Scene changes often for Bethanie Wampol

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 16, 2010

Thomas Wolfe’s belief was that “you can’t go home again.” But if Troy University is “home,” then Bethanie Wampol is proving him wrong.

Wampol, a recent graduate of Troy University, will return to the stage of the Trojan Center Theater as a scenic designer for the Department of Theater and Dance’s spring production of the musical, “Guys & Dolls.”

She is extremely excited to be back “home” where her dream of becoming a scenic designer was nurtured to fruition.

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“As a kid, I liked to drawn and I always knew that I wanted a career that had something to do with art but I didn’t want to be a painter or a fine artist,” Wampol said. “It was when I was in high school and had opportunities to work on school shows that I discovered the role of scenic artist.”

Wampol realized that, as a scenic artist, she would not be restricted by a certain set of circumstances and that her creative spirit would have many opportunities to delve into new and exciting places every time the scene changed.

After graduating from Spain Park High School in Hoover, she worked briefly as a scenic artist for the Birmingham Children’s Theater. That experience cemented her desire to work in the world of art and specifically as a scenic artist.

In the spring of 2005, Wampol came to Troy University to follow her dream.

She immediately found a place in the program and was offered opportunities, not only in the classroom, but also on the main stage, starting as a scenic painter for the Troy University productions of “Tartuffe” and “Snoopy.”

“In the spring of 2005, I was offered my first design position with the University in the role of costume designer for ‘Hamlet,’” Wampol said. “That was a very exciting opportunity for me.”

Wampol was the scenic designer for several Troy University productions, including “The Boys Next Door,” “Forever Plaid,” “Nunsense,” “The Misanthrope” and “A Lesson Before Dying,” which was performed at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival last spring.

Wampol said as a scenic designer, she does a huge amount of research for her work.

“You see things in a different way and you have opportunities to discover new things and rediscover old things,” she said. “It’s challenging and it helps your attention span, shifting from one period or show to another. It keeps things interesting.”

During her years as a theatre student at Troy University, Wampol was encouraged to attend various professional conferences where she was able to not only network with working theatre professionals but also find professional summer work and compete in design competitions.

“I also had opportunities to work professionally for several companies including the Brevard Music Center in North Carolina and Stagedoor Manor in New York,” Wampol said. “I’m currently working on a project for the University of West Florida as they produce Moliere’s ‘The Learned Ladies.’”

This fall, Wampol will move to New Jersey and begin work on her master’s at Rutgers University. She was awarded a fellowship from Rutgers last spring in connection with the University Resident/Theatre Association (URTA). The URTA organization is an entity that gathers graduate programs from across the country to meet with prospective master’s students. She attended the URTA conference in February of last year and was “called back” by more than 20 programs.”

“I’m very excited to begin my master’s at Rutgers,” Wampol said. “It’s a really strong program with a history of quality theatre in proximity to a wonderful job market.”

But until then Wampol is focused on the challenges before her and her homecoming at Troy University.

She is “excited, proud and honored” to be back at Troy University where her dream took root and its branches are ever reaching.

“‘Guys & Dolls’ tells the story of Sergeant Sara Brown of Sav-A-Soul Mission, a missionary who is short on sinners, and Sky Masterson, one of New York’s most successful gamblers,” Wampol said. “It’s set in the city in the early 1950s and is an exciting and fun look at the hustle and bustle of New York City in the Golden Age of Musicals.”

Wampol was charged with the task of creating the various environments for the show, including New York City Street scenes, various Cafés in Cuba, and the infamous ‘Floating Crap Game’ deep in the NYC sewers.

“I began the process by thoroughly researching the period, looking at many buildings and structures that existed in New York in the period,” she said. “I became intrigued by the steel structures used to create elevated trains and landmarks like the Brooklyn Bridge. These truss style structures became the inspiration for my approach. You can see their direct appearance in a system of portals created for the show. And, the design relies upon many set changes and smaller units to create all of the various locales the characters visit in the play.

“I really enjoyed this design process and the opportunity to work alongside of many of my teachers and mentors from my undergraduate work. I’m very excited about this opportunity to return to the department to design this show and to see ‘Guys & Dolls’ realized on the main stage at Troy University.”