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Emmy Award-winning scene designer Curt Enderle creating set for 'Cuckoo's Nest'

Theatre grad

Theatre graduate and Emmy Award winner Curt Enderle has returned to campus to design the set for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which opens Jan. 31.

2007-01-31
By Amanda Dyslin, Free Press Staff Writer [published in The Free Press, Mankato, MN, 1/31/2007]

Photo by Pat Christman
Scene from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
Stuart Fail (center), playing Randle Patrick McMurphy, reacts to his sanity being questioned by Dr. Spivy, played by Jason A. Stone and Nurse Ratched, played by Laura J. Nigon.

MANKATO — As deadline approached for opening night tonight, scene designer Curt Enderle and his team of painters, builders and lighting experts stood around an incomplete set cracking jokes.

But just for five minutes or so. There was way too much work to be done on the set of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in Minnesota State University’s Andreas Theatre to stay stationary too long.

Crystal Schatz had to finish making the janitor’s closet look brown and shabby, but not too brown. In its current state — “really brown,” she said — she wasn’t satisfied.

Jennifer Ohlen — quite proud of herself for having painted a wall to appear tiled when it really wasn’t — had a thousand tiny details left to apply paint to. And Corey Krolikowski, well, he just had to finish building pretty much everything that hadn’t been built yet, down to the tiniest detail, such as window framing.

Enderle was the man behind the madness, which was fitting considering his team was building an asylum. A 1987 MSU theatre graduate, Enderle was asked to come back to his alma mater this year to design a couple of sets — “Cuckoo” and the next production, “Angels in America.”

Enderle’s work on the project is quite a treat for the department, as it was on several other shows he’s worked on since he graduated. Chairman Paul Hustoles called Enderle one of the most brilliant undergraduate set designers the department has ever produced.

He certainly proved that in 2001 when he won an Emmy Award for his art direction in the stop-motion animation sitcom on UPN called “Gary and Mike.” He’s now freelancing, designing theater and still doing stop-motion animation work near his home in Portland, Ore.

But his credentials don’t prevent him from getting his hands dirty, as was evident by his soiled painter’s jumpsuit and, well, his dirty hands. When finished, the “Cuckoo” set will bear Enderle’s stamp on pretty much everything from concept to the metallic paint applied to the window frames.

“We’re going for a ’70s look. It’s probably a building built in the 1930s and remodeled in the 1950s,” Enderle said of the set, where charming scoundrel Randle Patrick McMurphy played by Stuart Fail will kick up some dust in “Cuckoo.”

Enderle put a lot of time and research into planning the look of the asylum. On the Internet he found dozens of images of asylums, all of which looked different and gave him ideas.

Enderle found an entire subculture of people who break into old, boarded-up mental hospitals and take pictures. That’s a part of the job he loves most — immersing himself in a time and place he wouldn’t otherwise, and finding people and places during the process he didn’t know existed.

He liked the maintenance-free tile on the bottom of the walls of one he viewed, and the grating over the windows, both details of which he used in his set.

“It’s a slightly funky, slightly uncomfortable insane asylum room,” he said. Enderle forwarded pictures he found to Hustoles with notes on what he liked and didn’t. The two of them worked together until Enderle was given the go-ahead to design and construct a scale model, which sat in Andreas Theatre last week and was almost an exact replica of the real thing — kudos for which he gave to his team of students.

Krolikowski said the team had been working to construct what Enderle had in mind for about four weeks. And that’s just for one set.

Enderle’s next project, “Angels in America,” has 30 scenes, most of them in different places. But he’s up to the challenge.

“We’re starting right away on the next one,” Enderle said.

If You Go . . .

What: MSU Theatre presents “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”

When: 7:30 p.m. today through Sunday, with a 2 p.m. matinee Sunday; and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 7 through Feb. 11, with a 2 p.m. matinee Feb. 11.

Where: Andreas Theatre, Performing Arts Center, MSU

Tickets $13 general admission, $12 for seniors and youth ages 16 and younger, and $9 for MSU students Call the box office at 389-6661 or visit MSUTheatre.com.

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