Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Delights Audiences of All Ages in Central Florida

Steven Heron and Niko Stamos of Titusville Playhouse share their experience with producing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer during the 2021 holiday season.

Ah, Florida. . .year-round warm weather, palm trees, and humidity! As a native Floridian myself, I can say with full certainty that the sunshine state is aptly named. While the December temperatures hovered in the 80 degree range, Titusville Playhouse conquered a task that seemed impossible: bringing the North Pole to life in Central Florida.  

I had the privilege of not only attending Titusville Playhouse’s production of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, but also speaking with Niko Stamos (Associate Artistic Director & Education Director) and Steven Heron (Executive Artistic Director) about their experience with producing this iconic holiday story.

Melissa: Thank you both so much for meeting with me today. You have a beautiful theatre here, and the talent was top notch! Can you tell me a little bit more about your organization?

: Titusville Playhouse has been around for 57 seasons (YAY) in Titusville, Florida. We are a community theatre, but we mix local and professional talent, which is unique in the community theatre world. We have a full time professional staff and an intimate house with 274 seats.  

57 Seasons! That’s amazing, congratulations! So of course I have to ask, what led you to choose using projections for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?

Well, the theatre used to be an old vaudeville house, so we don’t have fly or wing space.  We tend to use video technology a lot these days, as we don’t have the means to fly something in.

Niko: Yes, and with this particular title we wanted the audience to feel like the movie was happening in front of them. In fact, our challenge with selling the show at the beginning was a lot of our patrons thought it was just a showing of the movie, so we needed to ensure the cinema feel was alive and well in conjunction with live performers.  

I think you certainly achieved that cinematic feel, especially with the way you combined projections with built elements. Can you tell me a little bit about how your design all came together?

Niko: We had a pretty traditional design that we ended up scrapping. Once we connected with Broadway Media about the possibilities, we found a way to meld together a combination of video wall, projection scrim, and ice walls. We really wanted to achieve a dimensional look and feel, something beyond typical flat projection. To do this, we used supplemental props, scenic pieces, and layered projections to truly achieve the look and feel of a snowstorm.

Melissa: The way you made the blizzard come to life was incredibly realistic, so I think it’s safe to say that you achieved your vision. What challenges, if any, did you face during your production, and how did you overcome them?

Niko: Figuring out how to use the different surfaces/making them work. Using the script for reference and working with Broadway Media, our Titusville staff and Scenic Designer, we all brainstormed together to figure out how to pay homage to the film while also figuring out a way to bring theatrical magic to it.  One of the largest challenges for a show like Rudolph was costuming. 

Steven: The Puppets AND the costumes.

Niko: Right, they’re iconic, so it needed to be recognizable.  The costumes needed to live in the world of video, and solve for differing aesthetics. We needed to ensure that all of the designs matched.

Melissa: Whoever designed your costumes and puppets truly deserves a standing ovation. During your Instagram Takeover, I was FLOORED to learn that those reindeer costumers were just upcycled pajama onesies. Now, prior to Rudolph, had you worked with projections previously?  

: Actually, Spamalot was the first show we ever did projections with, and we used Broadway Media!

Niko: I have worked with projections before, but only content we’ve created ourselves.

How was this experience different from using physical backdrops?

Niko: Well, physical backdrops aren’t animated, and my favorite thing was seeing the snow actually fall. I was so impressed with how Broadway Media animated the loops, I could never tell where the sequence started over again…it really made the scenery feel alive and way more dimensional than a painted drop.  One thing that is difficult or different is the lighting element.

Steven: With Rudolph, we move places so often, it’s really necessary to have projections. 

Niko: Yeah, I could never recommend drops for a show like Rudolph.  To pull off a production like this it’s a must, really. It makes the magic onstage. 

Melissa: Did you have a favorite moment in the show? 

Niko: Oh, the first time the curtain opened and you saw Sam…and seeing Christmastown for the first time! Such an iconic moment, because it really set the stage of what to expect for the rest of the show.  You could hear the audience members “ooh” and “aah”  when they saw the set paired with the projections, with the costumes…it was that first glimpse of pairing it all together.  

Steven: For me it was the snow storm! So beautiful. Oh, and hearing the audience the first time they got to see Bumble in that world.

Melissa: Those were some of my favorite moments to see onstage too! Now that you’ve used Scenic Projections, do you have any advice for theatres that have not used digital scenery yet? 

Steven: Do the whole experience. Rent from Broadway Media and use their support, they’re great!

Niko: Scenic Projections are NOT a cop out for a real set, they’re there to enhance the story, and some stories really need the cinematic feel. I promise, projections are not as scary as you may think, and Broadway Media knows how to work with all levels of expertise. 

Melissa: Would this experience encourage you to continue using Scenic Projections for shows to come?

Niko: Absolutely.  We especially loved being a pilot and having creative input. Plus, Broadway Media was so responsive and open to collaboration. 

Steven: It was a pleasure.  

Melissa: Well, thank you both for taking the time to chat with me today.

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