by Kelly Rae Smith, Charleston City Paper August 1, 2013
"I feel like Lazarus," says Allen Lyndrup, PURE Theatre's new set designer. "Lazarus died, and Jesus came and brought him back to life. I feel like in some ways this has sort of brought me back to a theatrical life that I was letting come to a close. And how exciting is that?"
Lyndrup has always had two feet in theater. After 18 years at James Madison University as a professor, scene designer, then director, he came to the College of Charleston as a theater department chair, and later as a professor. Although he directs too, Lyndrup has spent most of his 23-year CofC career teaching rather than focusing solely on his first love: design. And with retirement nearing, it seemed as though the theater chapter would soon close altogether. Until PURE came knocking last spring, and the design door opened wide once again.
PURE needed set design inspiration, and got exactly that when Lyndrup presented co-owner and artistic director Sharon Graci with a sketch: his vision for Clybourne Park, a play that needed one home that could be set in two different eras. Graci loved it and wholeheartedly welcomed his collaboration as part of PURE's future.
"He's a consummate professional in all aspects of the word," Graci says. "He's extraordinarily creative, and he's passionate about the art form. He understands the impact that a professional, experienced designer has on the telling of story, and he gives voice to that story in a way that only a designer can. He's also patient with us. We are a company of actors and directors, and there are really no small personalities at PURE. He fits right in."
Lyndrup is also responsible for the set of PURE's current production, Annapurna. A two-person play performed inside a trailer set, he says this arrangement is particularly unique. "I have never seen a set like this. Go see it — you won't ever see a play on a smaller stage."
But that's what he loves about PURE: the scripts they choose with their unusual scenarios, and the creative potential. "I mean, a play about Martin Luther King Jr., and an angel comes to tell him he's gonna die [The Mountaintop]? What an interesting idea. A play about professional wrestling [The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity]? What an interesting idea!"
Lyndrup still thinks about his retirement. But it won't involve globetrotting ("My wife doesn't like to travel," he says), and any master gardener notions were nixed by our 90-degree summers. Besides, solitary days aren't for him. Being around people, he says, is what keeps you young.
So what could be better than retirement in a camper van and the open road? For Lyndrup, it's working with PURE. "They really take some chances, they really try to find new stuff, and they try to keep the way they do things fresh. And that's very exciting. I'm kind of hoping it's going to be my retirement job."
Graci and the rest of the PURE crew seem fine with any arrangement that allows their connection with Lyndrup to grow. "Allen loves theater and he loves people," she says. "He brings an infectious joy to the process, and his vast experience on an array of topics, and on life in general, makes collaborating with him truly inspiring ... Allen has our back as a designer. He takes good care of us as a company. We're better at what we do because of him."