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Answer Box

  • Blood Test – The Many Shades of Bookshelves and Blood

    Jay Duckworth | Answer Box | November 1, 2017I 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.’ Read More...
  • Present To Past

    Lisa Mulcahy | Answer Box | September 17, 2017Natalie Kearns has made a name for herself as one historically savvy propmaster. She has honed her craft while working as an assistant and artisian at Trinity Rep in Providence, RI, as well as working with the Huntington Theatre Company in Boston and Shakespeare and Company in Lenox, MA. She’s currently head of props for the Grand Theatre in London, Ontario, Canada.  Read More...
  • But Will It Wash Off…

    Jay Duckworth | Answer Box | July 24, 2017Creating stage graffiti, that’s easy to clean up night after night “That’s not quite it. Can you keep going?” asked Oskar Eustis, artistic director of the Public Theater. “Of course,” I replied. This is the stuff I love about doing props and I haven’t been able to prop a show for this man I admire for seven years, so I was not going to let him down. We were discussing a scene in the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar, where Cassius throws a big blue paintball onto a Julius Caesar political poster. When I say big paintball, I mean it. The poster was 4’x4’; Oskar wanted it fully covered. Read More...
  • Jay Duckworth Explains the Artist Bugout Bag

    Jay Duckworth | Answer Box | May 15, 2017At the recent USITT Conference, Jay Duckworth shared some sage advice in his keynote speech for those eagerly starting out to build a life in the theater. We particularly liked what he packed in his ‘Bugout Bag’. Here is that excerpt of his speech and a video of the entire speech.— SD {youtube}v=R73nchAyJvY{/youtube} Read More...
  • Weaving Conductive Threads

    Rich Dionne | Answer Box | December 15, 2016Designers, dancers and digital tech came together for an experiment in control and choreography An idea was born as my colleagues Kat Hickey and Renee Murray (both modern dance choreographers) and I were sharing beers at the 2015 Prague Quadrennial: What if we found a way to combine my interest in sensor and control technologies with their work in dance? Almost 18 months later we had the opportunity to present to audiences the first step in what promises to be a long collaboration amongst the three of us (and other artists, including Courtney Frederick and Rose Kaczmarowski in costumes, Mark Jamerson in music composition, and Allison Newhard and Megan Turnquist in lighting) with a piece entitled, Repercussions and Reverberations. Read More...
  • The Gilded Cage

    Lisa Mulcahy | Answer Box | December 1, 2016Sylvia Milo as Nannerl Mozart in The Other Mozart Origami, tulle and metaphor create a dress that is costume, cage and set piece in The Other Mozart The Other Mozart by Sylvia Milo tells the story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s unsung sister, Maria Anna Walburga Ignatia (nicknamed Nannerl), a musical virtuoso in her own right. Nannerl is held back from succeeding in music because of her gender, caged in by the expectations and requirements of women at the time. For the play, Milo and her costume designers Magdalena Dabrowska and Miodrag Guberinic wanted to create an opulent yet functional outfit that was true to the period—and subtext of the piece—yet yet could still travel easily. They ended up creating a beautiful dress with an 18-foot diameter skirt and panniers that functions not only as costume and the only set for the play—but still folds down into a standard-sized suitcase for touring. Read More...
  • Making The Knight of Mirrors

    Jennifer Sheshko Wood | Answer Box | November 2, 2016The Knight of Mirrors in the the Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre’s production of Man of La Mancha. Clamps, paint and Plexiglas fulfilled one costume designer’s dream for Man of La Mancha In the Man of La Mancha, Don Quixote chases an adventure, only to be shown the truth of his madness when the Knight of Mirrors shatters his illusions. In a recent production by the Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre, I acted as the crafts artisan for costume designer Misti Bradford and had the pleasure of crafting the mirrors for this character’s armor. The question arose of how to make him as reflective as possible, but without using actual mirrors. The metal armor had many curved surfaces and we wanted to utilize these curves to shape the embellishment. I researched different options and in discussion with Misti, we decided to create the effect with Plexiglas sprayed with a mirror finish. This would allow us to customize the fragmented look of her design, to do it on a budget, and maintain control over the finished look. Read More...
  • Changing the Iconic

