Published On: Fri, Jul 19th, 2013

Can you put a fishing lodge in a box? GVT proves it possible

Greenbrier Valley Theatre (GVT) continues its summer theatrical season with the play “The Foreigner” by Larry Shue. The two-act comedy opened on July 12 and will continue to run July 20 and 25-27 at 7:30 p.m., then Aug. 1-3 at 7:30 p.m. There will also be matinee performances July 20 and 27 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $24 for adults, $21 for seniors and $15 for students and children. For tickets or more information, call the GVT Box Office at 304-645-3838.

GVT Technical Director and Resident Scene Designer Josh Robinson poses on the set he designed and built for “The Foreigner.” (Photo courtesy Greenbrier Valley Theatre)

GVT Technical Director and Resident Scene Designer Josh Robinson poses on the set he designed and built for “The Foreigner.” (Photo courtesy Greenbrier Valley Theatre)

“The Foreigner” is set in a rural Georgia fishing lodge where an Englishman named Charlie Baker is taken by an old Army buddy named Froggy LeSueur. The shy Baker wishes to avoid any attention from the strangers in the lodge. LeSueur’s solution is to introduce him as a non-English-speaking “foreigner.” This move, however, ensures a turn for the absurd to Baker’s stay, as he soon finds himself overhearing a series of scandals by the very locals he had hoped to avoid, who believe he can’t understand them.

Unlike recent GVT productions, such as “The Greenbrier Ghost” and “The Greenbrier Martyr,” which relied on general purpose sets and lighting shifts to imply a great many scenic locations, the set for “The Foreigner” is meant to look like the realistic fishing lodge of its setting. Building a full-sized lodge great-room in the confines of a black box theatre such as GVT is no small task, though. The man charged with designing and overseeing the construction of the set is GVT’s in-house scenic designer and technical director, Josh Robinson. He along with his crew of interns and GVT staff, spent two weeks of solid seven-hour days to create the individual sections that will comprise the set.

Robinson’s set-designing experience extends back to high school days in New Jersey, when he was volunteered by his older brother to build the set for his school’s production of “Anything Goes.” “The shop teacher came in and saw it and was impressed by my construction-which wasn’t fancy, but it was a platform strong enough to drive a truck across,” Robinson says. “I overcompensated. I didn’t know what I was doing.’’ This led to the shop teacher starting a stagecraft class the following year. “Even though I had no idea what I was doing, he had me help come up with a kind of curriculum. Then we just built all the sets for the high school shows.” It was work he enjoyed, which eventually led him to Montclair University to pursue a degree in theatrical design.

Building a set capable of holding a truck may have actually prepared Robinson for the weight of the set for “The Foreigner.” It stands complete with two levels, reaching 16 feet at its tallest point, as well as a 14-foot-tall river rock fireplace which Robinson sculpted out of Styrofoam mounted over a wood framework. Even up close, the fireplace appears almost indistinguishable from real stone and mortar. The set is also wide, spanning the distance between the two catwalks that flank the theatre’s performance space, including an exterior portion of the lodge’s front porch, complete with foliage. The entire structure becomes even taller, as it all rests atop a three foot deck so that the script’s requirement of a basement – a key piece of the play’s action – can be set into the floor of the lodge’s great-room.

“It’s big,” Robinson says, noting it’s likely the biggest set GVT will build this season.

See Robinson’s work on display during the full run of “The Foreigner,”

 

A scale model of the set for GVT’s production of “The Foreigner,” designed and built by Josh Robinson (Photo courtesy Greenbrier Valley Theatre)

A scale model of the set for GVT’s production of “The Foreigner,” designed and built by Josh Robinson (Photo courtesy Greenbrier Valley Theatre)