Affecting Effects

by Michael S. Eddy

In the May issue, we look at special effects for the theater. When you look closely, there are special effects in almost every production of one sort or another. Sometimes they are right out front—or over your head—and sometimes they are subtler—a key prop or a small bit that an audience might take for granted like a champagne bottle or a hidden weapon, a clever costume element, a bruise on an actor’s face, but when integrated well they have an emotional impact, a narrative resonance. 

Art Meets Humanity

by Lisa Mulcahy

Director Kate Whoriskey brings intellect and compassion to Sweat

Kate Whoriskey has fast become one of the theatre’s most respected new directors—and she’s achieved her sterling reputation using a deep, rare combination of intellectual research, and empathy for her show’s characters. A graduate of New York University’s Experimental Theatre Wing and the ART Institute for Advanced Theatre Training at Harvard, Whoriskey, a visiting lecturer at Princeton, has directed moving, political drama at the American Repertory Theatre, the Vineyard Theatre, South Coast Repertory, Playwrights Horizon, the Intiman Theatre, Ensemble Studio Theatre, and Circle in the Square. 

Closing Time

by Bryan Reesman

John Lee Beatty’s scenic design for Sweat

Lynn Nottage’s play Sweat is currently playing on Broadway at Studio 54, after a sold-out run at the Public Theater. The play was originally co-commissioned by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Washington D.C.’s Arena Stage; it received its world premiere at OSF and then ran at Arena. Sweat, directed by Kate Whoriskey, is a blue-collar drama about factory workers in Reading, PA facing layoffs and in a harsh economic environment. This honest reality of the play is echoed in the work of scenic designer John Lee Beatty, who imbued the stage with realism by emulating a real bar and keeping the vibe as gritty as possible. 

Digital Weaving

by Joe Kucharski
The Lion King (c)Disney
Nala and Simba from The Lion King, with sublimated and direct fabric printed textiles. Costume designers Julie Taymor and Michael Curry

Digital printing becomes a routine tool for the costumer 

The rise of digital fabric printing technology has revolutionized the costume world in just over a decade. It has quickly gone from an innovative means to meet the needs of the demanding worlds of Broadway and themed entertainment, where incredible scale, volume, and physical demands put upon costumes is the norm, to an accessible tool of regional theatres and universities.

Drafting Made ‘Easier than Pencil and Paper’

by Stage Directions

Company 411 - Drafty from Lumax Software 

Why should drafting a light or sound plot be cumbersome and take a long time? Why try to tame a big, general drawing program to do very specific work for entertainment design? These were some of the questions that lighting designer—and now—software developer Lucas Krech, Co-founder of Lumax Software, LLC. set out to answer. “Drafty is a cloud-based CAD program specifically built for the realities of the live entertainment industry,” Krech describes the program. “That means everything from the ease of use to how quickly it can turn out a plot and generate all of the paperwork. You can generate all the necessary paperwork right down to pricing out the show.” 

Flight Time

by Stage Directions

Flying performers requires expertise and as our tools of the trade takes flight we look at two companies that bring a wealth of knowledge to their clients for every production and every performance. Flying by Foy has provided services to literally thousands of productions of Peter Pan, as well as the flying effects created by Foy for more than 60 Broadway and West End shows. D2 Flying Effects, a division of PointWright Entertainment Rigging Specialists, was founded in 2009 by Delbert Hall and Sam Fisher. Hall has over 35 years of experience flying performers, is an ETCP Certified Rigger and Trainer, and professor of theatre at East Tennessee State University. Fisher, Co-founder of D2 and CEO of PointWright Entertainment Rigging Specialists, has been flying performers since 1999.

Good at Looking Bad

by Stage Directions

Makeup as special effect is often needed to bruise and bloody actors. We asked makeup companies Ben Nye and Mehron to share some products and tips for casualty simulation, or moulage, French for casting/molding referring to the art of applying mock injuries. Here are some methods to create bleeding wounds as well as scabs and bruises and to make them also appear that the injuries have started to heal.

It is a Dark and Stormy Night...

by Stage Directions
Phantom of the Opera
Phantom of the Opera

The reverberation of a gunshot…a gentle snowfall or a blinding blizzard...be it fog, snow, fire, exploding props or ringing phones, these are just a few of the narrative directions that often result in memorable moments for audiences.  There are of course many different ways that creative teams, production crews, and manufacturers bring innovative thinking to the creation of these indelible moments that make an audience gasp and applaud. Phantom of the Opera is perhaps one of the most iconic uses of fog and flicker candles to breathtaking effect, an example of how well executed special effects, properly integrated into the narrative can transform a moment and captivate and audience. There are many wonderful products, manufacturers and special effect services available throughout the theater industry that bring both expertise and tested experience to productions. Here are a few products and services that you may want to call on for your next show-stopping moment.

Lighting the Story

by Howard Sherman
Jake Gyllenhaal in Sunday in the Park with George
Jake Gyllenhaal in Sunday in the Park with George

It’s of today, it’s a high point, and it works, because with the simplicity of the production, I think it fits rights in with the total picture.” Lighting designer Ken Billington is speaking of the Chromolume, the fictional creation of George Seurat’s fictional great-grandson, as it appears in the second act of the recent Broadway revival of Sunday in the Park with George, the 1984 musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine. Embodying the color and light of Sondheim’s lyrics, the Chromolume can bedevil productions of the show, because it appears very briefly, yet it is the sole representation of the latter day George’s art, a counterpoint to the representation of Seurat’s famous painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte,” which breathtakingly comes together as Act I of the musical comes to a close.

Props Still Has a Drinking Problem

by Jay Duckworth
in How-To
Uncorking the Secrets of Wine and Champagne
Uncorking the Secrets of Wine and Champagne

Uncorking the Secrets of Wine and Champagne

Ah yes, the summer is almost upon us. BBQs, picnics, and outdoor theatre. So, as we digest another burned, over-smoked, what-not, pour yourself a glass of what ‘cha fancy and let’s move onto Part II of Props Has a Drinking Problem. “In vino veritas,” which translates to “In wine, there is truth,” from Plato’s Symposium 217. “In truth that wine is watered down Cran-Grape juice,” says Kate Dale, props master at The Juilliard School. Many truths have been told over glasses of wine [the good stuff] especially if they are the large glasses we pour at the Prop Summit. The Prop Summit, a gathering of all the different props masters, artisans, and crafters from Broadway to academia; from Lincoln Center to undergrad students, is an ideal time to discuss the challenges we all face with serving drinks as props. Last month we distilled whiskey and brewed some beer, now we pour wine and champagne.