Q & A With Gay H. Hammond, Director/Playwright of The Bra & Panty Club

Gay H. Hammond has been the Resident Dramatist for GTA since 2002, and Artistic Director of WonderQuest, our award-winning theatre for young audiences, since 1993. Working in the theatre for 40 years, Gay continues to be a working actor (See Rock City, Look Homeward Angel, The Importance of Being Earnest, Romeo and Juliet) and director (Monstrous Regiment, Philadelphia Story, Sense & Sensibility, The Ugly Duckling, Red) as well as a producing playwright. So far, her 30+ plays are consistently produced by theatres all over the country. Ms. Hammond received her MFA in Playwriting from Spalding University, her MA in Theatre & Speech from the University of Louisville, and her BA in both Theatre and English from Brenau University, where she is currently an Associate Professor of Theatre. Gay has two grown children–both of whom are professional actors–and one terribly funny wire fox terrier, Thistle. See more of her work at newclassicsplays.com.

What influenced or inspired The Bra and Panty Club?

Almost a decade ago, I saw a sign in a local department store which said “Join our Bra and Panty Club now!” and it cracked me up. I began to think of the possibilities of a comedy set in a lingerie department. I originally wrote a sample of such a play when I applied to graduate school in playwriting — I thought they would accept a “contemporary” play more readily than my usual fantasy/classical fare. As I worked on it, I became most interested in the stages of womanhood: maiden/bride, mother and crone. I also, as a college professor, am always interested in how adult lives can drift sideways without intentions. And then . . . sleeping beauty! Those are essentially the ingredients of what became this play.

What are some of the challenges and advantages of directing your own work?

The vast advantage is that I can work through the needs of the script without assuaging the ego of a director. I feel a greater freedom as the director to work on the script in a practical way, finding both the imagery and the performability that is in the script and working to identify and eradicate its weaknesses. The challenges are in not letting my ego as a playwright “protect” the weaknesses of the script from the director (also me). However, after over twenty years of writing and directing my own work, I believe that I manage that balance pretty well now!

What part of the production are you most excited for?

Of the forty scripts I have written, this is the last one to be fully produced, and I am very excited for that reality. I will also feel free to let it go out into the world for other productions, once I feel I have worked it and polished it myself. As always, the greatest excitement of any show is seeing it realized by the actors and the incredible design/production team. It is fantastically satisfying to see what other creative minds bring to a script that was hitherto just mine.

What do you most want audiences to take away from the production?

I hope that some audiences take away a bit of nostalgia for being young and having to make choices. I hope audiences have fun with the unabashed romance of the plot, and I hope that we all remember that making choices is far better than avoiding them.

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Community Conversations: Legally Blonde

Join the conversation!

At GTA, we believe that theatre builds community and provokes conversation. Go deeper into the world of Legally Blonde with this lively and candid conversation. Did the show resonate with you? Did you find the themes surrounding the story relevant? We want to hear from you!

The community conversation will include a talk with Dustin Harder, dog handler from William Berloni Theatrical Animals about what it’s like to work with professional animals. We will also update you on the professional achievements of GTA graduates, including the budding careers of December graduates Lauren Hill (Elle) and Savannah Cathers (Stage Manager).

Join us on Nov 20 from 6-7 pm at Brenau campus’s Walters House, 305 Boulevard NE, Gainesville, GA.

Tickets are $5 and include hors d’oeuvres, wine, and a special Legally Blonde pink cocktail.

Q&A with Pamela Workman, Costume Designer, Legally Blonde

Pamela Workman is in her fourth year with GTA. She received her MFA in Design with emphasis in Costumes from the University of Oklahoma. Her BA in Theatre and History comes from Morehead State University (KY). Some of Pamela’s favorite designs include Beauty and the Beast and Much Ado About Nothing, as well as 9 Parts of Desire, MSU’s 2015 Gala “Moulin Rouge” and Renaissance Faire characters.

What excites you the most about this production?

I am excited to have the chance to stretch a part of my design area that I am not fluent in……fashion! Not a thing I often deal with. It was nice to look into that research. Christian Siriano was my main inspiration for many of the looks. And as we can’t afford his clothes, Aimee (Johnson, Costume Shop Supervisor) and I had to get creative in finding things that have those lines but don’t cost thousands of dollars for one look.

What is the most challenging thing about this production?

