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Designer and king

Alex Morgan
04/07/2011
Monmouth College theatre professor Doug Rankin has long been known for his ability to create marvelous sets for Crimson Masque productions. Nick Munson has been paying close attention, and now the senior from Moline is developing a design reputation of his own.

Since his freshman year in 2007, Munson has assisted and designed full set schemes for several shows, helping audiences become immersed in the productions.

“I enjoy the creativity and the communion that happens in theatre,” said Munson. “Each show gives me the chance to learn more about my peers as well as myself. It is the actors who are playing within and on the set that make it truly come to life.”

Munson will actually wear more than one hat when the curtain opens April 9 on Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” at the historic Orpheum Theatre in Galesburg. Not only is he in charge of designing the set for the show, but he also is involved with the actual building and painting processes while taking on a large acting role – Alanso, the King of Naples.

“In the play’s era, a man’s stance showed his worth, and myself being a big guy I naturally have a large gait,” Munson said of playing the king. As for the show itself, he added, “It has been a long process, but I believe that all of the hard work has paid off and it will become a wonderful show.”

After talking with the play’s director, assistant professor of theatre Janeve West, Munson was able to take her artistic ideas and incorporate them into an elaborate set design. He used his imagination, plus technology such as Vectorworks, to come up with the set layouts and schemes.

According to Munson, the set for “The Tempest” is unique in that it is “stagnant,” meaning that it will not change. To compensate for this effect, there will be multiple levels to the design as well as trap doors and other features. In the building process, Munson’s main focus was on Caliban’s rock, which was constructed through a process of blowing foam.

“I probably designed roughly 12 or so different sets before we came to a consensus,” said Munson. “So I enjoyed the opportunity to look at the show in 12 different ways. I enjoyed the process and the evolution of the set to what it is today.”

Crediting both Rankin and scenery shop supervisor Dean St. Ledger with help in the design process, Munson said, “It takes an army to build a set and to finish it in time.”

Munson’s roots in theatre go back to his childhood, when he had the opportunity to watch one of his neighbors perform.

“I would have to say it probably stems back to wanting to be like my next door neighbor when I was a kid. He is about six years older than I am and was in theatre. My family would always go and see his shows and I got enthralled back then. It has been the same ever since.”

And it will be the same in the future, if Munson’s plans come to fruition. After college, he hopes to do post-baccalaureate work at Monmouth and continue working with the theatre department. Following that, Munson plans to attend graduate school in arts administration or arts leadership and fellowship. As for his career choice in theatre, he hopes find work as a house manager.