Scene it All: Theatre at the Center set wiz Ann Davis loves being 'behind the scenes'

2013-03-01T00:00:00Z 2014-02-12T12:59:30Z Scene it All: Theatre at the Center set wiz Ann Davis loves being 'behind the scenes'By Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

Ann N. Davis is a theater set designer who lives and works by the motto: "Waste not...Want not..."

While building a likeness, both inside and out, of a classy golf country club to engulf the stage at Theatre at the Center in Munster last month, Davis remembered she had extra "leftover faux rock covering" to incorporate into the landscape look.

"We had used the rock covering for our stage mystery play 'Sleuth' in February 2011 and I'm glad I kept it to use again," she said.

Davis and this latest "country club" set concept are being celebrated by audiences being whisked away for two hours of fun comedy for Theatre at the Center's new comedy hit "Fox on the Fairway," which runs through March 24.

Davis has the title of production manager/technical director for Theatre at the Center, where she has worked on projects since 2001.

"We started out years ago with just some part-time staff and now we are up to 10 people, if you count everyone who works on the technical end to make a show happen," said Davis, who commutes from her home in Michigan City.

"I still remember my first show at Theatre at the Center in 2001, which was 'Me and My Girl,' when we created this amazing blue marble-look set."

She has worked on or designed projects at The Art Institute of Chicago along with all of the major performance venues around Chicagoland, from Victory Gardens and The Apollo Theatre to The Athenaeum, DePaul University Opera, Chamber Opera of Chicago, all three Drury Lane theaters and Chicago Shakespeare Theatre at Navy Pier.

"It's not just designer work, but also plenty of painting and building I do at theaters, and even helping with some films shot in the area," she said.

In 2001, just as she was making her way to settle in Indiana, she was awarded best non-union scenic design of the year in Colorado for the set design for the play "Terra Nova." Once in the Chicago area, she had the special opportunity to be able to teach at UIC and work with children and community groups in Chicago and Indiana.

She's also done decorative and ordinary masonry and paint restoration on historic homes in Chicago and Oak Park and has a B.S. in road and building construction for industrial technology, with a minor in fine art and an M.F.A. in theater design.

Richard Friedman, general manager for Theatre at the Center, is celebrating his third year at the Munster venue this month and said he still marvels at what Davis is able to accomplish with her imagination.

"When we begin the process for a new production, Ann is part of the planning process from the start," Friedman said.

"She has an artistic sensibility and is always willing to roll up her sleeves as a rare combination of someone who can manage and still loves to also do the everyday duties."

Davis, who doesn't mention budgets or dollar amounts spent on building sets, said she treats her position as an opportunity "to do more with less." She reminds venues like Theatre at the Center don't have large warehouses "to keep everything" after a set is torn down after a show run.

"There are things we always keep, like doors and doorknobs and lighting fixtures," she said.

"But most sets are destroyed when taken down. It just wouldn't be worth paying for all that storage to house large facade pieces that you can't be certain when you might use them again."

Davis said she treats her position like "the pieces of a puzzle."

"It's not just about how much money you're given to work with, but also about doing as much as you can without always having a lot of money," she said.

"You can make anything happen with an imagination."

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