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For this week’s issue, I reported an oral history of the Kennedy Center’s longrunning production of Shear Madness. Among the people I talked to was Kim Peter Kovac, who today is the producer and director of the Theater for Young Audiences Program. Back in 1987, Kovak was the production manager of the Theater Lab, a position he held during the years Peter Sellars‘ American National Theater used the space. When Shear Madness moved in, Kovac was tapped to build the pastel-walled set that still stands today.
In the oral history, Kovac there wasn’t “too much complexity” in the set’s use of an active telephone line and sink that runs with hot and cold water, but the set has been just as much an active player in Shear Madness as the 125 actors who have appeared in the show over the years. It’s even drawn blood.
Kovac: The trick back in the day was that on a Friday night the Theater for Young Audiences would do a show at 7 and the house for Shear Madness would come down at 8:30, so we had to totally strike our set, clear the dressing rooms and move the Shear set in, so everything had to be engineered very quickly.
Robert Warren, associate producer, 2001-2009: The sink and the working telephone line are things other theaters would use as props.
Kovac: This is not going to win whatever that big design festival in Prague is. This is not going to win awards for innovative designs. It’s fun, it’s functional.
Marcus Kyd, played Mikey Thomas from 2003 to 2008: Sometimes people dial the wrong number, and whoever picks up the phone says they’re in the middle of a murder investigation.
Tonya Beckman Ross, played Barbara from 2005 to 2006: I fell on my opening night and slid across the stage and cut my leg. I still have the scar. I was so nervous there I didn’t even know I was bleeding until my first stage exit. Blood was running down my shin, it was a little messy. It was a memorable entrance.
Kyd: I had the Boston number once (all productions of Shear Madness require an active phone line), and I was tempted to call the Boston Mikey during intermission, but never did because they could have been in another part of the show.
Kovac: Did you hear the story about the wallpaper and the hotel bathroom? When Bruce and Marilyn and I had all figured it out we went to one of those design centers to get the exact wallpaper, and they had it delivered to wherever they were staying so that we could bring it over here. And this was not inexpensive wallpaper. Someone at the hotel thought it was for them to remodel some bathroom there. When Bruce and Marilyn found out, of course they had to buy a couple of new rolls.