    Chris Wood | Answer Box | October 1, 2016The pixel-mapped dress in performance.One lighting designer leaned in pixel-mapping and new technology to make a brand new Christmas AngelThe musical Rent, as with all industry changing productions, has earned iconic characters and popular moments for which audiences have developed firm expectations. At the University of Northern Iowa, director Jay Edelnant, costume designer Amy S. RohrBerg, and I (lighting designer) wanted to break those expectations. The character Angel Dumott Schunard is traditionally introduced in a Santa Claus costume for the musical number “Today 4 You.” Our costume designer wanted to break with tradition and have Angel enter dressed as a Christmas Tree. As a lighting designer, one instinct is to offer Christmas tree lights as an option, but I wanted something new. So the decision was made to pixel map on the dress. When pixel mapping, you have individual control over each LED pixel in the dress as opposed to LED strips where the set of LEDs are controlled as a whole. The goal was to make the LEDs in Angel’s dress look like regular Christmas tree lights upon entering. As "Today 4 You" started, we could chase across her dress, show animations, and strobe, enhancing the exotic and creative personality of Angel. Read More...
  • Corporeal Intangibility

    Erin Kehr | Answer Box | September 1, 2016A moment from The Nether at the Alley Theatre, with the custom-made acrylic gramophone.Custom acrylic furniture represents a virtual world in Alley Theatre’s production of The NetherIn playwright Jennifer Haley’s cerebral futuristic crime drama, The Nether, the material and ethereal world collide. Scenic designer Kevin Rigdon needed to find a way to represent to an audience this world—described as a perfect Victorian-era simulacrum—but which only exists online. This was further complicated by the fact that the play also features scenes that take place in the real world. Rigdon decided acrylic furniture was the answer. “The choice of transparent furniture was rooted in the idea that the Hideaway exists in the 'Nether,' a virtual reality realm, not a physical reality,” says Rigdon. “The transparent furnishings become a ghost (virtual) of what we expect to find in the offline world.” Read More...
  • Going Epic for the Mythic

    Rich Dionne | Answer Box | August 2, 2016The set of Eurydice at Purdue Theatre.A production of Eurydice demanded creativity and precision from the design teamPurdue Theatre’s 2015-2016 season closed with Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice. Set in the ancient Greek underworld, one of the essential metaphorical elements of the world is the way in which one journeys from the world above to the world below after you die. Ruhl’s script calls for this to be represented as an elevator in which it rains (the elevator itself representing the downward travel, and the rain representing the waters of the River Lethe). Read More...
  • Manufacturing Ramshackle

    Lydia Lopez | Answer Box | June 1, 2016The cast and set of Fences at Arizona Theatre Company.A production of Fences at Arizona Theatre Company called for a methodical approach to distressing the setFor Fences at Arizona Theatre Company, Scenic Designer Vicki Smith and Charge Scenic Artist Brigitte Bechtel presented to us an opportunity to help create a set that needed to look grungy, worn and real, with rusting metal, peeling paint on wood, tattered pavers and aged brick. Read More...
  • Anything but Stock Scenery

    Thomas H. Freeman | Answer Box | May 1, 2016Andrea Syglowski, Rob Nagle, Melanie Lora, Kat Foster and Corey Brill across two set pieces in South Coast Repertory’s world premiere of Of Good Stock by Melissa Ross.The scenic wizards at South Coast Rep created moving platforms for a revealing Of Good StockOf Good Stock, by Melissa Ross, requires a lot of different locations, but they are all centered around the kitchen and living room of an upscale Cape Cod home of a famous (deceased) novelist. As his daughters and their partners come together for a weekend, arguments are had, love is tested and secrets are revealed. For the South Coast Rep production of the show, scenic designer Tony Fanning wanted the same types of reveals to happen with the set. So he and Jon Lagerquist, technical director at South Coast Rep, put their heads together for the best way to make that happen.  Read More...
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