Constructing The Sea: A Behind the Scenes Look into Building the Set for LB’s Annual Children’s Show

A shark with seven gills is under construction in the workshop and after several customizations, Tina Marie Ivy is able to add an outer layer to the frame.

Performing Arts takes a lot of work, and the process might be messy, but it is far from disorganized. Ideas for plays generate within the writer’s rooms and in the case of Linn-Benton’s 44th annual children’s show, “Josephina Jordan, Junior Underwater Explorer and the Mystery of the Plastic Fish”, Director Dan Stone wrote the piece in collaboration with the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Currently, the childrens play is well underway into the process of hard work that facilitates creating, maneuvering, and pulling both the environment and performance together.

The annual children’s show will begin private viewings the next two weeks with children from schools throughout the Willamette Valley visiting Russell Trip Theatre. The final two weeks are filled with working out the kinks of a process that can seem chaotic for both backstage workers and performers finalizing the details.

“Josephina Jordan, Junior Underwater Explorer and the Mystery of the Plastic Fish” takes place underwater, which means envisioning and then creating a scene that captivates the audience and puts them into the environment. The set includes a giant submarine shaped like a fish that is maneuvered around the stage, puppets and puppeteers. In the spirit of the ecological message behind the play, the materials that are used for the puppets are assembled from repurposed materials.

Tina Marie Ivy, an instructor and working director, has worked on puppets for about 15 years.
She assembled the puppets for “Josephina Jordan, Junior Underwater Explorer and the Mystery of the Plastic Fish” using old childrens clothes, steamed bamboo from a friend’s yard, and material from old curtains out of the Russell Tripp Theatre that would have otherwise been thrown away. Each of the puppets are customized to fit the puppeteer before she can add any skin, fur, or final layers that bring each puppet to life.

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The set mirrors the theme of the play, which discusses pollution in the ocean and also is an adaptation to economical boundaries that many theatres and artists face when it comes to constructing materials with a smaller budget. And the students and faculty who fill the Russell Tripp with their presence aren’t left out of this dilemma.

In 2018, the production “I Got Guns” was chosen to perform at the Kennedy Center/American College Theater Festival held at the University of Oregon in February of this year. Students will get a chance to engage with theater companies, universities, and peers from all over the nation. Despite the funding they have received from the school, they still need to raise about $4,000 to participate in the performance.

However, as “Josephina Jordan, Junior Underwater Explorer” approaches its opening, the students and faculty prove their ability to artistically and physically adapt to the production.

Richard Elvin is in the process of creating a giant submarine that moves around on stage. He received one rendered drawing from Dan Stone and used the drawing to create a steel framework in CAD. He puts together the rest with wood, foam, customized hatch doors, ladders; eventually there will be a hanging lantern, and computer. When it’s done, the submarine will be fully hatched — housing much of the storyline.

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As the opening day draws near, the Russell Tripp Theater will be filled with performers learning lines, how to maneuver a submarine and puppets — bringing a dream to reality. There will be performances open to the public Feb. 9 and 16 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $8 general admission, $6 for children under 18. Buy online or in advance at
For more information, contact the box office at 541-917-4531.

Story and Photos by Angela Scott

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