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Davis Journal

CenterPoint behind the scenes - scenic painting

Sep 21, 2023 09:12AM ● By Braden Nelsen
The amazing rock work and cobblestone floor go to show just how detailed scenic painting can lend to a production.

The amazing rock work and cobblestone floor go to show just how detailed scenic painting can lend to a production.

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series that takes a look behind the scenes of what it takes to make a CenterPoint Theatre production.

CENTERVILLE - Even with all of the innovations in construction, projection, and other effects, there will always be a need for scenic artists on the set of a theater production. Whether that is to paint the actual sets and set pieces or to paint the floors and the theater itself, someone skilled with brush and paint is indispensable at a theater.

For CenterPoint, that person is Cynthia Klumpp. A California native, Klumpp, and her family came to Utah after her husband got a job in Cedar City, which is where she got her start in the world of scenic painting, at the nearby Tuacahn Center for the Arts. “(It was) something that was just kind of natural,” she said.

Klumpp’s path to theatrical artistry was somewhat nontraditional. Not having taken any courses, she said she more or less had to teach herself out of scenic painting books, copying what she saw onto the set as her canvas. Obviously, though, it was a good fit, “I absolutely love it,” she said, expressing that the way she was guided to the vocation was “kind of God’s will.”

Bringing 8 years of painting experience at Tuacahn to CenterPoint, Klumpp is certainly no slouch. In addition to painting at CenterPoint, Klumpp still does work all over the state, and the county, pitching in where she can because not only does she love the work, but as she put it, “I love the challenge.” 

The massive theatre piece, shows the amazing 3D effect of simple highlight and shadow, though the painting is far from simple. Photos by Braden Nelsen

And what a challenge it is. Depending on the show, and the set, a scenic painter needs to go through many different steps in painting which can amount to being a couple thousand square feet of surface area, and it’s not as simple as just rolling on a coat of paint either.

When it comes to scenic painting, there are many different methods, all geared toward making what is on stage look like something else. Sometimes that means painting on woodgrain to make something look like natural timber, other times it means using different tools like sea sponges and spatter to create interesting and natural-looking textures for stone, stucco, or other material.

Then, of course, there are 3D effects: adding in highlights and shadows to create the illusion for the audience of depth on flat surfaces. Together with lighting effects, scenic painting can really go a long way in tricking the eye and fooling the audience into believing there is more to the set than is actually there. This can save a lot of time and money on construction and has been a theater convention for centuries.

Cynthia Klumpp, however, goes above and beyond. One of the artist’s favorite things to paint at CenterPoint has been the floor. “The floor is just a giant canvas,” she said, pointing out various amazing creations from past shows, including a freehand design she created for “Elf the Musical.” In a theater like CenterPoint, it really goes a long way, especially for the people sitting in the balcony, which Klumpp says are the best seats in the house. 

With over 100 shows under her belt, Cynthia Klumpp has worked with many people and can speak with authority when she says, “I love working here. These people are amazing and have heart. We are professionals.” Klumpp's work, and the work of those who create alongside her, certainly shows that they are indeed professionals, and have a clear passion for their work.