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Columbia Missourian

Student creates elegant scenery for 'Anastasia'

By Kaitlin Warner
February 14, 2009 | 2:25 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — The sleek, ivory-gold marble set design stood out in the lighting as actors took the stage at Macklanburg Playhouse to prepare for their first dress rehearsal of "Anastasia."

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What: "Anastasia," a play by Stephens College

When 2 p.m. Sunday and 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Where: Macklanburg Playhouse, 100 Willis Ave.

Admission: $12 general, $6 students/seniors. Box office phone: 876-7199



Antique portraits re-created to look like heirlooms of a Russian czar's family hung from the walls, and a chandelier glowed overhead.

Michaela Stein, a senior at Stephens College, created the vision of the 1926 mansion in the outskirts of Berlin, which is the setting as the play begins.

"Anastasia," which opened Friday, has more performances, on Saturday, Feb. 21, and Sunday, Feb. 22.

"This is what sets this play apart from the others," director Beth Leonard said. "In an undergraduate program, designers don't usually get to design on the main stage. ... I believe this is the very first student scenic design on the main stage here at Macklanburg."

"Anastasia" tells the story of the grand duchess and daughter of Czar Nicholas II of Russia. Was Anastasia shot and killed with the rest of her family, or did she survive?

"This is a story everyone is interested in," Leonard said. "If we can get people coming out of the theater going, 'Hmm, I wonder, just maybe,' then that's a great play and a great mystery."

Stein and Leonard met in October to discuss their ideas, figuring out the mood and concept they wanted to convey to the audience. Stein drafted all of her designs for the set, finishing by early December.

Stein then built a model representation of everything she wanted the set to include. She was even in charge of deciding paint colors. A feathering technique was used to paint the majority of the set; Stein used feathers in place of paintbrushes to create the marble effect seen on the large pillars and stairs.

"I don't know how many times I scooted my butt along the ground," Stein said. "Marble isn't a basic painting technique. It's  difficult."

Stein had a crew of three other women assisting her with the painting. "I wanted to make sure everything looked right and how I envisioned it when I first started drafting," she said.

Stein is a technical apprentice on a scholarship at Stephens College. "I have been very blessed by my teachers here," she said. "They let me do my own thing with my design but then step in and give me advice when I need it, too."