Columbus Is Happening cast members at La Guardia Community College (Photo ©Howard Sherman)
Columbus Is Happening cast members at La Guardia Community College (Photo ©Howard Sherman)

Tony-Winner Stew Goes to College

Howard Sherman - Text and Photos

Stew Brings Queens to Musical Life at La Guardia Community College

It’s a daunting scenario. A community college commits to producing a brand-new musical, the first the theater program has undertaken. The show is cast a year in advance, with 19 students, before any script exists. When the 10-week rehearsal period begins, there are only a handful of songs written. Material only begins to start coming in earnest two weeks into the process, and keeps coming through tech rehearsals.

That’s what Stefanie Sertich, associate professor and program director for theatre at La Guardia Community College, committed herself to when she programmed Columbus is Happening. But with all the uncertainty, she also had a remarkable asset: the show was being written by Stew, the multifaceted composer, lyricist, and star of the Tony Award-winning Passing Strange, as well as the creator of The Total Bent, at The Public Theater.

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A Tale of Two Bags - When historically accurate is NOT what the story needs

Jay Duckworth

Rehearsal Report -Props: 
Add – Newspaper with headline “King is Cured” 
Add – Leather doctor’s bag with things a 1750’s doctor would have to work on a gunshot wound.  

If you’re good at history and research, you know that these notes are both historically inaccurate. Now I know what you are thinking, Jay is going to poke fun at stage manager reports. Or, he is going to give us a lesson in historical accuracy. No, my dear friends, I want to share a few secrets with the props folk out there. Some things that I hope will ease your pain and also pull you back from the edge of that pedantic cliff. 

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Joe Tapper, Zenzi Williams, Michael Bradley Cohen and Leland Fowler in The Public’s Mobile Unit production of Henry V, directed by Robert O’Hara and running at The Public Theater, following a free tour to the five boroughs. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus.
Joe Tapper, Zenzi Williams, Michael Bradley Cohen and Leland Fowler in The Public’s Mobile Unit production of Henry V, directed by Robert O’Hara and running at The Public Theater, following a free tour to the five boroughs. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus.

Fit For A King - A Nine Piece Rolling Throne

Jay Duckworth

Design drawings. Sometimes they come in late. There are times when not all the information is on the drawing. A designer has actually said ‘I wish you would have told me that you were going to build it the way I drew it.’ Then there are times you’re sitting in the production meeting and you find out a whole lot about the drawing you were given just the day before. Usually this doesn’t stress me but for Henry V the drawing for the throne had an exploded view as most drawings do. This wasn’t just for details sake, it was because at the beginning of the play, during the first monologue, the nine-member cast has to take one part each and build Henry’s throne onstage. So, challenge one—the cast has to put a chair together and it has to be in nine pieces. Challenge two—during the production meeting I find out that the chair has to be pushed over carpet and so will need casters. Challenge number three—the director also wants an actor to stand on the throne and be pushed around the stage, on the carpet. So again, I see all our challenges; I see our limited budget; and I have to complete this in two weeks.

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The USITT 2018 Gateway Program Mentors and Mentees
The USITT 2018 Gateway Program Mentors and Mentees

The Resilient Ones

Ross Jackson

USITT’s Gateway Program Helps Erode Barriers

Across the United States, live entertainment is becoming an increasingly understood and accepted option for many young people embarking on their career journeys. With options like film, television, dance, symphony orchestras, concerts, road houses, conferences, conventions, theater, and more industrial endeavors than ever, live entertainment is now just as widely recognizable for its technicians, managers, directors, and designers. Just as we were able to shake the stigma outside the industry that live production is limited to what is seen on stage, we within the industry must now work to redefine what the industry looks like beyond the proscenium. USITT’s Gateway Program is one of the first and most successful steps that an early career technical theater professional can take in response to this call to action.