Elle. Never. Leaves. The. Stage. And has, like, a quick change nearly every scene. Two quick changes are magic tricks that happen on stage.

Given the recent “Me Too” movement, why do you believe the message of this show is so important?

This show could go the typical stereotype of dumb blonde and have no growth. However, with the production team and actors that we have, I have faith that we will see a character arc in Elle. Elle embraces the “Me Too” within herself. She starts as one version of herself, the version she has been told and promoted through her entire life. She spends so much time embracing the “truth” that others see her as. Then we see that part of her world start to crumble when Warner rejects her. Elle fights hard to maintain that “truth”. In doing so she discovers more depth to herself. She is in fact brilliant, self-sufficient, and driven, on top of the caring sweetness. Elle allows her inner strength to guide her and change her mind & heart. She begins to find her real truth which is somewhere in the middle of fashionable, pretty blonde and successful lawyer. Who says you have to stick to one way of life?

How are you approaching such a cultural icon of a story?

As previously mentioned, I looked at modern high fashion, east coast versus west coast. I am also using colors to separate the worlds. I have seen the movie before, so I know what the audience expects as far as the look of Elle is concerned. The use of pinks will transition through the show in order to develop her personality through the story.

What do you most hope audiences take away from this show?

I hope they leave with a sense of hope. With the idea that there are endless possibilities and endless paths and endless journeys to be taken in this ever-changing life. That sometimes plans don’t go exactly how we expect them to, or dream of them to, or set the steps up to. And all of that is okay if at the end of the day you are happy, fulfilled, and know yourself. To never stop pushing for your truth, goals, and love even if all of that changes focus. Also, women can be cute, bubbly, and positive and NOT be dumb.

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Q&A with Lauren Hill, Elle, Legally Blonde

Lauren Hill is a BFA Acting major & Brenau scholarship recipient, and is thrilled to be in one final GTA show before graduation this December! Regional: Children of Eden (Aphra & Yonah u/s) Aurora Theatre; Aida (Amneris) & Beauty and the Beast (Belle) Atlanta Lyric. GTA: Cabaret (Texas/Dance Captain), The Wizard of Oz (Scarecrow), Beauty and the Beast (Belle). Follow her on Instagram @lauren_ehill

What excites you the most about this production?

This is a pretty hard question to answer, because there truly is not one aspect of the production that I am not excited about! We have such an incredible cast, production team, design team, and guest artists involved in Legally Blonde, I consider myself so thankful to play any sized role in it, let alone Elle!

What is the most challenging thing about this production?

The show itself is huge. There are so many moving parts and people involved, it really is quite the monster of a show! However, for me personally, the amount of times my character, Elle Woods, actually leaves the stage are few and far between. That being said, stamina and lots of prep work are things I am really having to work on in hopes of minimizing this challenge.

Given the recent “Me Too” movement, why do you believe the message of this show is so important?

As someone who is personally attached to the “Me Too” movement, I think that this show’s message is incredibly important. I think it is especially important to note that not only are the women (within the show, and hopefully in the audience as well) empowered, but the men are as well. Elle is not the only character who faces scrutiny and abuse, her counterpart, Emmett, does as well. While his abuse is not the same as Elle’s, he also faces verbal comments that are clearly not okay. At the end of the day, I feel that this show portrays a message of unity, the power that comes from acknowledging our own flaws and insecurities, the freedom that comes along with that, as well as the importance of having others to love and support you.

How are you approaching such an iconic role?

I have to first acknowledge the work and performances of those who have played the role before me. While I am certainly tipping the hat towards Ms. Witherspoon and Ms. Bundy, I am incredibly excited to put my own spin on Elle Woods, that I hope audiences will enjoy!

What has been your favorite moment of the process so far?

It truly is hard to pinpoint just one moment! However, the overall environment of each person, cast and crew, giving their best at all times and just bringing a spirit of love and playfulness into the room has made this process so wonderful.

What do you most hope audiences take away from this show?

I hope that audiences walk away from the show feeling the freedom that comes from embracing your truest self, flaws and all.

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Q&A with Margaret Holtkamp, Margot/Dance Captain/Assistant to Choreographer, Legally Blonde

Margaret Holtkamp is a senior, BFA Musical Theatre scholarship recipient at Brenau University. She is excited to be performing her last fall Mainstage in one of her all-time favorite musicals! Recent credits include Cabaret (GTA), Damn Yankees (Theatre Buford), Crazy for You (GTA), and Beauty and the Beast (GTA). Follow her on Instagram @margaret_holtkamp

What excites you the most about this production?

