Promo work begins for Over the Tavern, which opens July 11
by Melanie Jongsma
LANSING, Ill. (May 30, 2019) – “We needed a Catholic grade school classroom,” explains Pat Kremer, “so I suggested St. Ann’s.” Kremer is a Lansing resident, and her public relations firm—Big Splash Public Relations—does promotional work for Theatre at the Center (TATC) in Munster, Indiana. The upcoming show there is Over the Tavern, a comedy about 12-year-old Rudy Pazinski and his schoolroom conversations with ruler-wielding Sister Clarissa. Big Splash will create the posters and ads for the show, and they provide a selection of publicity photos to media sources (including The Lansing Journal) to accompany any articles about the production.
Finding the site
Kremer’s husband Keith attended St. Ann’s from kindergarten through 8th grade, and the two were married in the “old church” in 1990. (The current church building was built in 1997.) As a member of St. Ann’s Parish, it made sense for Pat to stop by the school and speak with Principal Kelly Rojas about the possibility of using one of the classrooms. Rojas gave Kremer and her business partner Carolyn Jacobs a tour, and they chose Room 105 “because it was reminiscent of a classroom from 1959, the year that the play takes place,” says Kremer. A teacher’s wooden desk and original black chalkboards help create the perfect setting for the photo shoot. As an added bonus, after the room was chosen Kremer discovered her husband’s Class of 1963 photo hanging outside the door.
Setting the scene
It is cloudy and rainy on May 24, the day of the photo shoot, but that doesn’t matter to photographer Guy Rhodes. He arrives at St. Ann’s at 9:30am with intern Jack Gardner, and they begin carrying lights, screens, and a variety of equipment into Room 105. They set up a filtered light on a stand outside the classroom door, and easily create a suggestion of sunshine reflecting on the blackboard.
Jacobs clears the existing decor from the bulletin boards, and Gardner is instructed to give the blackboard “some texture” by writing on it and erasing it, so it will look like a typical classroom chalkboard. Phil Potempa, Marketing Director for TATC, enters with a bin of old books, rosaries, and 1950s-style knick-knacks from TATC’s vast prop room. Kremer shows Rhodes the 1950s student desk she had borrowed from It’s Just Serendipity, a vintage shop on Hohman Avenue in Hammond.
Preparing the players
At 10:30am, Janet Ulrich Brooks arrives. She has been cast as Sister Clarissa in Over the Tavern, returning to Theatre At The Center after receiving a Jeff nomination for her performance as Ann Landers in the The Lady with All the Answers. A Company Member of TimeLine Theatre, Brooks’ credits comprise roles in stage, television, and film productions, including Divergent, One Small Hitch, and Conviction, as well as Chicago Med, Chicago Fire, Chicago Justice, and Boss. Although she has decades of acting experience, Brooks has never played a nun, so she expresses excitement about the new opportunity that Sister Clarissa represents.
Costume Designer Brenda Winstead enters Room 105 with a bag containing a basic habit, wimple, and guimpe. She leads Brooks to the nearest bathroom to help her into the costume.
In the meantime, Logan Baffico arrives. He has been cast as Rudy, and Over the Tavern will mark his debut at Munster’s Theatre at the Center, though he has other acting credits, including roles in The Polar Express, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Beauty and the Beast, Billy Elliot, The Little Mermaid, and James and the Giant Peach. Baffico is already dressed in slacks and a sweater vest reminiscent of a school uniform, but he accepts some dark socks to wear with his schoolboy dress shoes to complete the look.
The full cast of TATC’s Over the Tavern, as chosen by Director Ericka Mac, also includes Cory Goodrich as Ellen, Isabelle Roberts as Annie, Eric Slater as Chet, Julian Solis as Georgie, and Seth Steinberg as Eddie. The advertisements and other marketing materials will highlight only the two leads, but after Opening Night, dress rehearsal photos of the other cast members will be made available to media outlets, along with B-roll video.