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The Triffo Theatre
The Triffo Theatre

Space To Learn - The Theaters in Allard Hall at MacEwan University

Michael Eddy

Located in downtown Edmonton, Canada, MacEwan University’s new Allard Hall Performing Arts Centre boasts purpose-built spaces including The Triffo Theatre, a 450-seat proscenium theater; a flexible, 140-seat black box theater, the Theatre Lab; the 250-seat Betty Andrews Recital hall; and a complement of rehearsal spaces, theater production shops, and two recording studios.  Allard Hall was designed by the late architect Bing Thom, along with Edmonton design firm Manasc Isaac. The theater consultants for the project were the U.S.-based Stages Consultants (SC), who provided theater planning, acoustics design, and performance audio-visual design. “Our scope covered all the theatrical spaces and support spaces,” notes SC principal Alec Stoll. “In addition to seating, site lines, and theater planning, we dealt with the acoustical isolation from all of the other spaces in the building. We did the AV systems and the production video for the theaters too.”

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The Ingenuity of Theater Makers

Michael Eddy

As we go to press, awards season for theater is in full swing. A time when we celebrate the achievements of all the nominees and winners, especially in the design and technical categories. But of course the nomination lists reflect only a snapshot of the breadth of incredibly ingenious work being done across the theater community. Not to mention the amazing, but sadly often unsung, craftspeople who have relatively few nomination lists to see their names included on.

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A Very Full Empty Space

Michael Eddy

Theater spaces. There is nothing better than sitting alone in a theater, just contemplating the space around you. I love to sit alone with my thoughts in a theater and just look at it. I love the architecture and structure of theaters and discovering the reasoning behind their design and detailing. It’s more than a purposeful room; it’s a space, even when it is ‘empty’. But a theater is never really empty, even when it is, as we say, ‘dark’. This space is filled with emotion, a sense of purpose, a drive. In its design alone it is full of ideas, details, and expectations. Everyone who enters it—no matter who—theater artisan or audience—brings something to it. Everyone who enters this space will leave something as well, hopefully not hard candy wrappers. Yes, it may look empty, but it’s not. It is filled with the things that make it a theater, it’s merely waiting for the theater artisans to enter and create.

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Interior of The Cincinnati Music Hall
Interior of The Cincinnati Music Hall

Renovated to Rave Reviews

Stage Directions

The Cincinnati Music Hall, which opened in 1878, is filled with Victorian Gothic grandeur as designed by architect Samuel Hannaford and is on the National Register of Historic Places. A multi-use performing arts center, Music Hall is home to Cincinnati’s symphony orchestra, pops orchestra, ballet, and the May Festival Chorus. It is also home to Cincinnati Opera, one of the oldest and most highly regarded opera companies in U.S., who will celebrate their 98th season this summer returning to the newly renovated Music Hall. When the city launched the $143 million renovation in 2016 it had a caveat: the renovation must be completed in just 16 months. Teamwork and custom solutions brought the project in on time and on budget when it reopened in Oct. 2017. 

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Audra McDonald in 110 in the Shade at Roundabout Theatre Company.
Audra McDonald in 110 in the Shade at Roundabout Theatre Company.

Cue Mother Nature...Go!

Lisa Mulcahy

Wind, rain, fog, and smoke—these visually striking elements can enhance a production tremendously. But to do it right, you need to be sure you have a view toward how atmospheric effects should compliment your show as a whole—and leave lots of time for working out the kinks. You really need to understand how to properly plan and execute your effects, from both an aesthetic and a safety standpoint. You want to be thinking about the details of an atmospheric effect as early in the production as possible so all the other production elements can make any accommodations in advance for the atmospheric effect. SD sought out some expert advice on atmospheric effects by consulting J&M Special Effects in Brooklyn, New York.

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The Lyric Theatre is Reborn for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Michael Eddy

For Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the Lyric Theatre, a historic Broadway house in NYC, received some much need renovations to the auditorium and lobby, and even a bit of magic hit its 43rd Street entrance marquee. Working with a range of consultants, engineers, architects, and theatrical shops, the beautiful interior designs and the fantastical marquee were created by scenic designer for the production, Christine Jones and her associate scenic designer/international scenic supervisor for the show, Brett J. Banakis. See the transformation in this video as the cast sees the space for the first time and then scroll down to read Banakis’ inside perspective on this extraordinary aspect of the project in his own words.

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