trial and error, and the opportunity to do it better the next time.”
Herget’s creative process is constantly evolving and changing. During the initial stages of development, Herget will meet with the production staff to discuss the director’s vision, then consider what he thinks is possible, sometimes for a year or more.
Bill Coldwell,
CVFT President
Bill Coldwell, CVFT board member, has worked with Herget multiple times throughout the years. “I think sometimes, creative people think alone, as a solo endeavor,” Coldwell says. “When we begin to execute our plan, we both arrive with our individual visions. But, when we discuss our ideas, we both jive and build off of each other extremely well. We complement each other nicely. Randy is better than anybody, open to solutions and able to offer inspiring solutions of his own. That’s the kind of mind he has.”
“As a director, working with Randy is absolutely magical,” says Randy Ross, who is co-directing “Shrek” with his daughter, Josie. “(He) takes an idea that you have and adds creative spins that you never even imagined.
“His creative genius doesn’t stop at the computer screen, which is a part of why he’s such a valuable asset to CVFT,” Ross says. “He pulls his creations all the way on stage and works to the very end to bring it to life. He’s never satisfied.”
Just a typical weekly CVFT production meeting. 
Just like in the first grade, Herget is never quite done with his projects. He can be found onstage, six minutes before the opening night show, adding final touches here and there. This has lead his crew to coin a new term that defines this behavior: “Shischlocking.”
“Shischlocking,” says Jane Herget, “Shrek” costume designer and Randy’s wife, “is what you do, after things are done, to make them better. “I once had surgery, and woke up in the hospital room to scraping sounds. He was moving furniture around, even moving me, still in the bed. He was making the room flow, adding his personal touch. He was ‘shischlocking.’”
Husband and wife team, Randy & Jane Herget,
who met at a CVFT cast party
“I’ll sometimes have to come in early to rehearsals,” says Katie Spille, “just to see what new thing Randy has added, so I can understand how it’ll fit with the rest of our set and how our actors will interact with it.”
Randy's desk...never ho-hum. That's for sure!
Herget’s affable nature, combined with his creative expertise, makes him an institution among the theater company. Ross explains one of Herget’s best features. “He epitomizes CVFT by the way he teaches my children. He teaches all the time. It’s informal and honest, and he loves to work with kids. When we did ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ he asked Josie to be inside this ‘machine’ that took wood planks and chopped them into logs. Some of the kids spun rods to make it look like gears were turning, some pumped pistons, and he asked Josie to throw the finished logs out of the machine. She was so proud of her role, regardless of how simple of a task it was. He makes everyone feel important by explaining it to them casually, honestly, and earnestly.”
Ultimately, Herget is the heart of Chaska Valley Family Theatre. The innumerable hours and effort he devotes to bringing a show to life is what makes each production so enjoyable, for the actors, stagehands, and audience members.
“I’m not sure how I ended up doing this,” says Herget, “but I know no one around here will take away my markers and tell me to work on my math.”

Tickets available:
SHREK THE MUSICAL is part romance, part twisted fairy tale, and all irreverent fun for everyone!  Directed by Randy & Josie Ross; musical direction by Diana Fornshell; choreography by Jocelyn Braudt; orchestra conducted by Anna Olson.
Performance Dates & Times7:30 PM evening shows March 5, 6, 7, 12, 13 & 14
2:00 PM matinees Mar 7 & 8 and 14 & 15
A  special ASL interpreted performance will be Saturday evening March 7th at 7:30PM.
The performance will be signed by Andrea Opatrny-NIC-Advanced and Tarah Davis-NIC.

Please phone box office for specific seating for this service (952-250-7206).
PricesYouth 17 & Under $12; Adults $17 (all fees included)
Advance tickets recommended.

TO PURCHASE TICKETS, CLICK HERE or phone 952 250-7206

Blog written & photos by: Guthrie Horgan & Heather Brands of Chaska Valley Family Theatre

Thursday, November 13, 2014

You've all heard the expression "it takes a village" as it relates to raising children, and I would say the same - or rather - "it takes an army" to stage a broadway-style community theater production like "A Christmas Carol - the Musical."  While the actors have been hard at work on stage with our choreographer Jen Sopoci-Hardin working on dances, and with Joan Nelson our musical director and Alice Title our accompanist fine tuning their songs, dozens of other "elves" have been working hard behind the scenes in anticipation of the start of "load in" and tech week.

