Surf: The Musical  Photo Credit: © Erik Kabik
Surf: The Musical Photo Credit: © Erik Kabik

Projected Perspective - Darrel Maloney On His Approach to Video & Projection Design

Michael Eddy

Projection and video designer, Darrel Maloney has taken an interesting, if not circuitous route to where he is at the moment. Which is currently working on designing his seventh Broadway show. Maloney graduated in 1992 from NYU with an MFA in scenic and lighting design back when there wasn’t a whole lot of projection work going on in the theater. After working in—and looking for work in—theater for a while, Maloney quit to teach himself video production. He moved west to California, started a company doing post production and animations for television, film, and commercials. After about a decade of this work, he got a call from an NYU classmate who was beginning work on a new show and that it would be right up his alley and drew him back to the theater.

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Moving the Story

A Conversation with Scenic Designer Jason Sherwood, Part 1

Recently I had the opportunity to speak with designer Jason Sherwood about his approach to scenic design. There was much I wanted to discuss with him about his evocative use of movement, both through automation but also his static scenic elements that create a sense of movement, as well as his affinity for ceilings on sets. He also does some incredibly detailed theatrical environments that transport audiences. A lot to discuss with an interesting designer, so we will present that conversation in parts and this month we have Sherwood’s thoughts on movement through automation.

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The Lost Colony
The Lost Colony

The Great Outdoors - Josh Allen Lights The Lost Colony

Michael Eddy

Lighting designer, theater consultant, and newly-minted owner of lighting representative firm WHOCO, Joshua Allen has been working with The Lost Colony in the Outer Banks of North Carolina since 1991. After having started out as an actor/technician, Allen has worked his way up through the ranks as master electrician to having taken over the lighting design position two-years ago. The Lost Colony, which just celebrated its 80th season this summer, is an outdoor drama by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paul Green that looks at the history of the first English colonies on Roanoke Island, NC.

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DCPA's reimagined Macbeth
DCPA's reimagined Macbeth

Full of Sound & Fury - A Look at the Sound Design & Original Music by Lindsay Jones for Macbeth

Michael Eddy

'Did I tell you that I need you to create a score that kind of sounds like Game of Thrones in addition to the music for Macbeth?’ “Uh, no. I don’t think you did.” This was a call between director Robert O’Hara and original music composer/sound designer Lindsay Jones. This was three days before rehearsals were to begin for Macbeth at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA) “So, in addition to mixing in trap music, lots of sound effects, and other really exciting stuff, I quickly started writing a score that sounded like Game of Thrones,” laughs Jones. Fortunately, Jones and O’Hara have worked together on a number of productions and the process for Macbeth would result in a composition and sound design that one critic described as, “mind-blowing.”

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Just Desserts

Bryan Johnson

Every stage production has a story to tell, and for the props artisan, a new world of opportunity. The chance to design, create, and breathe life into otherwise “normal” and commonly overlooked items that lend themselves to the world you are helping to create. While a prop request can be challenging, it can also be fun, rewarding and educational. You’ll get to learn new techniques and develop processes that can be added to your tool box. Experiences you will definitely use again. Among those tools often called upon are those needed to create non-edible food that makes the mouth water, including delectable desserts. Here are my recipes for two desserts so realistic you will need to put a disclaimer on the prop table.

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Speaking Her Truth Q&A with Costume Designer Elsa Hiltner

Lisa Mulcahy

Elsa Hiltner’s skill, intelligence, and curiosity have contributed to her accomplishments as a costume designer for theater, film, dance, and events during her 10-year-career. Based in Chicago and working nationwide, Hiltner holds a BA in costume design from Western Washington University, and a wigs and hair production certificate from DePaul University. A company member of Collaboration Theatre Company and an artistic associate with First Folio Theatre, Hiltner’s costume design work includes an impressive list of theater companies, including work for Steppenwolf, Next Act, Lifeline Theatre, Teatro Vista, American Blues Theater, Walkabout Theatre, American Theater Company, Oak Park Festival Theatre, Stone Soup Theatre Project, Balagan Theatre, and Signal Ensemble. Hiltner’s interest in Middle Eastern dress is a great influence for her, and she’s studied fashion history in Syria, Jordan, Turkey, and Morocco.

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An Ephemeral Village in London

Howard Sherman

A Visit into Punchdrunk’s Fallow Cross

Exiting the London tube at the Tottenham Hale station, it is not at all apparent that there’s a tiny throwback village in the vicinity. Indeed, without being given the specific address, one would have to be very focused to discover, like the protagonist of a fantasy novel, the tiny label over a door buzzer on a side street that says “Punchdrunk,” the name of the famed immersive theatre company best known in the U.S. for its long-running New York hit, Sleep No More. But with proper direction, a visitor can find the teeny company logo in a short list of firms on an entirely unremarkable looking, low slung commercial building, with attached warehouses.

