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4/20/2004 Foreigner comedy to conclude Linfield theatre season

McMINNVILLE ? A century-old Georgian fishing lodge, complete with a massive river rock fireplace, will be the backdrop for "The Foreigner," a comedy by Larry Shue, which will run in the Linfield College Marshall Theatre.

The set, one of the largest ever constructed for a Linfield production, is the handiwork of two men and a crew of student workers who have labored behind the scenes to bring the production to life. Ty Marshall, professor of theatre arts, designed the set and Robert Miller, technical director, masterminded the construction.

"The Foreigner" demonstrates what can happen when a group of devious characters must deal with a stranger who (they think) knows no English. The play is set in a rural lodge visited by Froggy LeSeuer, a British demolition expert. Froggy brings a friend, a pathologically shy young man named Charlie who is overcome with fear at the thought of making conversation with strangers. Froggy tells lodge guests that Charlie is from an exotic foreign country and speaks no English. The fun begins as Charlie overhears more than he should with the thought that he doesn?t understand a word being said. The play has been awarded two Obie and two Outer Critics Circle Awards as best new American play and best off-Broadway production.

Performances will be May 6-8 and 14-15 at 8 p.m., May 9 at 2 p.m. and May 13 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for students, Linfield faculty and staff, and seniors. On Mother?s Day, May 9, tickets are $3 for mothers.

Before the first nail was pounded, Marshall had already read and reread the story, absorbing subtle details like season, geography, location and period. Then armed with an understanding of what the script called for, he set to work building a model so that those around him could share his vision as well.

For Marshall, who has designed more than 150 sets over the years, the secret to the set?s realistic appeal is in the details, down to the very last staircase spindle manufactured in the theatre shop. Painting techniques and outbuildings that can be glimpsed through a door contribute to the distressed cabin feel. Period furniture, along with a series of ceiling beams, a styrofoam fireplace and other props, are also constructed on site.

"Because of the shop, students are able to use fairly sophisticated machinery to manufacture the set and that just opens up more possibilities," Marshall said.

Once the set design is complete, construction plans are handed over to Miller, a four-year veteran of the department who has been drawn to the technical side of theatre since age 16. Assisted by nearly two dozen students, he spends afternoons in the theatre crafting the scenery and lighting. Times have changed from the days of cramped quarters in Pioneer Hall, which housed the theatre for 34 years before Ford Hall opened last fall.

"This facility is state-of-the-art," said Miller. "It?s made a night and day difference in how we work."

Now, Miller and company build large sections of the set on wagons in the shop area, then roll them into the theatre piece by piece, enabling classes and work to continue in the theatre during the day. But the most dramatic technological changes from Pioneer have been in the areas of lighting and sound design, Miller said. The crew will use over 100 lighting instruments and digital sound to create a number of surprises during "The Foreigner," including a thunder and rain storm and an offstage explosion, complete with light flashes and the sound of raining debris.

Tickets for "The Foreigner" can be reserved by calling 503-883-2292 or by e-mail at theatre@linfield.edu. Tickets may be purchased at the box office from 2 to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, with expanded box office hours on performance days.

To reach Ford Hall from 99W turn east on Keck Drive, across from Roth?s Market in south McMinnville. Turn right on Lever Street and right again on Ford Drive. Ford Hall is located at the west end of the parking lot.