Shooting with purpose
Rhodes positions Brooks and Baffico in front of the now-dusty chalkboard. Artistic Director Linda Fortunato, also at the shoot, begins suggesting lines and scenes that the actors can use to generate a variety of moods, expressions, and interactions. The purpose of the photo shoot is to give Kremer and Jacobs a medley of photographic options to work with. “At the end of the day, we’re responsible for creating an ad that will encourage people to buy tickets,” says Kremer. “So we want an image that will immediately tell people what the show is about. It must be a quick read so that it easily captures the attention of the reader turning the pages of the newspaper, or the driver on Ridge Road who sees a poster for the show in the window of a local business.” Over the Tavern is intended to be a comedy about family and faith in the 1950s, and conveying that in a single image requires a reliance on stereotypes without becoming cliché.
“Can you give us some lines from the section about ‘Why does God let the bad things happen…’?” prompts Fortunato, and Baffico pauses for a moment to recall that part of the script. He begins reciting, “Like, Louie, his mother just had a baby, and then, his father goes and dies. That didn’t have to happen. And like people stealing change from Blind Elmo’s newsstand—why doesn’t God stop that?” Baffico and Brooks exaggerate their expressions, trying earnestness, exasperation, despair, and precociousness.
After a few moments, Kremer asks for a more lighthearted approach, so Fortunato suggests the God-winning-the-science-fair scene, and the actors begin again, this time with a warmer tone and more frivolity.
For an hour, the camera clicks from different positions around the room while the actors stand, sit, pose, exchange props, change expressions, move to the desk, move to the white screen, submit to costume adjustments, recite lines, and share stories. From time to time, Rhodes consults with Kremer and Jacobs, showing them a shot on the screen of his camera—horizontal, then vertical, with enough space to add type—and they nod in agreement.
Breaking it down
Around noon, there is general consensus that the shoot is finished, and a round of spontaneous applause signifies a job well done. Potempa begins sorting props, returning TATC’s to his plastic bin, and bringing St. Ann’s knick-knacks back to the school office. Brooks changes out of her habit into her street clothes. Baffico dons shorts and tennis shoes. Jacobs and Winstead re-staple the decorative background back to the bulletin board, while Gardner rolls up the screen and folds up the light reflectors. Rhodes confirms with Kremer that he will send her the photos later that day.
“Guy Rhodes is a genius photographer whom we are very fortunate to work with,” says Kremer. “He is not only talented, but he also turns around the images to us very quickly so that Carolyn and I can review them and make our selections.” By 6:00pm the same evening, she has already received the photos from the morning’s shoot.
Choosing the shots
Kremer and Jacobs quickly select the final images they feel will work best in the marketing materials they plan to create. They send those selections to Artistic Director Fortunato for input, and she approves. From this point, Jacobs is free to begin designing the ad and arranging the photos on a composite sheet to share with local media.
The two partners typically select one image that is used in print ads, posters, and postcards. Additional images are chosen for publications to use throughout an article, or on the masthead above the main news headline, or on the calendar or index page that teases the story. “Compelling images make our work in promoting the productions at TATC a lot easier,” explains Kremer, “so we regard this step in the process as extremely important.”
Posters will begin appearing in Lansing businesses in June. While all of Big Splash PR’s work for Theatre at the Center is eye-catching, the Over the Tavern promos will be especially attractive to Lansing locals and St. Ann alum—since Room 105 has a starring role in the materials, if not in the actual play.
Seeing the show
Previews of Over the Tavern begin July 11, with Opening Night on July 14, and a continued run through August 11. Performances are:
- 2:00pm Wednesdays and Thursdays
- 7:30pm Fridays
- 3:00pm and 7:30pm Saturdays
- 2:30pm on Sundays
Individual ticket prices range from $42–$46. To purchase individual tickets, call the Box Office at 219-836-3255 or Tickets.com at 800-511-1532. Group discounts are available for groups of 11 or more. Student tickets are $20, and gift certificates are also available.
Theatre at the Center is located within the Center for Visual and Performing Arts at 1040 Ridge Road in Munster, Indiana. TATC is an accessible venue with plenty of free parking.
For more information, visit www.TheatreAtThe Center.com.