Did You Really Design for the Theatre?
Oh, yes, I really did theatrical design. Most of the time my drawing board produced scenery, but I also did lighting, costume design, makeup, and special effects. Here are a few photographs that have been pulled out of the archives. I've added a few notes, and you can get an idea of what sort of projects I worked on. I will new photos as time allows.
Three Penny Opera
This show was done at Lincoln College 'way back in the 1970's. I am guessing about 1979 or so. The show was quite a trick. It had a big cast that featured lots of singing and dancing, and we were a little weak in the singing and dancing department. No, not because we didn't have talent. Our problem is that we didn't have the quantity! In this show everybody had to sing, dance, move scenery, and just about everything else. The cast and crew did double and even triple duty.
The concept of the design was that everything had to look "scrappy" and technical. Hence, we piled on the junk and brought the lights in low so they would be seen by the audience.
Dames At Sea
Before you get the idea that all the designs I did involved junk, let me just say that this was a special case. The first act takes place in a theatre that is about to be torn down, but to everybody's surprise. The problem is that the real theatre we did the show is lacked flies. The stage was also fairly shallow, but the wings were deep.
We had to turn the act 1 "rehearsal" space into the act 2 "battleship" over the course of an intermission. Nothing could fly, everything had to roll. The only way that we could pull it off was to have as much act 2 scenery on the stage during act 1 as possible.
We also decided to pull a little trick on the audience. We opened the house door about 20 or 25 minutes before curtain time. But what the audience say was a dark stage with nothing but a night light. Theatre people will know what a night light is. For all the "civilian" out there, a night light is a bar bulb on a post. If you are lucky, now days it will have a wire cage around it. It keeps folks from crashing into the scenery at night.
After a couple of minutes, one of the stage hands walked onto the stage and turned on the work lights. Another one moved the night light and a dancer swept the dance practice area a bit. Little by little the cast and crew wandered around, warmed up, prepared scenery, and stuff like that. By the time the musicians showed up there was a poker game going on at the rear of the stage.
At the so-called curtain time the actor playing the director of the show walked up to the from of the stage, shouted to the lightman in the booth, and there was some crazy light flashing, curtain pulling, and a general hubbub of a rather rough rehearsal start. The only thing was, that was not the rehearsal, it was the start of the actual show!
Then, at intermission, we had 15 minutes to convert the "wrecked" theatre into the deck of a battleship. This was done in 12 minutes by a crew that had every move planned down to the second. It was a regular scenery ballet. To top it off, they had to accomplish the conversion in silence.
The photograph on the right does not the set and crew justice. But, I tell you that the "bridge" was walkable and that there were anti-aircraft guns in the place. The musicians were in one of the gun emplacements.
This photograph on the right is a bit more atmospheric and you can get a better idea of what we were doing.
Everything had to be flat with no hanging or tacked on components. So all the 3-D elements on the set were painted. Under stage lighting it looked pretty good, too.
It looked good enough for the audience to applaud when the curtain opened for Act 2!
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