Behind every great scene, somewhere off stage, a set designer
By Christina Hofer for Goshen Commons
As a young girl, she dreamed of being a park ranger. Or a Great Mouse Detective (the animated mouse version of Sherlock Holmes). She loved spending time outdoors, especially with animals, and enjoyed dressing up her dog and making up stories.
Many years later, that fun-loving, imaginative young girl produced the elaborate set designs for “Pippin,” “Translations” and “Urinetown” — three of Goshen College’s recent main stage productions. To this day, however, Maryn Munley would not call herself “creative.”
“My older sister was very artistic,” says Munley. “She was an art major, and she always seemed incredibly talented and visually in tune, and I was more into animals. Given the choice, I would still pick a dog over a box of crayons.”
Munley refers to a moment at Mundelein High School in Mundelein, Ill., as the beginning of her set design career. She was asked to help out with set design in her high school’s production of “Dancing at Lughnasa.” She painted and learned set design tricks like how to make a plain, flat wall look like a brick wall or how to make a believable building out of plastic foam, assorted metal pieces or piping.
“I never thought I was artistic at all, but it turned out I was pretty good at that type of thing,” she said. “I would be like, ‘Wow! I didn’t know I could do this. I’m surprised this works!’”
She enrolled at Goshen College in the fall of 2008, drawn by Goshen’s small but successful theater program. She took an array of classes she was interested in — many of them theater classes. In her sophomore year, she declared a theater major with an environmental science minor.
Originally, Munley was interested in theater for the acting. In high school and college productions, she had many acting roles – such as Maria in the college’s production of “Twelfth Night”– and genuinely enjoyed her time on stage. However, she realized she had a deeper connection with theater design.
“Being in front of an audience is exhilarating,” Munley said, “but you could cut that part out and I wouldn’t be hugely upset.”
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