March 03, 2023
By Haley Dittbrenner ’25
Caleb Stroman, assistant professor of theatre, won a Peggy Ezekiel Award for Outstanding Achievement in Technical Design and Production for his set design of Urinetown, the musical presented by Susquehanna University’s Department of Theatre during the 2021–22 season.
Urinetown tells the satiric story of a town where private bathrooms are outlawed in lieu of private, for-pay bathrooms. The protagonists stage an uprising against the tyrannical Mr. Cladwell and his corporation that runs these for-profit restrooms.
The set was composed of two primary elements, Stroman said. The first was a tall platform with large doors that, when opened, revealed a space painted to look like stone. The second element is what students called the whirligig: a three-pronged unit that rotated to reveal different places in the set. Urinetown took place across three primary scenes: the streets, Mr. Cladwell’s office and the sewers. The whirligig allowed for the quick transition between these three locations.
Color was also a major factor in Stroman’s design choices, he said. The streets and sewer were painted in warm browns, oranges and yellows to reflect what Stroman called the “dark and dingy” conditions of the characters who lived there. Mr. Cladwell’s office, by contrast, was painted in cool colors and white for a sterile feel.
The set was built by Stroman; director Aaron White, adjunct faculty in theatre; and theatre students.
“Involving students in our set design and construction gives them valuable experience that directly translates to not only their theatre coursework, but also their future careers in theatre,” Stroman said.
Stroman said ideas behind the set design came, in part, from choices made by White and Liz Ennis, former costume designer.
“The director’s concept for this production was to set the play in an indeterminate future that also reflected the 1920s,” Stroman explained. “This was primarily seen through the costumes by Liz Ennis.”
Stroman designs the scenery and lighting for all Susquehanna theatre productions. He also works with several local theatres as a set and lighting designer.
Votes for the Peggy Ezekiel Award are cast by members of the United States Institute for Theatre Technology Ohio Valley Section board, which is made up of professional designers in multiple fields of theatre design.