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|
“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, |
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: www.cvft.org/tickets
Blog written & photos by: Guthrie Horgan & Heather Brands of Chaska Valley Family Theatre