By Chelsea Hackney, Student Reporter
David Utley may not be the star of this year’s upcoming Homecoming Musical, All Shook Up, but he will certainly make it shine this weekend, surrounded on stage by his handiwork. Utley is this year’s scenic designer, and by the look of things at the Abilene Civic Center, the stage is fit for the King himself.
Utley is not a stranger to the ACU theatre scene. He completed his undergraduate work in design at ACU before continuing on to graduate school at the University of Texas in Austin, where he graduated with a master’s degree in scenic design. He now lives in New York, although his work as a freelance set designer takes him around the country, including back to Abilene several years ago for the 2003 Abilene Shakespeare Festival, where he designed and assisted in building the sets for both Hamlet and the Tempest.
“It was an honor and a pleasure to come back,” he said about his work this semester, which included the fall show Moonlight and Magnolias as well as All Shook Up.
As if two shows were not enough, Utley said, in fact, this is his fifth show in two months, with his last show, Beauty and the Beast, opening the night before he flew to Abilene.
“I’ve been going since about last February. I’m running on Red Bull and coffee,” he said.
Despite the busy workload, Adam Hester, chair of the Department of Theatre, said Utley is still an incredibly hard worker and a team player who attempts to capture the vision of the director in every detail of the design.
“The show makes so much sense when you work collaboratively like that,” Hester said.
Utley said the music, aptly enough, was the key to the design, as it is the case with most of his work. He said he always listens to songs that match the show’s mood while he is designing.
“After a while, the music starts to infuse your design,” he said.
The end result, of course, matches the fun, upbeat tempo of the musical.
“This show is way over the top, so I took the research I did on ’50s towns and made them much more flamboyant,” Utley said. “All of the pieces are very big, with bright colors.”
Although Utley did all of the designing, students did much of the set construction.
“One of the strengths of this program is that it’s a liberal arts program,” Utley said, which means theatre students are expected to experience all aspects of theatre, which Utley pointed to as a reason for his accomplishments. “Any success I’ve had since I left has been on the foundation that they gave me.”
Hester said he enjoyed working with Utley as a student and now as a colleague.
“He’s really gifted, and it’s great that our students will get to watch him and work with him,” he said.