Ruth Brandvik creates worlds.
For the past two academic years, Brandvik has designed sets for several Valdosta State University Theatre & Dance shows. These include “Love, Loss and What I Wore,” “The Would-Be Gentleman,” “As You Like It,” “Pippin” and “Evita.”
For the second time, she is the season set designer for Peach State Summer Theatre. Later this week, when PSST! opens “Mary Poppins,” it will be Brandvik’s designs that house the flying nanny and her wards. Later this month, upon the openings of “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” and “42nd Street,” it will be Brandvik’s vision that serves as the living space for these shows’ characters.
She has been working on the designs for these summer musicals since late last year. Each show requires an individual effort and style; for some shows, she works closely with a director’s vision, while in other cases, the director may rely on her vision for the design, or often, it is a collaborative process.
In creating three shows at once, she always has the thought that some pieces may need to be integrated, while all of the sets must fit within the confines of Sawyer Theatre once all three shows are open and running in rotating repertory.
“It’s important to me that we develop three separate and distinctive designs,” Brandvik says, meaning she doesn’t want audiences to see broad hints of the English “Mary Poppins” in the New York sets of “42nd Street,” or the more pop-culture world of “Smokey Joe’s Cafe.” She may utilize certain elements throughout the shows, but they will be used in a way that meets the vision of each respective production.
Brandvik began her career with her college studies, earning a bachelor of fine arts in design/technical theatre from Eastern New Mexico University then her master’s degree in scenic design from Florida State University. Additional credits include design work for Florida State University, Gold Lame Productions, and The Globe of the Great Southwest, with shows such as “On the Town,” “She Stoops to Conquer,” “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “Crave,” “A Midsummer’s Night Dream,” and “Othello.”
In preparing her set designs, she considers the stage space but does not allow the physical dimensions to hamper her initial vision for a show.
“I tell this to my students, to think of the dream,” Brandvik says. “Start with the dream of what is ideal then deal with what is actually possible.”
By starting with the dream, Brandvik says, the design begins with all things being possible. Then in development, compromises are made to adjust for constraints of budget, space and time.
“If you go in with the dream, if you’re working with good people, they will try to make the dream possible,” Brandvik says.
By proposing the dream for “Mary Poppins” and being enthusiastic for the set possibilities, Brandvik says the Peach State creative team has accomplished more of her vision than even she believed possible.
As for creating numerous set designs for three shows then seeing them to fruition almost simultaneously, Brandvik says it is exciting and engaging work. She quotes the line: if a person does what she loves, she never has to work a day in her life.
“To have a dream on a piece of paper,” she says, “and then see it come to life on stage ... it’s magical.”
Peach State Summer Theatre’s “Mary Poppins” opens Friday night. Reservations, more information: Visit the website www.valdosta.edu/psst or call the PSST! box office, (229) 259-7770.