'Desk Set' first production for new theater company

12:14 PM, Dec 17, 2012

Written By Ashley Doarn | Staff writer

The Desk Set is the first production of a new theater group in Rochester, Screen Plays — Hollywood’s Golden Age on Stage, which will produce plays adapted for the screen from 1920 to 1960.

The interest level has been phenomenal, between a great turn out for auditions as well at the community interest for the performance,” says director Karen Tuccio. “The MuCCC already has me booked for next year and I have a few ideas in mind.”

The Desk Set was written by William Marchant. It is a comedy set in the 1950s that asks the question: Can a computer really replace a person?

The play captivated audiences, running on Broadway for 296 performances before it closed. Screenwriters Henry and Phoebe Ephron (the parents of writers Nora and Delia Ephron) adapted the play for a 1957 film starring Katharine Hepburn in the role of Bunny Watson and Spencer Tracy as Richard Sumner.

The title comes from the name given to the International Broadcasting Company’s reference department librarians in 1950s Manhattan.

We want to give the audience an experience when they walk into the community center for the performance,” says Tuccio. “Our goal is to make the whole community center building authentic.”

Together, Tuccio and her staff will be immersing the audience in the 1950s, but in Rochester rather than Manhattan. The main aim is to give the audience a peek at what it was truly like to live and work during that time.

The play was chosen due to its wide appeal to a large audience. Tuccio and her staff wanted to attract vintage lovers, young and old. “This play I feel will appeal to all because there is romance and women love romance. For the men, there is technology.”

Props being used on the set and in the lobby, including an old Kodak camera, are loaned artifacts found in 1950s Rochester, most from the Antique Wireless Association. One very prominent item with local ties is the Kodak camera.

Kay Noske also designed the costumes to be authentic to the time.

We wanted a dedicated production, so we needed our actors in full costumes done to the undergarments the women are wearing,” Noske says. “I had two days of training for the actors, which consisted of office etiquette in the ’50s and a dance lesson for the one number we have in the performance.”

Vintage costumes were bought from Goodwill or tailored to get the vintage look. But some also came out of the Noske’s own closet. “I have a huge collection of vintage clothes and I wanted the actors to get into the whole character.”

Noske and Tuccio attended the Turner Classic Movie festival in Los Angeles in 2011, and it sparked the idea in their minds that play production was something they wanted to do.

The Desk Set hopes to capture the mood of how women in the 50s felt when they believed they were losing their jobs to a machine. The play will show the struggles these women experienced and how they made it through.

Tuccio brings more than a decade of local theater and film experience to this new venture. Her company is striving to bring a positive message, especially showcasing women in the best, brightest and most beautiful aspects of life.