OISTAT Celebrates 50 Years

Richard Bryant

OISTAT (International Organization of Scenographers, Theatre Architects and Technicians) recently returned to Cardiff, Wales in 2018 to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The host venue, The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (RWCMD), became the meeting place for this multinational event. Designer and professor Sean Crowley of the RWCMD, who was assisted by the students and staff of the school, and OISTAT executive director Wan-Jung Wei, along with her staff, helped to bring together a smooth running and well-organized series of symposiums, meetings, and workshops. 

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Truth in Numbers
Truth in Numbers

Truth in Numbers

Jay Duckworth

Diogenes was an ancient Greek philosopher who would wander around Athens with a lamp, day and night, looking for an honest man. I have empathy for his plight, and I know a lot of people are out there looking for something that is real, something that is true, and in this world that is a very hard thing to find. Truth means taking our own opinion out of the equation. It goes from being subjective to objective; subjective being the individual’s feelings of observation versus objective dealing with the attributes of the object alone and in the objective, we can leave the emotional side behind and deal with facts. The truest thing that we have is maths. That’s right I said maths, and the reason I say maths is not because I’m British or highly educated, both of which I am not; it’s because I’m a snooty pretentious twonk. Well that and if I put one coin down and say it’s two coins you can know for a fact I’m lying or that I’m nuts. You guessed it... I’m both.  

Don’t Fear the Budget
When given a budget for a show, a good majority of us look at the challenges put in front of us with the design and the actual money that we are expected to use. I at least go into an emotional place of ‘how am I going to do this? I am definitely going to fail!’ I don’t have any of these things in stock and I know I can’t borrow any of this stuff. I’m sometimes met with ‘well there is hardly any set so there shouldn’t be any props.’ So when you hear that statement, you know scenic is in the same boat with you having to make something out of nothing. As I have gotten older, I have moved away from the knee jerk reaction and jumped into breaking the budget down as small as possible. It takes a lot longer but I can see where I can turn back to my production manager and say here is what I can do. Because numbers do not lie. Numbers take out the emotion and can back you up in any discussion. 

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Inside the Vault with Bag&Baggage TD/LD Jim Ricks White

Michael Eddy

With over 30 years working in theater, Jim Ricks-White, had been teaching stagecraft at Portland Community College, Sylvania and the resident lighting designer for Hillsboro, OR-based Bag&Baggage Productions, when the company asked him to come on full time as technical director and facilities manager. The request followed the company opening its new space—The Vault—a repurposed former bank building. In theater, Ricks-White has worked as a stage manager, TD, LD, set designer, properties artisan, and pyrotechnician and toured for many years as a technician for Showco and Vari-Lite. He’s worked in venues as small as a 99-seat black box and as large as the Olympic Stadium for the 2012 London Olympics.

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A Q&A with Resident Sound Designer Robert Gilmartin at The Marriott Theatre

Michael Eddy

The Marriott Theatre was founded in 1975 and has grown to be a staple of the Chicago theater scene. It has presented more than 180 productions to an estimated 11 million people over the years. With a well-deserved reputation for its productions of classic American musicals, The Marriott Theatre is also known for the development of original and re-imagined musicals. As a founding member of the National Alliance for Musical Theatre it assists and fosters artists in creating new works for the stage. It has also produced the regional premieres of many Broadway shows throughout its history, including A Chorus Line, They’re Playing Our Song, Miss Saigon, Cats, Beauty and The Beast, The Producers, Les Misérables, and Legally Blonde. Along with its regular full season of productions, Marriott also produces Marriott’s Theatre for Young Audiences, presenting original works as well as classic fairy tales in special one-hour productions. They have produced more than 75 shows, seen by over 2 million children. We recently spoke with Robert Gilmartin, Marriott’s resident sound designer. Gilmartin also oversees all the audio needs at the theater. His team consist of himself and sound engineer Sarah Ortiz, and between them they handle the main productions as well as the children’s theater presentations. Gilmartin has been with the company since 2007 and has done around 100 productions at The Marriott.

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Bridge and Tunnel (photo: Courtesy D. Korins)
Bridge and Tunnel (photo: Courtesy D. Korins)

Climbing The Ladder: Part II with David Korins

Howard Sherman

 In the April issue of Stage Directions, set designer David Korins spoke about his biggest recent projects: The Hamilton Exhibition, Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, and Beetlejuice. This month we conclude our conversation looking at his training and the development of his career leading up to those shows. (Ed.Note-This interview has been edited and condensed for space and clarity)

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Adaptive Design

Michael Eddy

Scenic Designer Edward Pierce talks design supervision, and 70 scene changes
Edward Pierce has worked for over 20 years on theater and entertainment projects around the globe including the Broadway scenic designs for Holler If Ya Hear Me, Amazing Grace, and The Other Place (the last two with co-designer Eugene Lee); lighting design for the Broadway revival of A Streetcar Named Desire; and he was associate scenic designer on both Bright Star and the Tony Award-winning scenic design for the hit musical Wicked. 

