The Stage behind the scenes

“Shop of Horrors”

A Broadway performance can deliver a real punch with the performers set under the right background and lighting.  There are many aspects in bringing a great show together and teaching students how to create a mood from backdrops is one of the first processes in understanding the art of acting in theatre.

     John Sadler, a teacher of theatric scenes, is no stranger to performing arts.  As a child growing up in Las Vegas, John would accompany his parents to almost every production that came to town.  Intrigued with the colors and sets, he would sit for hours and draw birds and still life.  The family relocated to Fort Wayne, Indiana where John completed his studies at Concordia High School.

     John was 16 years old and active in swimming meets when the opportunity for state competition was offered to him.  He turned down the offer to instead study theater at Enchanted Hills Playhouse located in Syracuse, Indiana.  In 2000, Sadler graduated from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana with a B.S. in Design Technology, specializing in scenic paint and prop construction. 

“Philadelphia Story”

     John, who is now part of the Ball State faculty, educates students on how to construct paint sets and scenery for live theatre.  Not everyone can build a stage scene that delivers a realistic feel or sized to fit the perimeters of the stage.  Theatre designers are in large demand due to the artistic skill and reasoning, construction and measurements plus the portability for quick set up and tear down. 

     “We have had swimming pools on stage, people flying through the air, 18 foot pennies that tilt, houses that fly apart then come together, and recently a man eating plant for the production of “Little Shop of Horrors”, says Sadler.  “The biggest challenge was that the plant has to grow throughout the show. We built 4 plants total, ranging from an 18″x18″ seedling to the 7’x7’x7′ monster at the end of the show.” Continuing he says, “All aspects of theatre revolve around some form of artistic expression.  I work in the “behind the scenes” area where we are responsible for the creation of the world that the performers work in.  Our job is to help tell the story through scenery, sound and lights.”

     Today, Sadler has been teaching and directing students on how to create those fascinating scenes that make theatre more realistic for over ten years.  He is right where he wants to be in the scheme of bringing together a theatre production.  Being a significant part of bringing everything together along with lighting designers, set designers, costume designers, hair & make-up, prop masters, directors, actors and stage managers, makes it all worthwhile.

     John lives with his daughter and wife, Andrea, who is also involved in creative aspects of theatre at Ball State.

Editor’s note: For the ‘digital print version’ – see

Published by on December 2011. Filed under Archives, Art-to-Art Palette Journal, Centerstage Section. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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