I am the most excited to give our community the opportunity to see a show that excites and inspires its audience! It touches on many real issues but does so in a way that leaves you feeling full and optimistic about overcoming obstacles.

What is the most challenging thing about this production?

All around, this show requires a lot of its cast. The music and dancing alone is challenging enough! Each ensemble member has at least 3 different characters and every cast member is going to be moving around so much. The show moves at such a fast pace and requires so much stamina from the cast.

Given the recent “Me Too” movement, why do you believe the message of this show is so important?

I think the message of this show is very relevant to our time today. In the show, Elle is faced with a very hard choice, to walk away or rise above what happened to her and prove to herself, and others, what she is capable of. I believe it’s a very positive message for women today and hopefully it will inspire some audience members as well!

As a sorority sister yourself, what is your opinion on the way the show characterizes sororities?

I do see how the humor could be taken as criticism. However, I think this show does a great job in recognizing that stereotype, but then showing the heart of each girl and the bond that unites them to each other. I do think that the characters are heightened versions of sorority girls and that is why it really is so funny.

What do you most hope audiences take away from this show?

I really just hope the audience comes to the show and leaves smiling. This show is meant to make your day brighter and leave you inspired to rise above skepticism!

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Q&A with Hannah Humphrey, Hair & Makeup Designer, Legally Blonde

Hannah Humphrey is a GTA alum and graduate of the University of North Georgia where she received her BFA in Design Technology for Theatre with a focus in Costumes Technology. She specializes in wig making, styling, and dyeing as well as beauty and special effects makeup. Some past GTA credits include: Wig/Makeup Design for The Odyssey and Much Ado About Nothing. She has worked professionally as the Wig/Makeup Assistant Designer at the Southeastern Summer Theatre Institute for their 2017 & 2019 seasons and for the Central City Opera in Colorado as their 2018 Wig/Makeup Intern.

What excites you the most about this production?

I think what excites me the most is the overall message that this production brings to the audience because not only is it a fantastic and energized musical, but it’s also a show about female empowerment.

What is the most challenging thing about this production?

The most challenging aspect of this production for me is finding a balance between using some of the actors’ real hair while putting others in wigs. It’s a challenge because at the end of the day it all needs to look natural and blend together rather than obviously being one or the other.

Given the recent “Me Too” movement, why do you believe the message of this show is so important?

This show is all about female empowerment and defying expectations. Elle is an intelligent and fierce woman that doesn’t quit, speaks out, and despite her professor’s inappropriate behavior and assumptions, she essentially puts him in his place by proving that she is not someone that has only succeeded because of her looks or the family that she comes from. Though she is faced with many obstacles, Elle stays true to herself, which is why the message behind this show is so important.

With hair being such an important part of this show, how are you approaching Elle’s wig?

For Elle’s wig, I want to make sure that while remaining true to the overall aesthetic of the classically bold blonde that the audience expects, that I also make her look as naturally blonde as possible. I don’t want her to be so blonde that the obviousness of the wig takes away from who she is. As far as the styles are concerned, I have decided on three different styles that show her evolution and discovery of herself throughout the show.

What do you most hope audiences take away from this show?

I hope that audiences feel empowered after seeing this production, and that they leave the show with the joy and confidence to discover themselves and stand up for who they are and what they believe.

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Q&A with David Rossetti, Director/Choreographer, Legally Blonde

David Rossetti is honored to work on his seventh show with GTA, most recently as choreographer for last semester’s production of Cabaret. Previous artistic work includes Associate Choreographer to Andy Blankenbuehler (Hamilton, In The Heights, Cats revival) for the Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat national tour and Dance Captain and swing for the Broadway revival of Annie. Choreography and directing credits: Thankskilling: The Musical, Nightfall on Miranga Island (2012 Fringe Festival “Encore Series”) and the viral sensation The Spidey Project which was an official selection for the 2018 New York Musicals Festival (retitled Peter, Who). At GTA: Once on this Island, Hairspray, Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Wedding Singer and Singin’ in the Rain. He also served as an Assistant Director for the Hairspray National Tour and at Paper Mill Playhouse. He thanks this tireless cast, crew and creative team for their dedication to this beautiful pink beast of a show! Also, thanks to the Rooks for their hospitality and friendship, Jim for his trust in him yet again, and his now-hubby Dustin for letting him leave NYC to come down South. Check out more at davidrossetti.com.

