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J. Shane Mercer, Published February 22 2009

‘West Side’ professor’s last stage ‘Story’

The Little Country Theatre’s production of “West Side Story” opens Wednesday and marks the end of an era at North Dakota State University.

It’s the last NDSU show that Don Larew, professor of theater arts, will be part of. Larew, who designed the “West Side Story” set, is retiring in May after four decades with the NDSU theater program.

Larew has served as technical director and artistic director of Little Country Theater, director of theater and coordinator of NDSU theater arts. He was also scenic and costume designer/

technical director of NDSU’s Prairie Stage Touring Company.

Larew chatted with The Forum about his work at NDSU, retirement and “West Side Story.”

Forum: How many shows have you worked on at NDSU?

Larew: I know back in 1980 I’d done at that point 100 productions … I stopped counting.

What is your best memory from your time working with NDSU theater?

I think the opportunity of working with bright young people would be the part that I’ve probably enjoyed the most.

You work very hard on your sets, but many attend the show and never really know who did the work. Does that bother you?

No. That’s the nature of the game. If you’re drawing attention to your own work, then that’s not good … it should really be a part of the total picture, and so you don’t want to draw attention to yourself in that way. No, I think the satisfaction comes from a successful production.

How would you describe the set design for “West Side Story”?

I call it deconstruction. So it’s dark. It’s very dark; lot of grays, blacks, dark browns with – there’s just touches of color on the interiors where there is some warmth.

Are you proud of the work you’ve done at NDSU?

Oh, absolutely.

How so?

Well, I think we’ve done quality productions consistently. I think we’ve had a reputation for doing fine work. We have, I think, consistently had a variety of genres that we’ve presented, so it’s always been a challenge in terms of creating an environment for a different time period or a different style of production.

And so I feel that we’ve been successful in terms of meeting those challenges and providing … a solid educational experience for our students.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734