Alum Designs Set for Stage Version of TV Classic ‘Family Ties’

June 1, 2017
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Tammy Honesty ’93 Selected as Designer for World Premiere Production

Wilmington College graduate Tamara L. Honesty pored through seven seasons of television’s Family Ties in preparation for designing the stage version set from the popular TV series.

(PICTURED) Tammy Honesty stands in front of the Keaton Family kitchen she created for Human Race Theatre Company’s production of Family Ties

Dayton’s Human Race Theatre Company is producing the world premiere of Daniel Goldstein’s new comedy, Family Ties, June 2 through 25, at the Loft Theatre, 126 N. Main St., in Dayton.

Wilmington College is sponsoring a special night at the theatre for alumni and friends June 21, with a pre-show, hors d’oeuvres reception with Honesty, at 6 p.m., in the adjacent Victoria Theatre lobby, followed by show time at 7 p.m. Tickets are available through the alumni page on WC’s website and the College’s alumni Facebook page.

Family Ties reunites audiences with the Keatons, one of the most beloved TV families of the 1980s. Twenty years have passed and Alex P. Keaton — now running for Congress — returns to his parents’ Columbus home with his sisters, Mallory and Jennifer, who are parents on their own.

Gathered together once again, they relive some of the most important moments from their childhood — the growing pains, heartbreaks and reconciliation — with fondness and appreciation for simpler times. The cast includes Jim Stanek in the role of Alex and Eve Plumb, Jan from TV’s The Brady Bunch, in the role of the mother, Elyse Keaton.

Honesty, a 1993 theatre graduate and current member of Kent State University’s faculty, has designed sets and scenes for more than 100 shows in her career, which has taken her from Wilmington College to designing fashion store windows in New York City and theatre sets on cruise ships to numerous stops in academia.

She has taught and/or designed at West Virginia University, where she earned her Master of Fine Arts degree, Wilmington College (2001’s California Suite), Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, St, Mary’s (Minn.) College and Cornell, Wright State, Denison and Western Illinois universities.

Honesty has been set designer for a half dozen shows produced by Human Race Theatre over the past 10 years. She relished the opportunity to design Family Ties, which she fondly remembered as a teenager in Trenton, Ohio. The show ran from 1983 to ’89 and launched the career of Michael J. Fox, who played Alex.

“Designing this show was unique because it’s based on a popular sit-com,” she said. “I had to work with what is common knowledge for much of our audience, which has a special connection to the TV show.”

The set features the familiar Keaton family kitchen and living room, however, as one would expect, it has changed some over 20 years. She said the cast revisits scenarios from the 1980s from the vantage point of being gathered in the family’s 2008 home setting.

Whether it’s basing a set design on a previous presentation or devising completely new environs, she said set and scene design is “creating the world in which the characters inhabit. It’s all part of telling the story.”

Honesty used the concept of “selective realism” in designing the set in which she edited out portions of the television set so “key elements” stand out. “I want to allow the audience to use their imagination.”

Nearly a quarter century after her graduation, Honesty recalls a vibrant theatre experience in the early 1990s at WC. She worked in the scene shop well beyond the hours for which she was paid as a student worker. “I was learning and gaining great experience — resume credit — plus the theatre was where my friends were,” she said.

Preferring the technical side of theatre, Honesty came to WC with intentions of pursuing stage management, in which she was heavily involved for four years, but she soon thrived under theatre professor Lois Hock’s mentorship in set and scene design.

So impressed with Honesty’s inquisitiveness and hard work, the professor encouraged her to design the set for The Foreigner, which featured a two-story log cabin with a trap door. She went on to design for Blue Window and co-design with Hock the show Dangerous Liaisons, which she described as “the most challenging and most fun.”

Honesty’s undergraduate portfolio resulted in her being contacted by 25 graduate schools.

“I credit so much of my success to what I did at Wilmington College,” she said.

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