Tammy Honesty

Theatre & Fine Arts , ’93

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

Dayton’s Human Race Theatre Company presented the world premiere of Daniel Goldstein’s new comedy, Family Ties, throughout June.

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.

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 watching 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 featured 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 theatre staff member Becky Haines ’72 was able to pay her as a student worker. “I was learning and gaining great experience — resume credit — plus the theatre was where my friends were,” she said.

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