‘Beyond the Proscenium’ exhibition shines spotlight on theatrical design


Symiah Dorsey/The Lions Roar

“Beyond the Proscenium” features set designs, costumes, and more from local and regional designers and theatres, including works from the university theatre department.

The Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts is home to many of Downtown Hammond’s most crowd-gathering stage performances. This led their neighbor, the Hammond Regional Arts Center, to pose the question: “What happens before the curtain ever rises?”

To gather the answers, HRAC and the Columbia joined together to present “Beyond the Proscenium”: an exhibition that shines the spotlight directly on the art of theatrical design. The exhibition is located at the arts center and will remain open until Feb. 19.

Tara Bennett, media coordinator for HRAC, curated the event with James Winter, artistic director of the Columbia and Chad Winters, instructor of theatre.

Bennett explained how the exhibition was an opportunity to bring life back into theatre after dormant seasons of production.

“Putting the spotlight on the designers and production items has been my favorite part of the process, especially since many theatres have had to cancel their seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with that, the exhibition allows our patrons further exploration into the process of bringing a stage play to life,” Bennett said.

Those who visit “Beyond the Proscenium’’ can view pieces from the Columbia, Southeastern Theatre, Swamplight Theatre, Playmakers, Inc. Community Theater, Alpha Psi Omega – Alpha Epsilon Psi, Robenhood Productions and more.

In partnership with the Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts, the Hammond Regional Arts Center organized this exhibition to highlight the art of theatrical design. (Symiah Dorsey/The Lion’s Roar)

Bennett shared how the curation team collected the various costumes, set designs and other production pieces for the exhibition.

“The call to artists was open to local and regional theatres with housed items from previous productions. The show curators and I also selected various theatre designers from the Southeastern Theatre department (faculty and alumni) who have exceptional designs that would fit the exhibition’s concept,” she said.

Winter was proud to see works of theatrical design receive recognition and described opening night as a powerful experience.

“The idea itself is brilliant,” he said. “A theatrical event is this incredible joint effort by so many different visual artists, and I feel like their individual work is so rarely recognized for its artistry.  When I walked into the gallery for the opening of this exhibit and I saw all of this theatre design work so elegantly displayed, that was a really powerful moment for me. I am proud of HRAC and Hammond for supporting a show like this.”

As contributors to the cultural experience of downtown Hammond, the Columbia and HRAC anticipate more collaborations in the future.

“I hope partnerships like this between the Columbia and HRAC continue for many years to come. Tara Bennett deserves tons of praise for conceptualizing and executing this unique exhibit,” Winter commented.

“Beyond the Processium” is free and open to the public during HRAC’s current times of Wednesday-Friday from noon to 6 p.m.