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A Touch of Magic (& Monofilament)

Jay Duckworth

How To Rig Falling and Then Quickly Restoring Books

"And that my friend is why I’m never allowed in Cook County without my state issued ID and an International Order of Odd Fellows ring.” 

"I hate to interrupt such an interesting story," Alex said, "But we just got an email from the stage manager. Looks like they want the stage right shelf over the computer to fall and then restore in a six-second blackout." That’s the shelf with all the teaching books on it, yeah?, I ask. "I’m afraid so, and if it falls all the way down the weight will break the computer monitor on the desk below it." Let’s noodle on this tonight and see what we can come up with, I conclude.

Alex mocked up a shelf the same size as the one on the set so we could try a few things out. Scenery took over the actual fall and restore of the shelf itself on the set just as long as we took over the falling and restoring of all the books on the shelf.

If At First…
The first books we tried were all foam core books, books whose inner pages were replaced with blue foam. We then drilled a 1/4’’ hole thru the books at the same height and depth from the back of the shelf. Approximately 6’’ up from the shelf and 3’’ out from the wall that the books would be up against. This would make sure that even if all the books were different sizes they would have the monofilament running thru them at the same place. This was so the books would sit naturally and not be forced to sit oddly because of the monofilament running thru them. In the last book we drilled thru the back cover and the pages but not the front of the book to hide the line.

The carpenters put a pivot on the downstage back of the shelf and a 2x4 stop block. We pulled out the pin and the upstage side of the shelf fell 9’’, but our books did not. A young intern carpenter working behind us said ‘Looks like it didn’t work; the books just stayed right there.’ Not wanting to be rude, Alex and I thanked him for his wisdom and insight. 

Try Again
We scrapped the lightweight books for actual books, so they had some weight to them. The foam core books just didn’t have enough mass to them and the monofilament just acted as an anchor holding the books in place. We also then replaced the monofilament with shark fishing line since it would be a lot stronger, as we now had heavier books. We made the book on the down stage end hollow so it could house a pulley and the books could be restored from behind the wall with one tug of the shark line.

Because of the weight, we put in a second hole an inch above the bottoms of the books that ran the length of the shelf. It worked as a tether to keep the books from falling off the front side of the shelf unit. We then pulled the pin again and the shelf dropped and the books fell to the other side of the shelf. The lead carpenter pulled the lever that restored the shelf and replaced the pin. Then he tugged on the shark line wire pulling the books into place. And it worked pretty damn nicely. (See a video at bit.ly/sdAB1217)

We put 1/2’’ plywood backing onto a cork board to have it sit out from the wall to work as a stop for the shelf and removed the 2x4 stop block. It was great because it looked like the shelf landed on top of the monitor but didn’t touch it. It worked perfectly no problem at all. So, when we got to that moment in tech it worked perfectly. It did exactly what they wanted without complication. We had created a cool magic trick that was low tech and easy to work. 

Now, I know it’s our job to do these things and make unexpected things happen, but I was kind of crestfallen that no one was impressed. There was no thank you from anyone for making this really cool thing happen. So, I looked at my phone to see if I could temporarily distract my mind when a hand hit my shoulder. It was the young intern carpenter ‘Man, that was f*3kin cool how you guys made it all go back into place, like Bewitched.’ Thank you so much. ‘Can you tell me how you did that.’ I’d be more than happy to, but it will cost you a cup of coffee. Is that fair? ‘Deal.’  
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Blood Test - The Many Shades of Bookshelves and Blood

Jay Duckworth

I recently got a call from the scenic department. The director, on a new show, wants to paint the blue/grey bookcases tan because he thinks the blood effect will show up better. But the set designer wants to keep the room in cool tones, and scenic asked if there is anything we in props can do to help. I ask my young and wise assistant, Alex Wyle, ‘Do you understand the reasons why they don’t want to paint a metal shelf from blue/grey to tan?’ Alex rolls his eyes and smiles, knowing that he is going to have to suffer a story by Old Professor Duckworth in order to get the answer. ‘No, I don’t, but if I like it or not, you’re going to tell me, I bet.’

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A Call for Equal Support in Theatrical Design

Elsa Hiltner

Technical theatre is comprised of designing and constructing. In some areas of design, those roles are separated, and separately compensated. Set and lighting designers overwhelmingly have a technical director and master electrician hired by the company to execute a designer’s plan, even at smaller, non-equity, and storefront theatres. In contrast, costume designers are left to their own devices at all but the largest institutions. Without the support of a technician, costume designers have their hands in each step of bringing the design to the stage—measuring actors, drafting patterns, building costumes, shopping, coordinating rentals, fittings, completing alterations, writing up laundry instructions, coordinating understudy costumes, returns, budgets, the occasional mid-run maintenance, and strike. The stitchers and assistants they work with are usually interviewed and hired by the costume designer and are paid from the designer’s fee, or occasionally the costume budget if there’s room. 

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