Books and plays and exhibits, oh my! ArtistHop is a new column spotlighting talented artists in the Columbia community who have recently done something notable. This week, we sat down with Sila Puhl, producer for KCST’s The Winter’s Tale, which went up last weekend in the Glicker-Milstein Theater.
Name, school/year, and tools of your trade?
Sila Puhl. CC sophomore. A Dammit Doll, Excel, and linking your phone to every single email account that could possibly exist.
What work or project are you recently known for? What was so special about it?
I just worked on KCST’s Winter’s Tale. It was, in all senses, a really stunning show. Even though designers worked on things on their own, everything just absolutely came together. I generally live under the principle that something has to go horribly wrong during tech week. But everything just got executed really well, and I feel like everyone made it really easy for me to do my job.
Whose vision was most instrumental in creating Winter’s Tale?
Aydan [Shahd, Director] and Asya [Sagnak, Dramaturg] were working together from the get-go. I think they had a very clear understanding of what they wanted the vision to be but weren’t necessarily able to articulate or understand what that would look like. But they had certain elements that they needed to be in the show. There were very clear through-lines. I think when the designers came on board, it became a lot clearer.
I don’t think I had too much of a hand in the vision. It was more about making sure everyone had what they needed to make these elaborate things come into place.
As a producer, how do you make things happen?
It’s about making the process as fluid, effective and efficient as possible. Also just making sure everyone’s adhering to the deadlines – a lot of the unsexy stuff. For the budget and the really procedural stuff, you can have someone teach you that. But for the social stuff, it’s about reaching out to people and really establishing yourself as a resource. Making sure everyone is doing the work they need to do, but also making sure everyone is as happy as possible – because it is student theater.
An anecdote from the process?
If you want a story, you could definitely scroll through my texts to Tina Simpson and Alana Herrnson, begging them to help me. Being a producer is a lot just about asking other people for help.
There was this one time with Tina, I was super worried about the budget because the design was super complicated. I think you can feel the panic in my texts to Tina: “Please, please, please meet me tomorrow.” If you could trace the line of my stress in this process, it would go up and down, and you could see where different people are the ones who took me back down.
I also became very good friends with the people at the mail center. They would be like, “What the heck are you ordering?” I once had 15 items in my package. One of them was a door. They helped me put it on the dolly so I could haul them back to McBain. They’re lovely, very sweet people.
Weirdest prop you had to deal with?
For one period of time, I had all the props stored outside my room, and the bear head was the subject of a lot of confusion. People couldn’t tell it was a bear. I got a lot of questions: “Is it a dragon? Is it a wolf?”
Honestly, Kay [Kemp, Props Designer] was amazing because they did so many things for free. Absolutely abused the Barnard Design Center. Big shoutout.
While you were watching the final performances, did anything make you cringe? Anything you really enjoyed?
I didn’t have a single “cringe” moment, because everybody just knew what they were doing. They delivered it every night in such a new way that I actually never got bored of the show. And it’s a long show, more than two hours.
I absolutely lived for all the Genevieve [Henderson, Clown], Viviana [Prado-Nuñez, Shepherd], and Sophia Seidenberg [Autolycus] scenes in Bohemia. They were really great comedic relief. The Sicilia actors did such a great job of collectively building the intensity, to the point where that comedy becomes really effective.
How was producing Winter’s Tale different from the shows you’ve produced in the past?
I was an assistant producer for Varsity Show last semester. Being an assistant is very different. I think with KCST, there are more established channels of communication – people in the troupe know what’s going on and are fairly communicative. The shows are smaller, and I think that’s a huge thing with Varsity Show, because there are so many people, and you can’t inform everybody of everything.
I think it is important to create stakes in what you’re doing, and sometimes that does just mean being more open about what’s going on. But I do think the size was a really big factor.
General takeaways from the show? Advice to your past self?
General takeaway: The energy you put into a space is reciprocated.
Advice: Nobody is trying to actually try to pick out everything you do wrong. I made big mistakes multiple times, but people were always there to help or forgive those mistakes. Nobody was punitive about it.
Also, space booking. I did not understand the Columbia space booking website. I felt so bad every time we got kicked out of Milbank. I was like, “Oh my god, they hate me because we don’t have this extra hour for rehearsal.”
Photo via Antara Agarwal
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