Lets Get Moving

by Michael Eddy

Welcome to the February issue of Stage Directions. This month is all about movement. Whether it’s scenery onstage moving laterally side to side—or upstage to downstage—via a wagon or scenic track; going around on a turntable; flying in and out with a winch or counterweighted lineset, we take a look at the various ways scenic designers add movement into their designs—and the tools that technical directors and stagehands rely on to make it all actually work.

Putting this issue together I was reminded of a funny story about a turntable used on a large-scale production of the opera Aida. The director had arranged a massive tableau with all the cast, scenery—even the massive scenic elephants—on the show’s turntable, which loaded would revolve. When he wanted to see the automation cue, nothing moved. The TD came out from backstage and said that there was no way the turntable would move; the load was just too heavy. The director re-staged the tableau with a few less people and asked to run the cue. Nothing. More were directed off the turntable. Again, nothing. After many rounds of re-staging his scene, voila! The turntable now revolved with ease. The director then announced, “Okay then. Everyone back on the turntable!” A scenario I suspect more than a few stagehands and designers can relate to.

In keeping with the theme of movement, we take a look at much smaller motors—ones for prop use—in the Answer Box. Props master Eric Hart walks us through using a hobby motor and ingenuity to create a magical music box.

We also don’t leave out lighting this month, with a look at LED-based moving lights with framing shutters. These are new profiles from a range of manufacturers who are designing products with the theater in mind—not just offering smaller versions of concert touring units, but lights that have the features and benefits for a theatrical LD—shutters, a good, bright source, and most importantly quiet.

We also have two pieces that, one could say, are about societal forward motion through theater. SD’s Lisa Mulcahy looks at the women-centric work of the Rivendell Theatre Ensemble and contributor Howard Sherman addresses the subtle censorship when selecting productions in academic theater from the perspective of ticket sale goals.
Speaking of forward thinking, have you registered yet for USITT? It is coming up in March in Fort Lauderdale, FL and for the first time, the conference will be hosting a Prop Lab on the floor of the Stage Expo. Curated by Proptologist and SD contributor, Jay Duckworth, the three-day Prop Lab will be the stage for in-depth demonstrations by a range of props artists. For more details, please see this month’s Call Board on page 4. Stage Directions magazine is the media sponsor of the USITT Prop Lab and we are looking forward to seeing what Jay and his team present in the Prop Lab.