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An ovation for the set designer, our much-loved Mr. Hartman

Sometimes, to experience a theatrical production’s true level of happy passion and sleep-deprived perfectionism, you have to look behind the scenes. Witness a drama mama’s midnight sewing session, or a Diet-Mountain-Dew-fueled director’s back-of-the-house pace. See the hand-painted backdrop or the hand-lettered stage floor.

We’ve been lucky participants in the Appleton North Theatre Program for more than a dozen years and we still catch our breath at the beauty of each performance, the subtle brush strokes of burgeoning talent and the bold colors of constant passion.

Transcending the drive for perfection, always, in each volunteer and every adult mentor, is an unwavering demonstration of kindness; a juxtaposition personified by set illustrator and show photographer David Hartman, the man with a million stories and even more friends.

Mr. Hartman welcomes all comers to the tricky business of set design. He patiently teaches aspiring young artists and then stays late into the evening to make sure their work displays beautifully.

Once the set meets his high standards, a feat normally not achieved until the wee hours of opening night, he moves onto his second role as show photographer.

During a run of Les Miserables, Mr. Hartman spent hours crouched behind the set to capture the perfect angle of the barricade from a perspective no one else could see.

This weekend Mr. Hartman found himself the center of a drama no one wants to see. He has been diagnosed with a brain tumor and is awaiting treatment in a local hospital. His family has set up this Caring Bridge Site.

Please take a moment to send him an encouraging note. Maybe you’re one of the hundreds of young actors, artists and set technicians who’ve benefited from his kind counsel and encouraging words. Or perhaps you’ve been to an Appleton North production and enjoyed his beautiful sets. Even if you live far away and have never met him, you can scroll through the following pictures and acquaint yourself with his work, an extraordinary legacy of love for theater, for art and for all of the lucky beneficiaries of this gracious man’s skill.

Here is Mr. Hartman doing some preliminary work on what will end up to be a beautiful stain glass window.

Here is Mr. Hartman doing some preliminary work on what will end up to be a beautiful stain glass window.

And here he is detailing a side panel from the set of Appleton North's Argonautika.

And here he is detailing a side panel from the set of Appleton North’s Argonautika.

This is the stage floor of an amazing production of Cyrano.

This is the stage floor of an amazing production of Cyrano.

This is the set of Peter Pan, an interactive masterpiece,

This is the set of Peter Pan, an interactive masterpiece through which popped pirates, lost boys and mermaids.

First, Mr. Hartman painted the backdrop of this beautiful scene in the Phantom of the Opera. Then he took this cool picture.

First, Mr. Hartman painted the backdrop of this beautiful scene in the Phantom of the Opera. Then he took this cool picture.

Mr. Hartman made Victor Hugo's paintings come to life as the backdrop for Phantom.

Mr. Hartman made Victor Hugo’s paintings come to life as the backdrop for Les Mis.

Loved the show, loved the set, love the backdrops and especially love this picture Mr. Hartman took during Phantom of the Opera.

Loved the show, loved the set, love the backdrops and especially love this picture Mr. Hartman took during Phantom of the Opera.

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Posted on October 7, 2013, in Teachers, Theater and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Praying for you Dave Only want good news. Ok

  2. What a wonderful tribute to Dave! He is so talented and giving of same. I pray he will make a full recovery!

  1. Pingback: I’m a believer in high school theatre | Molly B and Me

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