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JCCC Stories


November 2, 2016

Collaboration is fundamental.

Story and photos by Fabienne Schweers

If you binge-watched horror movies for Halloween but still haven't had your fill, then horror on stage awaits you on board the Mary O'.

Mary O' is a play unlike anything you have ever seen, something that has never been done before. This collaborative world premiere was written, produced and designed on the JCCC campus.

The ghost ship and its crew set sail on Nov. 11-13 and Nov. 18-20, 7:30 p.m. (Fridays and Saturdays) and 2 p.m. (Saturdays and Sundays).

From movies to stage

Headshot of Matthew Schmidli, Adjunct professor, professional actor, director, and playwright.
(Photo submitted by Matthew Schmidli)

Growing up with The Goonies, Matthew Schmidli, adjunct professor, professional actor, director and playwright, has always been fascinated by ghost stories and horror films. "The idea of a potentially haunted ship, floating around the vast ocean, is absolutely thrilling to me," he said.

If you believe Mary O' is just another ghost-ship story, you are traveling the wrong route. The journey that Schmidli's Mary O' is about to face reaches far beyond what happened to the crews of The Mary Celeste and The Octavius.

Dark design, bright outlook

Left: Graphic design student Chelsie Hornbaker sitting at one of the working desks in the graphic design classroom. Right: Mary O' Poster and graphic design instructor and students discussing a non profit project for class.

If you wander along JCCC's hallways, you might find yourself eye-to-eye with a spooky, illustrated porthole on a poster designed by Chelsie Hornbaker, graphic design student.

Hornbaker loves seeing plays and thus the assignment to design the poster for Mary O' sounded compelling. Reading the script and seeing the costumes gave her a really good feel for what the playwright and the designers were going for.

"Every designer has a style, and mine is definitely not dark. I work a lot with bright colors because I do magazine ads as a full-time job, so designing this poster was really different from anything I've ever done before," she said.

A show full of unique elements

Left photo-Students building the boat railings for Mary O' in the construction shop. Right photo: Adam Terry (right), tech director and designer for the academic theatre department, and student (left), measuring the balks for the boat railings.

"The exciting thing about constructing the set for Mary O' is that this will be the show any future productions will be compared to," says Adam Terry, tech director and designer for the academic theatre department.

Some of the unique elements of the set are the boat railings that have to be very stable, since the play will contain a lot of stage combat. Involved in the construction work are students, mainly from the theater-related area, who not only learn what life performance is all about, but also to appreciate the technical work.

"I think the coolest thing about doing theater at JCCC is that we have the opportunity to collaborate with other departments," Terry said. "By experiencing the process of a theater performance, the students learn to work with other people and how to manage projects, skills they can transfer into any other field."

Perks of self-made costumes

Left-Female student stitching a corset in the costume shop. Right-Male student cutting out a piece of fabrics for an overall in the costume shop.

For Rachel Nielsen, costume designer for Mary O' and a JCCC alumna, the certain kind of atmosphere the costumes have to convey is very exciting and new, unlike anything she has seen before in Kansas City.

The inspirations for her costumes mainly derive from eerie, old Victorian photographs. "Designing the costumes at JCCC gives us a little bit more liberty because if you're renting things you have to be able to mold your design to fit what you find instead of building to represent the exact product that you want," she said.

Darker, scarier and pretty crazy

Left-Director explaining body language to students during rehearsal. Right-Students rehearsing a scene.

For student Hannah Oldham, Mary O' will be her third play at JCCC. She explained that there are a lot of obstacles that come with the script that have never been tackled before, but at the same time, there's a lot of openness because nobody has ever played those characters before.

"It's darker and scarier. I've never been in a horror story before, so this is pretty cool," she said. "It's funny; in one of our first rehearsals we didn't have lights or sound, and we all were getting freaked out just reading through a scene. It's pretty crazy."