Of Pikesville, has designed and built sets for...

BOB HAMPT,

May 16, 1993

BOB HAMPT, of Pikesville, has designed and built sets for plays at Liberty High School in Eldersburg for the past three years.

His handiwork now forms the setting for "My Fair Lady," which finishes its run next weekend in the school auditorium.

With the help of students and graduates he trained, he also built sets for "Pippin," "To Kill a Mockingbird," "Snow White," "Scrooge" and "The King and I."

Organization's comments: "We say to Bob, 'This is what we need, and we need it this wide,' . . . and he goes to it," said Cathy James, who teaches English and drama at Liberty High. "He just comes up with ways of doing things that I just don't have the head for."

Mr. Hampt spent all Wednesday evening fashioning a prop recording device that Henry Higgins uses to capture Eliza Doolittle's voice out of spare lamp parts and other bits and pieces, Mrs. James said.

Before Mr. Hampt volunteered, she said, "We literally had to build the sets with just the kids helping us. Since Bob's been with us, that whole thing has come off our shoulders."

It is good for the students to see someone from the community giving so much time to the high school, even though he does not have children there, Mrs. James said.

Volunteer's comments: "I've always been interested in building things," said Mr. Hampt, a mechanic whose father was a carpenter.

As a child, he said, he enjoyed putting together toys and models more than he liked playing with them when they were done. Building a stage set out of whatever is handy, he said, is "kind of like a big model kit."

He started building sets three years ago, when a friend, whose daughter was a student at Liberty, asked him to help on a stage set one Saturday.

"When I was in school, drama was probably the furthest thing from my mind," he said. "I was into cars, and little else."

Last year, the Liberty High School Drama Boosters' Club sent Mr. Hampt to a weeklong school drama festival, where he was able to see several plays and get lots of ideas.

"Every show you see is an education," he said.

And when he went to Washington to see "The Phantom of the Opera," he said, he sat "trying to peek through the dark and see the special effects and how they're doing everything."

Often, he uses cast-off materials from his workplace. The large, heavy cardboard tubes that served as palace columns in "The King and I" have been cut down and turned into supports for Henry Higgins' balcony library for "My Fair Lady."

"We recycle what we can," he said. "When you're dealing with the high schools, you're pretty limited with resources."

For "Scrooge," he and his crew built a set on a large turntable, with one scene on the front and another on the back.

"It was a challenge," he said, especially since some of the pieces weighed 600 to 700 pounds. "It was just a matter of ropes and pulleys."

Time constraints can cause anxiety.

"We're building right up to show time," he said. "We've yet to do a show where there wasn't one set piece with wet paint on it."

But the wet-paint tradition has become so standard that the company views it as a good-luck omen, he said.

Mr. Hampt said he wanted to thank "my alumni group" of past drama students who now help build sets, including Jeff Mather, Harry Mead, Steve Lyons and Bill Barkley.

Volunteer's background: Mr. Hampt, 40, has been a mechanic at Sweetheart Cup Co. in Owings Mills for 21 years.

To nominate a Volunteer of the Week, call 751-7900 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, or fax nominations to 751-7916.

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