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PlayMakers' exhibit gives community a chance to see work that goes into a production

Costumes make up part of a PlayMakers Repertory Company exhibit in Davis Library. 

Costumes make up part of a PlayMakers Repertory Company exhibit in Davis Library. 

Most students will agree that Wilson Library is one of the most beautiful spots on campus to study, but the building’s treasure extends much further than the reading room.

Take a right at the end of the left-wing hall and you will enter the latest exhibit in the North Carolina Collection Gallery, “Setting the Stage at PlayMakers Repertory Company: 40+ Years of Magic.” 

The free public exhibit features props and artifacts from the very first PlayMakers show in 1977 to productions from this season. It will be on display until March 4, 2018. 

PlayMakers Repertory Company is a professional theater company at UNC, meaning that all of the designers, artists and technicians are also faculty members in the Department of Dramatic Art.

Bobbi Owen, resident costume designer, McKay Coble, resident set and costume designer and Jan Chambers, also a resident set and costume designer were the main players in bringing the exhibit to life. 

“The three of us went through stock, which is storage that has been used for past productions, and we pulled some of the things that we thought were the most interesting and showed the talents of our students,” Chambers said.

Walking through the gallery will feel as though you are on an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour. The displayed costumes, photos, props, designs and sketches allow viewers to see and appreciate all that goes into putting on a production.

“There is everything from rat heads with glowing eyes to fantastic ball gowns,” Coble said. “We try to give you a feeling for how it goes from the imagination of the designers and the directors working together to the manifestation of it.”

Chambers said people sometimes forget about the magnitude of work required to execute a show.

“I think part of the whole point is for people to understand how much goes into creating costumes and sets,” she said. “Lots of times people don’t even really think about that. Nearly everybody is always amazed at all the detail, research, artwork and operation that has to happen.”

On Tuesday, Nov. 14, the Friends of the Library held a talk and reception at Wilson Library. Vivienne Benesch, PlayMaker’s producing artistic director, spoke and lifted the curtain to mark the official opening of the exhibit.

“The responses were all positive,” Owen said. “It was terrific. People were really enthusiastic. People who were there who had seen productions from 40 years ago couldn’t believe that some of those dresses still looked as good as they do.”

Coble said viewers of the exhibit will be in awe, no matter their level of interest in theater or number of plays they have seen.

“I think it’s for everyone,” she said. “If you’ve seen the plays from which the artifacts are taken, you might be really interested in seeing them up close. If you haven’t seen any of the plays, I think it will be equally interesting.”

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