Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A couple by design

'Deathtrap' benefits from professional input

Express Staff Writer

Keith Moore and Mackenzie Harbaugh perform murderous acts in "Deathtrap."

The comic thriller "Deathtrap," now on stage at the nexStage Theatre, is packed full of surprising moments and flurries of near violence. It concerns a married playwright living in Connecticut and anxious for another hit play. He invites an ex-student who's written a play to visit, thinking that maybe he can purloin the script as his own. Odd and sinister doings ensue.

To help bring to fruition director K.O. Ogilvie 's vision, the nexStage Theatre, as producer, hired Michelle Minailo-Jefferson and her husband, Tony Jefferson, of Hailey to design the costumes and coordinate the stunts, respectively.

"Michelle is so groovy. I can call her up and she always has such great ideas and pulls it together exactly the way I want," Oglivie said. "She has a lot of knowledge, and it's a fun time—1979—for her to design for. A lot of the characters, like Myra and Sydney (the husband and wife characters), are drab and then the psychic comes on, in color. I like the way she thinks."

Couture seamstress Minailo-Jefferson has designed costumes for years. She studied costuming when she was younger in Canada, but "flipped and went into performing," she said. After years in New York and Las Vegas performing, she moved to Los Angeles and returned to designing.

She was the costume designer at the Burbank Theatre Guild, as well as the Pasadena Playhouse and the Long Beach Civic Light Opera, where she created costumes for the original production of "Chicago," where it opened before its long Broadway run. She was also the resident designer at Warner Brothers' Six Flags Magic Mountain.

"I designed Bugs Bunny's 50th anniversary tailcoat and all the walk-around characters," she said. "Bugs and I are really good friends."

Tony Jefferson is a native of Sun Valley. He was born on the third floor of the Sun Valley Lodge when there was a clinic there. His father, Ray Jefferson, built Hemingway Elementary School.

"Tony, as a stunt coordinator, prepares actors to do a move once or twice on film," Ogilvie said. "The challenge is to create something we could do night after night after night."

A freestyle skier, Jefferson began doing stunt work locally in the late 1970s, prompted by Max Kleven, an actor and stunt coordinator. He eventually moved to Los Angeles to further his work. The Jeffersons moved back to the Wood River Valley with their two children in 1995.

Since then, Jefferson has commuted to L.A. weekly to work on such movies as "The River Wild," "Species," "Of Mice and Men" and "Dead Man Walking." Among his credits on many other shows, he is stunt coordinator for the television show "Boston Legal." He also did the stunt coordination for Company of Fools' "Noise Off" this summer.

"For this show, he coordinated all the action in it—the various fight sequences and attempted murders," Minailo said. "Tony and I haven't worked together since the movies so that was cool. I had to do some rigging for the costumes. I just said 'OK' and built all the padding into the costumes. I know how the things need to move. There's a lot more going on than what you see."

In "Deathtrap" there are basically four "fights."

"I had ideas about what I wanted to see and kind of established a traffic pattern with him and what my goal was and he did it," Ogilvie said. "It was terrific. If I said I wanted it more brutal or gory and he'd say 'OK, we can do that.' And he's very conscientious about safety. He's a joy. The actors really enjoyed him."

Not surprisingly, as professionals and as a married couple, Tony and Michelle really work well together, she said.

"On whatever stunt or fall, they'd figure out what kind of padding the costume needed," Ogilvie said. "I appreciate their work ethic and respect their knowledge and am so grateful for their presence in this town."

Play Bill

When: 7 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, Nov. 6-9

Where: nexStage Theatre, Ketchum

Tickets: 726-4TKS, $20, $10 students 18 and younger. Thursday Nov. 6, all seats $10.

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