Sister Stories, Part 3: Sue, the Set Builder

Editor's Note: This ongoing series highlights aspects of Wendy and Sue's lives that make LBK what it is. To read parts one and two in this series, click here and here. Every February, just when things begin to quiet down at LucyBlue, another part of my creativity begins to come alive—painting theatrical sets for two local schools that my kids and I have attended. I have designed and painted sets for the past 27 years at Wheaton Christian Grammar School and for the past eight at Wheaton Academy. To date, I've been part of 36 shows, plus several smaller productions.

It's one of my favorite times of the year! I love everything about a theatrical production, and I find so much satisfaction in being part of a massive collaborative effort that brings so many different types of people together. There's a happy "buzz" in the air everyday as the various teams work on their aspects of the show: the tech people scheme how to create the best effects with lighting and sound while the carpenters saw and hammer away, and the student volunteers, my two girlfriends and I use gallons of paint to transform 2x4s and plywood into magical underwater scenes in Little Mermaid and buildings from 1899 in Newsies.

Every production is the unique result of many unseen hands doing what they do best behind the scenes. It's so satisfying to work hard over a few weeks and see that culminate in a memorable experience that has become a community tradition.

On the sets for Wheaton Academy, I work closely with my two girlfriends, Vicki Stuckard and Sharon Holtrop (another dear friend and coworker, Valerie Spoelhof, has since moved out of state). I thoroughly enjoy the quality time we spend on this shared endeavor. We call ourselves The Three Musketeers, and we work until we can't move another muscle. Sharing this labor of love with friends, between 80 and 90 hours per show, is one of my greatest joys. We LAUGH so much, which has been good medicine over the years.

What I enjoy most about this season, though, is tackling the various challenges that arise each day. Sometimes what I envisioned in my head has to be modified once the cast begins rehearsing onstage, and I enjoy figuring out how to make the set work for the actors. I've also come to cherish the problem solving that the three of us do as we talk about our families and our lives while we work.

Many aspects of my life are "projects" that will take a lifetime to complete, so having something like this, where we work ourselves to the bone and FINISH is very rewarding. It’s extremely gratifying to start with a piece of pink insulation board (a lightweight material we use MANY sheets of) and transform it into the backdrop of something spectacular!

Editor's Note: If you live in the Chicagoland area and want to see Sue and her team's handiwork and experience the production, Wheaton Academy's spring musical, Newsies, opens Friday, March 1, at 7:00 p.m., and runs through March 9. For tickets, call (630) 562-7500 starting February 21st.