Student creates monster for 'Little Shop'

creating Audrey IIIn the SUNY Oswego theatre department staging of “Little Shop of Horrors” April 21 to 30, man-eating plant Audrey II will grow to star proportions. Much of the task of creating the voracious villain fell to senior theatre major Kate Dolan.

“This project really brings together everything that I’ve been learning,” Dolan said.

She grew to love the stage by acting in children’s theatre. When she began her college career at Hartwick College, however, she studied business management and English, “more traditional majors that parents approve of,” she joked. She soon realized how much she missed theatre, and when she transferred to Oswego during her sophomore year, she registered as a theatre major concentrating on the technical side.

She honed her skills with painting and costuming and worked in some capacity on nearly every show produced by the department since she started attending Oswego. Audrey II designer and theatre faculty member Joe Rial approached Dolan about constructing the plant, and she was “excited to do something different.”

Dolan’s work serves as her senior capstone project. “It’s been a work of love,” she said.

“Little Shop of Horrors” requires that Audrey II grow from a small potted plant to a much larger beast, so Dolan built four puppets that represent the growth stages of the monster. The two younger versions are hand puppets, but the larger two require three people to operate them.

Assembly of the puppets involved gluing pieces of foam together to form the bodies, then lining them with tobacco cloth and coating them with a mixture of glue and paint. “The process is similar to papier mache,” Dolan explained.

The project required troubleshooting to find ways to create the desired effect. “I think that’s the nature of theatre,” she said. “The excitement of ‘what do you do?’ in those moments when something doesn’t work.”

Though Dolan spends 20 to 30 hours a week on the Audreys, “this has been a big group effort,” she said. “The puppeteers are overworked and overtired. Actors will come in and if they have five minutes between classes they’ll cut foam with me. It would never get done if it was just me. I am learning so much from everyone.”

Dolan will intern this summer with Glimmerglass Opera in Cooperstown. She plans on teaching in the future, unless “something else develops with theatre.”

“Little Shop of Horrors” will open at 8 p.m. Friday, April 21, in Tyler Hall’s Waterman Theatre. Additional performances will begin at 8 p.m. April 22 and 29 with a 2 p.m. matinee Sunday, April 30.

Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and children, and $7 for SUNY Oswego students. A preview performance will take place at 8 p.m. Thursday, April 20, with all seats $6.

For reservations, call the Tyler box office at 312-2141 or e-mail

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PHOTO CAPTION: Creature crew—Members of the tech crew working on the SUNY Oswego production of “Little Shop of Horrors” show off some of the versions of Audrey II, the ever-growing plant with the unusual appetite. From left are Katie Ahearn, a sophomore theatre major; Joe Rial of the theatre faculty; and Kate Dolan, a senior theatre major. Dolan is constructing different versions of the plant for her senior capstone project.

(Posted: Apr 12, 2006)