What excites you the most about this production?

There are so many things to be excited about for this show. We’ve got a jump rope number, Broadway trained dogs, incredible costumes, and even Irish Step Dancing. It really has everything, but I think the thing I am most excited about is this show’s message of finding one’s worth not in material things, or looks, or the perfect guy, but within yourself.

What is the most challenging thing about this production?

See the list of things above. Haha! I think one of the most challenging things about this production is that there are so many locations, costume changes, props, and choreography. It really is a tour-de-force for all departments and from our cast and I am so lucky to have an incredibly strong and dedicated team on all sides of the table.

Can audiences expect the musical to resemble the film?

I think this is probably one of the best movie-to-musical adaptations because you get so many of the iconic lines and scenes, but they then created so many more lines, scenes, and new songs that you get the best of both worlds. Trust me, you have no choice but to be entertained throughout, and along the way to get all the things you love from the film…and then some!

Given the recent “Me Too” movement, why do you believe the message of this show is so important?

I think it’s so interesting to think that this show was written before the “me too” movement. It speaks so well to how females can be treated by men, especially those in an authority role. One of the most heartbreaking lyrics is sung by our lead character Elle when she is confronted with an unwanted advance from a mentor: “Some girls fight hard, some face the trial, some girls were just meant to smile.” It gets me emotional every time because I think, what a terrible thought that your worth might just be in how you look instead of what’s inside your heart and mind. Elle stands up to the bully and wins and not just against evil, but she finds her authentic self in the process and that is as “me too” as you can get!

How are you approaching such a cultural icon of a story?

I mean, I’m a huge fan of this movie and musical so I was very familiar with the material before I started working on it. I think the music is always my “front door” into a musical and this music is so full of character and subtext that it makes it come easy. Well, easy-ish. There is a lot of music, so it makes my job harder, but way more fun! I think this show really lands with these larger than life characters we know and love and keeping them honest. Keeping them grounded even in their silliness at times.

What number has been your favorite to work on?

I think the big Act 2 jump rope number. I guess you could say it’s equal parts my favorite and most-hated number in the show. It’s exhausting to even start piecing it together and we’ve started rehearsals and the cast gets tired so quickly. Though, as we continue to do it their stamina will build up and I’m already seeing the moves and tricks get easier each time, but we sweat a lot!

What do you most hope audiences take away from this show?

I hope people come ready to laugh, think, and cry. Elle goes through such a big journey in this show that I hope the audience finds the joy in watching someone who is not willing to give up their integrity, heart, and self-worth for success or even a new pair of shoes! I think the world would be a much better place with more Elle Woods’ around. Keeping true to oneself is always in style!

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From Page to Stage: The Ugly Duckling Costume Design

William Mellette, Costume Designer

William Mellette,
Costume Designer

Costume Designer William Mellette grew up in Hall County and went to Riverbend Elementary. He graduated from North Hall High School and studied with Gainesville Theatre Alliance and WonderQuest during his college years. Mr. Mellette graduated from Brenau University 13 years ago. He now lives in New York City, where he designs costumes for different theatre and film projects. Mr. Mellette is happy for the opportunity to come back to Gainesville and design costumes for The Ugly Duckling. While he’s in town, he also gets to spend time with his parents and brothers.

Costume Drawings for Mandarin Duck and Peeper

Costume sketches for Mandarin and Peeper.

Mr. Mellette began his design process by reading the script and talking with director Gay Hammond about key things she would like to see in the costume design. Ms. Hammond told him she would like the play set in England around the time the original story was written, but she left the details to his imagination.

From there, William began researching the different animals in the play and thinking about how he could make people look like the animals their characters represent. He made a collection of research pictures and began making plans for what clothes each character should wear. He also thought about hairstyles and other costume items that could tell the audience something unique about each character. Once Mr. Mellette and Ms. Hammond agreed on the concept for the design, Mr. Mellette began to sketch the characters so the WonderQuest elves could sew the costumes. Just kidding! The sketches are used by our team of stitchers to make the costumes.

Costume Drawing and Inspiration for Great Blue Heron costume.

Costume sketch and inspiration images for Heron.

