Behind The Scenes with the MAC’s “The Uninvited”

A discussion with the production crew takes us through the process of bringing audiences a thrilling story with haunting ambiance.


Photograph by Elizabeth Barbosa

Mariana Quezada and Antonio Llanos

Ghosts, mysteries and love are found in the McAninch Arts Center’s newest play. COD’s theater program is now performing “The Uninvited” as their latest student production. Based on Dorothy Macardle’s out-of-print novel titled “Uneasy Freehold,” the play is a moving spectacle for everyone to enjoy.

“The Uninvited” tells the story of the Fitzgerald siblings, Pam and Roddy, who acquire the seemingly perfect house of Cliff’s End overlooking the Bristol Channel in the west of England. While the acquisition of the house seems like a monumental opportunity, soon things take a frightening turn. Serenity within the walls of the generational home is promptly disturbed by a guest who knows the community of characters all too well. 

The play’s narrative vehicle is furthered by the developed ensemble of experts for the undertaking of the production. The set consisted of one room modeled to look like an English 1930s living room where the entire play takes place. During a pre-show discussion the production crew– Director Amelia Barrett; Scenic Designer David Makuch; Costume, Hair and Make‐Up Designer Kimberly G. Morris; Lighting Designer Richard Arnold, Jr.; Sound Design Fisher Parsons and Properties Designer Sabrina Zeidler– answered questions on the performance. 

Since the play took place in the MAC’s Playhouse theater, the size and space was taken into account for set construction. 

“We spent considerable time discussing how (the play) fits in this Playhouse. It was a challenging space to design. We even created a 3D rendering of the set design with the CAD software to visualize it.” explained Makuch.

Moreover, the process of acquiring props was very meticulous to relate to the period and place of the play, including that of a special couch just the right shade of orange the crew gushed about, since it was on center stage for the duration of the whole play. As well, many of the play’s most crucial moments happen in this piece of furniture. 

Another important detail was the characterization of each actor in their respective costumes, hair and makeup according to the time. Morris talked about the importance of visual communication with each character’s professions or place in society. 

“We got to accessorize and create the look of these different groups of people,” said Morris.  “We have a couple coming from London, their friends, a grandfather who’s an old commander from the Navy, his granddaughter, a country girl and an Irish maid. So we got to have a lot of fun with different looks and putting together all the accessories and the wigs, too.” 

The set designer also invited spectators to pay close attention to detail, as the play occurs in the same room with minimal changes.

“There’s one particular image of the mother’s portrait above the fireplace, which plays a big role,” Zeidler said. “It actually is a character in the show. So that was key, too.” 

Photograph by Elizabeth Barbosa

The director commented on how every element of the play worked together, from the chairs on scene, to the haunted sounds before and during the show. Moreover, she touched on the underlying themes of the play. 

“The author wrote it sort of as a rebellion to women’s rights. So it’s really interesting to follow it along afterwards and go, ‘Oh this is a woman’s story,’” Barrett said. ”I don’t know if it plays out that dramatically in the play, but it’s there it’s there if you look for it.”

Furthermore, the director discussed how this piece was different from plays from the previous semesters the team had worked on.

“We try hard to pick different genres and different periods for all six of our shows (of the academic year) so that our students get a full array of experience.” Barrett explained. “I would say every show is different simply because of the design team that works together. If you did this production again somewhere else it wouldn’t be the same show.”

The panel discussed how “The Uninvited” compared to this semester’s other play “The Curious Incident of the Dog at Nighttime” in regards to production, mood and even prop acquisition. 

“The protagonist Christopher’s experiences in “The Curious Incident” are more of what I’d call atomic and inside his own world, whereas ours is truly like fly on the wall and more of a linear structure,” Barrett said. “So, they are different genres, and while watching how it unfolds, you know they’re just different pieces.”

“The Uninvited” conveys a ghostly ambiance accurate for the story that lures audiences into the mystery and the unfolding of the play’s several layers. With a spirited cast, and dynamic set design, the play is sure to thrill many. For more information go to the MAC’s website.