CLINTON — Tetta Askeland and Laurie Lewis moved a rule along the floor of a raised, circular turntable, drawing parallel lines across the floor's surface. When painted, the lines would have the appearance of a hardwood floor.

The project was one of many the scenic designer and music director had to complete before Thursday night's opening of "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder," the first of five summer plays at the Clinton Area Showboat Theatre.

"This is my third summer here," said Askeland, a scenic artist and one of the set designers for the 2019 Showboat season. A native of Atlantic, Askel is a master's student at Kent State University who plans to become a professor of scenic design.

Lewis, a professor of music for Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield, Illinois, is in her fifth season with the Showboat.

"Officially I'm responsible for all the music for all the stage shows," Lewis said. Unofficially, she's part of the scenic design crew.

Everybody jumps in to help when they need to, Lewis said.

"I really love the people who work here," said Lewis. "I love the people in this community. I feel like people are invested."

The quick turnaround between shows is a challenge during Showboat season, said Askeland. Creating sets for five shows in three months is demanding.

"What's really great," said Askeland, "[is] we get people like Laurie to help us.

"It's such a good team atmosphere," Askeland said. "Everyone's here for the team and not for themselves."

The music that Lewis has to prepare for the season varies from classical in "A Gentleman's Guide" to rock in "Tommy" and "music everyone knows" in "Shout." The challenge for the music director is how to direct an orchestra that can't see her.

The pit orchestra sits behind the stage, so Lewis needs help from the sound department to make sure the orchestra gets its cues.

"We rehearse knowing they won't see me, so it's very precise," Lewis said.

While Askeland and Lewis worked on sets, Assistant Stage Manager Nicoletta Flores of San Diego, California stood on stage so that Lighting Designer Aimee Hollins of Kentucky could plan what lighting is on different areas of the stage during different parts of the play.

"This is my first summer here," said the Western Illinois University graduate student. Scenic Designer Anthony and Costume Designer Rebecca Rankin are also graduate students at Western Illinois, Hollins said, and they encouraged Hollins to apply for the lighting design position at the Showboat.

Steven House, one of the Showboat's scenic designers, teaches the three students at Western Illinois, Hollins said.

Hollins has previously worked at The Prizery cultural and performing arts center in South Boston, Virginia in various roles: stage manager, electrician and house manager, she said. She's in Clinton for a single show.

Creating the light plot for "A Gentleman's Guide" requires Hollins to determine what types of lights, filters and textures are needed throughout the play. Electricians hang the lights.

"Once we get it hung and focused, we get the cues," Hollins said. Lighting cues from the script are loaded into a computer and controlled by the stage manager during performances.

"It's the same thing every night," Hollins said, "so once we're open, my job is over."

Hollins will leave for the summer when she finishes plotting "A Gentleman's Guide," and Stage Manager James Davis will plot lights for the other four, Hollins said.

The 2019 season is Davis' eighth with the Showboat. A native of Great Bend, Kansas, Davis is a professor of lighting design at Kansas State University,.

The stage manager's job, said Davis, is to make sure that everything is done the same way during performances that it was done in practice.

Part of the reason Davis works for Showboat Theatre every year is that his wife is from Clinton, he said. Jordan Davis is a graduate of Fulton, Illinois' Unity Christian School. Her father, Brad Hirl, is a local physical therapist.

It's also a pleasant place to work, Davis said of the Showboat, and a good chance to work with artists from all over the country.

"And I guess it's a creative outlet as well," Davis said.

"A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder" premiered Thursday and will continue through June 16. For showtimes and ticket information, visit

A native of Centerville, Winona comes to the Clinton Herald after writing for the Ottumwa Courier for two years.