William traveled to Atlanta to select fabrics, making sure that he found the perfect colors and patterns to help give the characters their personalities. The costumes also have to look good against the set. You can’t have the costumes the same color as the set or everything would blend together!

To create the costumes, William starts by measuring every actor in the play so their costume would fit. In addition to making sure the costumes express the character, William also helps actors create a make-up design for their character to bring the whole look together.

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From Page to Stage: The Ugly Duckling Scenic Design

The Ugly Duckling Original Artwork by Celeste Morris

Original painting for The Ugly Duckling poster by Celeste Morris.

Celeste Morris is a professor of theatre at the University of North Georgia and the scenic designer for The Ugly Duckling. She has been drawing since she was a little girl and discovered theatre when she was in high school. She started her journey as an actor, but when she learned that she could have a professional career as an artist and a set designer, she knew that was the job for her. Celeste has taught art and theatre to students from kindergarten through college and has loved it every step of the way.

The Ugly Duckling Sketch Model

Sketch model of The Ugly Duckling set.

This year, she painted a picture of Duckling and his froggy friend for the show’s poster. When Ms. Hammond saw the poster art, she asked Ms. Morris to create a watercolor look for the set to match. Since this is a new play, Ms. Morris, Ms. Hammond and Alison Hooks (the show’s technical director) spent a lot of time talking about the story and the world of the play. During their discussions, the team decided to make the set pieces giant so that the actors, who would be playing animals, would look small.

The Ugly Duckling Set Build

Scenic designer Celeste Morris and GTA student Surena Arnall sculpt one of the set pieces.

One beautiful day last May, the team had their first design meeting at the Gainesville Botanical Gardens. They looked at the plants and creatures around the pond and used what they saw as inspiration for the set pieces. Ms. Hammond wanted the set to have movable parts, like a puzzle, to create the different scenes in the play. Ms. Morris sketched some pictures and built a small sketch model of her ideas. The model was made of plain white paper, had pieces that could move around, and even included tiny actors! In another design meeting, Ms. Hammond, Ms. Hooks, and Ms. Morris played with the model and discussed challenges that might come up in directing the play.

The Ugly Duckling Set Build 2

GTA student Surena Arnall cuts painted wood that will act as background scenery.

Armed with her notes, Ms. Morris went back to her studio and began working on drawings of all of the set pieces along with paintings of the different scenes. She then built a larger model (1/2” scale) and painted it to look like the real thing. She then shared her model and drawings with Ms. Hooks, and they were ready to build the set.

All summer long, a crew of students along with Ms. Hooks, Ms. Morris, and GTA Technical Director David Becker built and painted the set. Going by the model and drawings, they created four set pieces that connect and can be moved around the stage to form different scenes. These were covered with muslin and styrofoam and sculpted to look like rocks, then painted. Large curtains were cut and painted to resemble plants and to establish the sense of an oversized pond. All of their hard work produced the fantastic set you will see at the show!

Q & A With William Venson (Duckling-Dear)

Headshot for William Venson

William Venson is a sophomore scholarship student studying a B.A. in Theatre from Brenau University. Some of his previous productions include The Wizard of Oz at the Gainesville Theatre Alliance, The Wedding Singer, Love/Sick, and Legally Blonde: The Musical. Will is so excited to be playing Duckling Dear for his WonderQuest debut.

What excites you the most about this production?

I’m excited about being able to perform this show in front of so many children and attempting to put a smile on their faces as they go on to the rest of their day.

What do you believe will be the most challenging part of this production?

The biggest challenge is the short amount of rehearsal time we have before the show opens. This means a lot of work has to be done outside of rehearsal.

What has been your favorite part of the production process so far?

I enjoy getting to see all of the cast members bringing their choices to life in creating their specific animal and also bringing some of themselves into it as well.

What is your favorite moment in the play?

Duckling-Dear’s first interaction with the Great Blue Heron is my favorite.

Why is it important that young audiences be exposed to theatre?

Young audiences should see this show because the overall message is beautiful and each child who sees the play can get a sense of confidence in who they truly are or who they want to be.

What do you most hope audiences take away from this show?

I hope the audiences will take away that this show is centered around being confident in yourself, and that if you are not necessarily good at one specific thing, then there is something out there for you that you are good at. Everyone needs to find their place in this world, and staying truthful to your own individuality can help you achieve whatever your goals may be.

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