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An IU MFA studentís passion for design is evident in a play opening next week

If Tim Borden had been on time during an undergraduate summer internship, he might not have realized his interest in scenic design.

"I was asked to help the scenic designer to help paint as I was late one day," said Borden, a third-year Indiana University Bloomington master of fine arts in scenic design graduate student. "Then he asked me to help him paint a scenic element for an independent project."

He continued to help the resident scenic designer with a show that same summer. "I learned a lot and realized that design was more of what I got into theatre to do."

Tim Borden

Tim Borden on the set of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum."

Print-Quality Photo

Later, he returned to State University of New York Fredonia to ask his mentor if he could change majors from stage management to scenic design. "Turns out he filled out the paperwork after one week of knowing me and was just waiting for me to ask."

Borden's passion for scenic design is evident in this month's production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. The story takes place in and around three adjacent houses in ancient Rome. Pseudolus, a slave, tries to win his freedom by helping his master get the girl who lives next door. The other two houses are a brothel and the home of ancient Erronius, who is away searching for his lost children. Three houses adorn the set -- each with its own unique design, color and lighting.

"The houses themselves represent part of the personality of their owner so the designers and director thought it would be fun if the houses themselves became characters. The house of Lycus is flashy and very showy, while Eronius's house on the other side of the stage is older and more run down, just like its owner. Senex's house in the center is more solid and dependable with a bit of wealth showing."

Borden is from Corning, N.Y., and has extensive experience as a theatre artist. He is designing this musical for his thesis project. He has served as the scenic designer for Jimmy Cory, The Birthday Party, Wit and Our Country's Good at the Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center and for The Glass Menagerie at the Brown County Playhouse last summer. Borden was the assistant scenic designer for Twelfth Night in the Ruth N. Halls Theatre.

"The show is a lot of fun, and we hope the audience will walk away with a good feeling," said Borden

Live at IU sat down with Borden recently to discuss the art of scenic design and the upcoming show.

LIVE AT IU: What do you most enjoy about being a scenic designer?
BORDEN: The creation. I like taking a concept from the script and director, and creating a place for the actors -- creating something the actors can work with. I also enjoy constructing a place that the audience can either relate to or have never seen before.

LIU: What sort of atmosphere did you try to create for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum?
BORDEN: For this show, we really wanted to create a sense of fun -- a show that doesn't take itself too seriously. The atmosphere should heighten the comedy and let the audience enjoy the performance of the actors and the orchestra.

LIU: Can you say a few words about the importance of collaborating with the other designers?
BORDEN: It is what really separates our craft from other forms of art. We rely on each other not only for concepts, but also for sounding boards and inspiration. The goal is that nothing goes on stage without input from everyone. We communicate not only so that we all know what each other is doing, but also so that we can contribute to each other and maybe suggest something that had not been considered before. The collaboration of designer-to-designer, and designers-to-director is what makes this a living art.

Ticket information
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum opens April 11 at 7:30 p.m. with additional shows on April 12 and April 15-19 at 7:30 p.m. and a matinee April 19 at 2:00 p.m. All performances will take place at the Ruth N. Halls Theatre in the Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center on the corner of Seventh Street and Jordan Avenue in Bloomington.

Ticket prices are $18 for adults and $14 for students, seniors and anyone 30 and younger (discounts Tuesday-Thursday and Saturday matinee only). Group prices are available. For ticket information, call 812-855-1103 and ask for information about Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center tickets. To purchase tickets by phone, call Ticketmaster at 812-333-9955 or visit