Just to give you a few examples......over the past several weekends, a group of dedicated folks like Tom Stauber, Jack Atkins, Andy Turner, and Randy Herget have been busy constructing numerous pieces that will be assembled next week on stage.....some painters, like Amy Huang, Charlie Title, and Margaret Coldwell have been sloshing on the first coat of paint....Props have been gathered or made by Elizabeth Studenski, and well over 100 costumes have been assembled by Jane Herget, Mary Twite and others which will be distributed next week.

Andrew Hasty has been busy rehearsing 20+ musicians that will make up the pit orchestra, and Katie Spille, Stage Manager, has been planning and scheduling backstage crews to be ready when we hit the stage at Chaska High School next week.  Speaking of which, all that prior rehearsal scheduleing and move in planning has been scheduled and coordinated by Karen Stauber.  And Jon Christenson has a great lighting plot all set to go when we program light cues starting next week.

Who's going to come and see this show?  Well, no one would if it weren't for the efforts of people like Dianne Standberg, Heather Brands, and Tom Stauber who have been busy gather sponsors, coordinating news articles for local papers, and getting postcards, posters, and other advertising out there.  Selling those tickets takes time and patience, and our box office manager Joyce Hercules and Treasurer Courtney Pernat have been busy making sure all ticketing systems are set up and working properly and answering phone calls from ticket-buyers.  Margaret Coldwell, our Hospitality Manager is geting ushers and others lined up to greet our patrons when they arrive.  And after a great opening night, our cast will have several fun post-show parties and events, thanks to our cast mnager, Jenny Boothroyd.

There are many others who are business and community partners that help to make our producition possible.  All in all, over 200 people will have helped in some way or another to make sure we bring you the highest quality, amateur, community-based production possible.  And that, folks, is no small feat.  It really does...take a village.

Break a leg,

Monday, September 8, 2014

from the director of A Christmas Carol - the Musical - auditions coming soon!

In 2008, I asked some CVFT board members if they would consider a large full-length musical for the annual CVFT holiday production.  We discussed some concerns with busy schedules around the holidays, but I assured them that I had found just the right show:  A Christmas Carol - the Musical.  This version ( by Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens) had only been available for amateur licensing for a few years, and was not particularly well known outside New York until Hallmark Entertainment released a television version in 2004 starring Kelsey Grammer as Scrooge.  But I knew then that it was the right show for CVFT.

And it was so popular in 2008 that we've decided to bring it back again in 2014!  A Christmas Carol - the Musical has everything CVFT looks for in a production:  A large cast with numerous opportunities for all ages and genders, many off-stage activities for people, and a story that has universal appeal for all ages. And with a run time of less than 90 minutes an no intermission, this show really moves along!  We're fortunate once again to be performing at the Chaska High School Auditorium, giving us a large stage for a big cast, and seating for over 600 patrons for our nine public performances.

But what really sold me on this particular version of the classic tale of Scrooge was the music:  Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast, Little Shop of Horrors) has written a beautiful and memorable score, and lyricist Lynn Ahrens (Seussical, Ragtime) has skillfully retained key pieces of Dickens' text in her lyrics.  What's even more exciting and challenging is that the majority of the production is sung!  The spoken dialogue has been minimized, letting the music almost entirely tell the story.

This production will require many strong singers and dancers, and has loads of opportunities for everyone.  Once again, we have a great production team for this show, including musical direction by Joan Nelson, choreography by Jennifer Sopoci-Hardin, and the orchestra will be conducted by Andrew Hasty.  Many new and some old CVFT regulars will round out the production staff.

Auditions are September 15th and 16th beginning at 5:30 for kids 8 - 13 each night, followed by ages 14 and up starting at 6:30.  For complete audition information, visit  Rehearsals start September 29th, and tickets go on sale October 1st at

Hope to see you there, and ...God bless us, everyone!

