Creating the fantastical world of The Sugar Bean Sisters

Fay Nettles (Amy Jane Mooney) makes contact with the help of Lighting Designer E Tonry Lathroum

Fay Nettles (Amy Jane Mooney) makes contact with the help of Lighting Designer E Tonry Lathroum. (Photo courtesy Michael Weston)

Any “Mainer” will tell you that place certainly plays a part in our every day lives.  No matter what season, the weather and landscape of our area effects our activities and our moods. This sense of place is also tremendously apparent in Penobscot Theatre Company’s current production of The Sugar Bean Sisters.  Occurring in the swampy bayou of Florida, this Gothic fairytale hinges on the heat, eerie lighting, and magical special effects the script requires.  The first several pages of Nathan Sanders’ carefully crafted script include a detailed description of the world the folks of Sugar Bean inhabit.  Sanders describes a  “….house  [that] settles deep within the ancient, mystical world…….one might observe that the left side of the house is actually lower than the right. Over time, the impenetrable old swamp shack has begun to sink into the boggy mire.”  In the hands of Set Designer Sean McClelland, it does just that.  Far from just being a representation of the playwright’s vision, the incredible attention to detail and unique construction of the Sugar Bean set brings the action right into the laps of the audience.  Said reviewer for the Maine Edge Alan Adams, “The home of the Sugar Bean Sisters is both huge and intimate – no mean feat.”


Click HERE to watch The Sugar Bean set come to life!

Sean McClelland’s set design for The Sugar Bean Sisters

Sean McClelland (Set Designer) has designed 90+ shows in the top theatres and producing companies South Florida has to offer, some of which are:  Actors’ Playhouse, GableStage, Mosaic, Palm Beach Dramaworks, City Theatre, StageDoor, MadCat and so on.

The finished product

Along with designing, he has painted the majority of his sets and backdrops. He is grate-ful and proud to have won the Carbonell award for best scenic design in South Florida twice: Les Miserables (Actors’ Playhouse, 2010), The Seafarer (Mosaic Theatre, 2009), he also received the Silver Palm Award for his August Osage County Design (Actors’ Playhouse 2011).  Many thanks to Bari for bringing him to his first out-of-state shw.  Please stop by to view Sean’s work and upcoming projects.
Also playing an important role of its own in this production is the lighting design by E Tonry Lathroum.  The story of the girls in Sugar Bean doesn’t just require us to be able to see what’s going on. Christmas tree lights, car arrivals, graveyard scenes, and exploding outhouses are nothing out of the ordinary in this location.  Tonry shared some of his thoughts with us, addressing both wisdom about his profession as well as this particular production: Being a Lighting Designer is a job, just like any other job, whether it’s flipping a burger or changing the oil in a car.  Every job is going to have it’s own inherent problems, stress levels and rewards.  I just happen to be lucky enough to have a job where I feel the rewards out way the problems and stress…most of the time.  I once heard someone say “It’s called a play for a reason” and that is what I try to hold onto when the ugly word “work” rears his head during the production process.
It was a pleasure to work on a “swamp themed show” in the dead of winter in Bangor.  It certainly made for quite a few good laughs as we went through the technical processes of the show with our jackets on during the cold spell that week.
       Sugar Bean Sisters is a fanciful production about some outrageous characters.  But the play firmly is rooted in reality, in that, I think we can all identify with needing and wanting something more out of life at times.

The glowing and Christmas bedecked outhouse of The Sugarbean Sisters. Light Design by E Tonry Lathroum

Originally from Linthicum, MD, Tonry is a 1991 graduate of The Shuford School of Performing Arts at Catawba College in Salisbury NC.  His lighting credits span over 20 years and more than 350 productions to date.  Some of his favorite designs have included residencies with: Florida Stage,  The West Virginia Dance Company, The Crane School of Opera at S.U.N.Y. Potsdam, The Barter Theatre,The Greenbrier Valley Theatre, Arts In Motion, Cumberland County Playhouse, The Off Square Theatre Company, The West Virginia Department of Culture and History Dance Festival,  The Kitchen Sink Dance Company,  West Virginia University School of Theatre and Dance, The Miss WV Scholarship Pageant, The Memphis Black Repertory Theatre,  Momentum Dance Center, Morgantown Dance Company, The South Carolina Govenor’s School for the Arts, Lighting Designer/Technical Director/Instructor at West Virginia Wesleyan College from 1994 to 1998 Nominee for Teacher of the Year 1998.West Virginia State Musical The-atre, Robert C. Byrd High School and the Act II Theatre Company, Beckley Dance Theatre, Theatre West Virginia’s Outdoor Dramas and many various video, commercials and training films thoughout the mountain state. Tonry is the 2010 winner of the Broadway Lighting Design Award (professional) for Cumberland County Playhouse’s production of Duck Hunter Shoots Angel.Tonry’s concert credits as In-House event lighting designer in-clude such names as: Survivor, Trick Pony, The Clarks, Sugarland, Blake Shelton and many others. Tonry is a member of United Scenic Artists Local 829.

Some members of The Sugar Bean Sisters team from left to right E Tonry Lathroum, Meredith Perry, Magnus Stark, Bari Newport, and Sean McClelland

  A number of local artists teamed up with these designers “from away” to contribute to the wonderful whacky world that is Sugar Bean, Florida. Rebecca Wright returned to PTC (previously designing A Christmas Story, Ink, Patsy Cline, and Annie) to design costumes, Meredith Perry (PTC’s longest running employee) stage managed the production as well as designing props and creating stage dressing, newcomer Brandie Rita (intern turned employee) provided the elaborated soundscape for the production.  All of these folks along with the dedicated PTC technical staff Wayne Merritt (Technical Director), Aaron Noble (Master Electrician), Will Newman (Master Carpenter), as well as numerous interns, volunteers, and deck crew members (Ethan Schneider, Khari Blair, Mary Clark, Tricia Hobbs, and Conor Kenny) work together to make hand crafted theater right here in Bangor.
Be sure to get your tickets to see this visually amazing show today by purchasing online at or by calling our box office at 942-3333. We hope to see you at the theater!