Wood Pallets, Building Bridges And Jennilee Aromando

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Building the set for “The Bridges of Madison County”

They say every picture tells a story, but in Jennilee Aromando’s case it has become her life’s work. A recent BFA graduate of SUNY Purchase with a double major in Scenic Design and Visual Arts, Jennilee is currently designing the set for THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY, a new musical by Jason Robert Brown and Marsha Norman based on the best-selling novel by Robert James Waller. It opens on 11/10 and runs thru 12/9 at Elmwood Playhouse in Nyack, New York.

“The minute I met her I knew she was someone special,” says director Claudia Stefany. “We sat down in the front row of the theatre looking at the stage and just started to throw ideas out about how the set needed to function and what we both envisioned it to look like. When we both said ‘pallet wood’ at the same time I knew she was the designer for me!’ laughed Stefany.

Working in theater has allowed me to become a better artist with every experience because of the minds we get to work with as a team”

Collaboration in theatre for Jenn is key. “Working in theater has allowed me to become a better artist with every experience because of the minds we get to work with as a team,” she shared.

Jennielee Aromando on the set she is designing for Elmwood Playhouse’s production of “The Bridges of Madison County” [photo by Scott Nangle]

Her career path began during her freshmen year of High School. She had sprained her knee and ankle in a dance class and “…as a result, when I tried out for the Fall play I did not get in, but I wanted to stay involved- so I was a one-legged spotlight operator! This was my first experience with the ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ of backstage people and actors and I vowed then to bridge that gap because I could see no reason why you couldn’t be interested in both sides.”

This mentality is what makes Aromando a consummate theatre person and it goes back to the collaborative spirit that she has brought to the project. Working side by side with Technical Director Crawford Deyo, it’s like watching 2 people who love what they do put together an immense jigsaw puzzle. Sometimes the piece fits and sometimes not, but the process is refreshing and speaks volumes about how key communication is.

As the stacks of pallets were brought into the theatre by Producer Wendy Portney’s ‘day job’ co-workers, everyone around the theater was trying to get a handle on what exactly they were going to be used for. With the help of a remarkable tool called a ‘Pallet Buster’, petite Aromando almost singled-handedly broke 35 pallets down to a stack of useable and perfectly aged wood. The labor involved was vast but the price was right (free!) and the look was exactly what she wanted – an interior barn/covered bridge feel.

Another unique design element for this show are the large, antiqued mirrors that will line the back wall of the playing area. “So much of this show is about remembering the past and honoring memory so when Jennilee suggested using mirror and most especially aged, imperfect mirror, it was like a light bulb went off in my head,” said Director Stefany. “Francesca (the lead character) is remembering and reflecting on her life and you couldn’t ask for a more perfect metaphor then a mirror to illustrate that essential piece of the story telling of BRIDGES. Again, it was her exemplary design head that helped me as a director inform the audience as to what the characters are thinking and feeling in a very subtle and sublime way.”


Daniele Hager (left) and Jon Huston (right) on the design of “The Bridges of Madison County” design by Jennilee Aromando [photo: Scott Nangle / Jennilee Aromando]

The Bridges of Madison County” runs November 10th thru December 9th Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm with an additional Thursday performance on December 7 at 8pm. Tickets are $29 / 27 Seniors and Students. For reservations, information or directions, call The Elmwood Playhouse Box Office at (845) 353-1313, or visit www.elmwoodplayhouse.com

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