Bill Coldwell, Artistic Director

Friday, August 1, 2014

Laugh Your Summer Off!

Join us for a hilarious farce & genuinely affectionate (not-so-far-from-the-truth) look into the world of theater.

Opening Friday, August 7th...and directed by the multi-talented, Jim Lund.
The “Laughing Stock” buzz is that the show is nonstop laughter. Featuring many of our local favorite actors, some even "playing themselves".  hmmmm...looking forward to THAT!

For those of you not familiar with the show, “Laughing Stock,” is a hilarious farce and a genuinely affectionate look into the world of theater. For many of us, we will relate as “The Playhouse,” a rustic New England summer theatre, attempts to produce a repertory season of Dracula, Hamlet, and Charley’s Aunt, comic mayhem ensues! Three shows in one year!? Can you imagine that undertaking!?

Join us as “Laughing Stock” gives the audience a rare backstage look (or reminder how WE look)  at the world of theater. It’s a place where there’s never enough time, staff, money and sometimes simply not enough talent or skill. A place where doors fall off their hinges, where sound cues run backwards, and where sometimes entrances are missed. But through it all, it’s a place where a cast becomes a family. 

“Laughing Stock” is filled with a genuine affection and respect for all those who make  theater their passion. 

Bring your theatre friends and those who fill their lives with with too much to do! “Laughing Stock” will take place at 7:30 PM at the Chaska Community Center Theater, 1661 Park Ridge Drive in Chaska, on August 7, 8, & 9 and again on August 13, 15, & 16. Tickets are $12 and are available online at or by calling 952 250-7206.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

"The WIZARD of OZ" - Comes to Art on the Lake

Hands-On Art Experience at Excelsior Art on the Lake 

The Kids Art Tent – at Art on the Lake, in Excelsior, MN - welcomes kids of all ages (1 year to 101) to a hands-on artistic experience through the land of Oz. Community theatre troupe, Chaska Valley Family Theatre (CVFT), has set the “stage” for a fantastic family experience Saturday, June 14th –Sunday 15th. Event is Free and open to the public.
  • Festival includes 140 artists in thirteen different medium in a gorgeous setting along Lake Minnetonka
  • Local music experiences including folk, bluegrass and acoustic rock
  • Local artisan food creations
  • Kids Art Tent & Hands-On Behind the Scenes Theatre Experience!

The Kids Art Tent will feature a variety of art projects including Tornado Spin Art, Rainbow Necklaces, Painted Haunted Forest Creatures, Wicked Witch Candles, No Place Like Home Birdhouses & The Ultimate Wizard Balloon.
Each craft has a nominal charge between $3-$5.

Art projects, as well as behind-the-scenes activities will take place in and near the Band shell next to beautiful Lake Minnetonka in the Excelsior Commons.
The Excelsior Band Shell will feature an up-close look at the making of a large-scale musical production. Event goers can witness a real orchestra rehearsal and cast “sing-through” as the 32-piece CVFT Live Orchestra kicks off the festivities.

Additionally, CVFT Costumers, Set & Prop Designers will be in the band shell working on items for the upcoming production of “The Wizard of Oz”. Attendees are encouraged to participate in painting set pieces, assembling final touches and creating additional show display pieces including the Oz Rainbow and Yellow Brick Road.There are no fees to participate. 
“Toto, I’ve a Feeling We’re Not in Excelsior Any More.” 

ART on the LAKE – Kid Art Tent & Band Shell

What:             Hands-on and behind the scene look at live musical theater production complete with art projects, set making and a live orchestra rehearsal.

When:           Saturday, June 14, 10am-6pm & Sunday, June 15, 10am-4pm

Where:          Excelsior Commons –Lake Street & Water St., Excelsior MN 55331

Parking:        Free shuttle service and parking from Minnetonka High School

Tickets:          Event is free and open to the public –art projects range between $3-$5, set painting and display activities are FREE

Want to Volunteer for this event?:                         www.