Edward PierceThis year, Pierce shared a Tony nomination with scenic designer Ian MacNeil, for the recent Broadway revival of Angels in America that came over from London’s National Theatre. For this production, Pierce was credited with design adaptation for making the changes necessary for the move from London to Broadway. Pierce heads up edwardpierce studio, who with designers Jen Price-Fick and Stephen Davan, have carved out a niche as design supervisors for Broadway productions that are going to tour or sit-down for a long run, both nationally and around the world.

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The cast of Lawrence University’s Pippin
The cast of Lawrence University’s Pippin

Designing in Duplicate

Lisa Mulcahy

Designer Kärin Simonson Kopischke creates two vastly different looks for Pippin

Costume designer Kärin Simonson Kopischke was presented with the rare challenge of designing two different productions of Pippin back-to-back—and triumphed. Over her decades-long career, Simonson Kopischke has earned a stellar reputation for professional and technical excellence. She has designed for numerous regional theatre Tony Award winners including the American Conservatory Theater, Chicago Shakespeare, the Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, the Long Wharf, Victory Gardens, the Children’s Theatre Company, Crossroads, and the Cincinnati Playhouse. Simonson Kopischke also works with many historical societies, notably creating a series of historical renderings depicting women in the garments they might have worn in a series called Garments of Our Foundations. She has also designed costumes for the feature film Feed the Fish, and for new works from Harry Connick Jr. and Stephen Schwartz. Her work has garnered many accolades, including the Joseph Jefferson Award, AriZoni Award, and a Prague Quadrennial nomination. As as a respected professor, she has taught costume design at The Theatre School of DePaul, Northwestern University, Carroll University, and currently at Lawrence University. And if that were not enough? She runs a successful upcycled clothing business online with her daughter, Anya. 

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Shadow Work

Randi Minetor

Thom Weaver's Lighting Plays a Key Role in Macbeth

Is there a “normal” way to interpret Shakespeare in twenty-first century theater? The days of recreating Elizabethan England seem to be behind us as today’s directors place their productions anywhere they like, and use the Bard’s intricate language and story lines to create a new take on centuries-old material. In recent memory, we’ve seen an all-female production of Twelfth Night set in the roaring 1920s, A Midsummer Night’s Dream on post-apocalyptic Earth, and The Taming of the Shrew as part of a traveling circus… and that’s just in theaters around upstate New York.     

So, when Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) approached its own Macbeth earlier this year, no one was surprised to learn that this production would not take a traditional approach. Instead, the Scottish play would become a supernatural horror thriller, complete with magical illusions created by one of the top people in the illusion business. Management turned to a directing team that had mounted a mystical interpretation of The Tempest in 2015, Helen Hayes Award-winning director Aaron Posner, and Teller—the silent half of Penn and Teller, the world-famous illusionist team. 

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USITT 2019 keynote speaker Jackie Taylor
USITT 2019 keynote speaker Jackie Taylor

USITT has Confidence in CO2

Point Source Audio Sounding Board

At the recent USITT 2019 Stage Expo, Point Source Audio (PSA) introduced its new CO2 Confidence Collection microphones to the theatrical community. The CO2 collection of Headset, Lavalier, and Earworn dual element mics also got a thorough testing at the USITT Conference as PSA was back once again as the Official Headworn Mic Sponsor for the keynote speeches and events.

The patent-pending CO2 Confidence Collection, a new class of wireless microphones, all have dual elements, each measuring a tiny 3mm, that offers built-in redundancy. The CO2 mics integrate two of the company’s important first-to-market features in miniature microphones: IP 57 waterproof rating, and the “unbreakable” headset boom bendable to 360° to bolster durability. 

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EMBRACE™ Microphones, from Point Source Audio, used in the student-led productions at Belmont University
EMBRACE™ Microphones, from Point Source Audio, used in the student-led productions at Belmont University

The Point Source Audio Sounding Board: The Production Strategy for Saving Face at Belmont University

Point Source Audio Sounding Board

The student-led orientation of Belmont University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts program in Nashville, TN is the ideal environment for students to learn the trade of theater production and acting. But the benefits of this hands-on educational approach were coming at an increasingly higher cost for the school, as students were regularly rendering the school’s lav mics unusable by hastily removing the taped-on mics after performances and rehearsals. The result was student actors uncomfortable with taped mics to the face, and a rash of defective mics and cables. The problem was ultimately solved by the school upgrading from the low-tech manner of taping mics to the face, to the highly concealable and stable EMBRACE™ earmount microphones by Point Source Audio.

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