Adaptive re-use, repurposing, re-imagining … the list goes on. That’s what happens when Allen Brenner opens something that is packed in Styrofoam. His mind begins to shift and shape it into something else. Right now, he is deep in the midst of sculpting this type of “trash” into yet another work of art.
After a day of magically transforming Styrofoam into creepy, lifelike haunted trees, Allen parked himself on the edge of the stage, dirty paintbrushes in hand, to share his story. “As a young lad, I remember drawing a lot at my grandparents’ house. My grandfather was a business man who had his shirts laundered at a dry cleaner. For me, the best part of this were the “shirt boards” that were tucked inside those clean shirts. These made the perfect pallet for my many drawings.”
Allen also picked up music at a young age and is an accomplished violinist, although now he refers to himself as a fiddler. Either way, he can make you cry or dance when he picks up his strings. In 11th grade, Allen decided to major in music and followed that path into college until he was expected to learn all kinds of instruments that did not speak to him. Shifting gears, he returned to one of his high school teachers to ask his advice on pursuing art. His teacher said, “Don’t waste your time. You have no talent.” Fast forward to today – Allen has been making a living in the arts in one form or another ever since. In fact, he spent 20 years as an Academic Director and instructor at the Art Institute of York.
Brenner had his first theatre design experience at YLT back in 1984 when he was working at Pomeroy’s in Harrisburg designing window displays. He was asked to be the properties master, which naturally morphed into set design of the next show, Beauty and the Beast. Thus began his love for learning about and designing the fascinating mechanics that make set pieces do what you need them to in clever ways. From grandma’s bed to the moving forest, his design for Into the Woods showcases just a few fine examples.
When asked what medium is his favorite to work with, he answered, “Styrofoam! I collect it and have an attic full of it. Literally. You can fashion just about anything out of Styrofoam and it comes in all kinds of fascinating shapes.”
If you want to see some of his latest creations, do visit us for Into the Woods where Allen has transformed ordinary trash into a bewitching forest. He is also co-teaching our Design Your World summer camps (grades 6-8 and 9-12) where he’ll inspire our students with his creative eye and ingenious mind.
You can also sample Allen’s musical work. Keep an ear out for his band, the Susquehanna Travelers. You’ll be amazed at how this sculptor/painter/costumer can also fiddle!