Shakespeare Festival St. Louis opens its 19th season this week with the rarely performed comedy, “Love’s Labors Lost.” Much like St. Louis’ award-winning Zoo and historic Art Museum, Shakespeare in the Park has become a staple of Forest Park, capturing the attention of theater fans and families from all across the St. Louis area every summer.

The actors might breathe life into each performance, but it’s the Switch team that helps set the stage season after season. From the lighting to dozens of wireless microphones to the construction of the set (this year’s set is 88 ft wide x 36 ft deep), Switch has had a hand in bringing these iconic Shakespeare shows to Forest Park for over 10 years. “The arts community is a tight-knit community, and most organizations know we’re right in the middle of it,” explains Matt Anderson, the Fabrication Shop Manager at Switch. “Our hands have been in the arts community for decades.” It’s this passion for the arts combined with a reputation for quality work delivered on time that has made Switch a go-to for arts organizations like Opera Theatre of St. Louis, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, and The Muny.

All the World’s a Stage

– “As You Like It” William Shakespeare

When working with set designer Jason Simms to set the stage, it was up to Matt Anderson and his team to think through the logistics of how to actually build the grandiose design for “Love’s Labors Lost.” Sometimes things look great on paper, but redesigns and adjustments have to be made for construction, time, and budgetary reasons. “This is how we figure out things and problem solve. When we create a 3D CAD rendering, I can catch 80-90% of the potential problems before we go to the construction phase.”

The hardest part though is the turn-around time. Final designs were agreed upon on April 3rd, which left just under two months to bring the design to life. With an opening date of May 29th already announced, delays aren’t an option. About eight working professionals fabricate and paint the materials inside the Switch shop. Many of these union workers have worked for years creating sets around St. Louis, including Andy Cress who also serves as the primary scene painter at The Muny.

One Touch of Nature Makes the Whole World Kin

– “Troilus and Cressida” William Shakespeare

Two weeks before opening, the individual pieces are moved to the site of the festival and final construction begins. In typical Shakespearean-fashion, storms and high winds linger for many days, providing even more drama to the quick turn-around. But the storms provide a necessary test proving that the set can withstand anything nature has in store.

To ensure that the set can handle the strength of mother nature, fade-resistant exterior paint is used so that UV rays don’t discolor it during the show’s one-month run. Additionally, all of the elements need to be secure against water and up to 70 mph winds to protect both the actors and the audience. It’s a series of important calculations so that audiences can sit back and let the magic of the performance transport them to the province of Navarre in Northern Spain.

A Light Heart Lives Long

– “Love’s Labors Lost” William Shakespeare

A state-of-the-art audio system that captures the humor and artistry of Shakespeare’s writing. A beautiful set that transports the audience to another time and place. A series of professional lights that illuminates the drama and comedy. Switch is proud to be a continuing partner of Shakespeare Festival St. Louis and looks forward to creating magic in Forest Park for years to come. As Matt Anderson explains, “It’s great to work on a theater production seen by a large part of the community. It could be seen by up to 100,000 people. It’s not work… it’s fun.”

The Switch in-house production team has all of the capabilities to create trade show booths, sales environments, backdrops for meetings & event, and so much more. For more information about what we can stage for you, contact Chris Jobst.

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