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Answer Box

  • Prom Bibs

    Jacob Coakley | Answer Box | December 1, 2015Costume Designer Vanessa Leuck sent nuns to the prom with quick-change ingenuity. Costume designer Vanessa Leuck has had a prolific career, working on productions at regional theatres like the Capital Repertory Theatre and The Philadelphia Theatre, Off-Broadway productions including Disenchanted! and Little House on the Ferry, and assisting on The Little Mermaid on Broadway, Disney On Ice, Disney Live and five productions of Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus. She is also drawn to smaller fare like Pope! An Epic Musical at this past summer’s New York Musical Theatre Festival. The show, written by Justin Moran and directed by Peter Flynn, is a comedic clash between a younger, idealistic Pope and the more cynical, manipulative rival who seeks to dethrone him. Read More...
  • So Many Phones, So Many Actors

    Brad Berridge | Answer Box | November 1, 2015Creating a MIDI “switchboard” to get multiple, period-perfect phones working correctly for His Girl Friday​“A number of phones crowd the center table. Four of these phones communicate directly with the various newspapers; the fifth is an outside line, and extension of the switchboard in the criminal courts building.” –Opening stage directions, His Girl Friday by John GuareBarrington Stage Company’s ambitious production of His Girl Friday, a lively adaptation of the classic film (from John Guare), brought the whip-fast dialogue and action of the movie to life onstage—without the benefit of over-dubbing, foley artists or a special effects track. I was brought in to design sound for the play, and you can bet that the first thing caught my eye was the number of phones called for. (Yes, pun intended.) Still, “No big deal,” I thought. Phones are easy; either a nearby speaker or a Tele-Que are all that’s required. And then, on page 86, I saw this: “All the phones begin ringing crazily”—followed by more description of how a barrage of reporters scramble onstage to answer them and begin to furiously dictate news reports.  Read More...
  • Get a Grip

    Eric Hart | Answer Box | October 1, 2015 One props master had to think outside the solenoid to get the window shade gag in The 39 Steps to work Hannay is feeling a little tense. There’s a woman in danger, and two thugs lurking outside. In order to get some privacy, he pulls a window blind down. It rolls back up. He yanks it down again, but it rolls up again. He lowers it slowly, and this time it stays down. As he walks away, it suddenly snaps back up again. This is one of the many gags in 39 Steps, a humorous homage to Hitchcock films. When Triad Stage produced the show in the fall of 2014 it fell to me to make this gag work.  Read More...
  • 3D Elizabethan

    Joe Kucharski | Answer Box | September 1, 2015 The 16th century met the 21st when a costume designer printed a lace whisk When costume designer Sally Askins wanted to reproduce an extant piece of Elizabethan lace for Baylor University Theatre’s production of Twelfth Night, I decided to forego an “authentic” reproduction and turned to modern technology to execute her vision. Askins’ design for Olivia featured a richly textured textile, paired with pieces of a vintage tunic, combining the elegance of Renaissance gowns with a nod to the Eastern locale of Illyria. This was complemented with a whisk collar to frame the character’s face and truly capture the essence of the era. Having recently acquired a Makerbot Z18 Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D printer for the costume shop, I had been experimenting with new applications for the technology. An opportunity to use the rigid property of the PLA plastic to print an all in one lace whisk and underproper was an exciting challenge! Read More...
  • Barking Up Another Tree

    George Hillow | Answer Box | August 1, 2015 If you can stencil wallpaper, why not stencil tree trunks?  For a February 2015 production of Into the Woods at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Va., director Laura Lloyd and I, as scenic designer, decided to offer our audience the most vivid possible version of a storybook forest that we could put on the stage. This, of course, meant trees. Big ones. Lots of them. Inspired by illustrations in children’s books, we decided that oversized, two-dimensional yet realistically-painted trees would create the world we wanted. But that’s easier said than done for a medium-sized university program with a 41-foot proscenium to fill, especially since the sumptuous film version of Into the Woods had just been released and Hollywood may have bumped up our audience’s expectations to another level. So the fundamental question was, “How do we paint an entire forest, given the constraints of time, budget and talent?” Read More...
  • Riding the Wireless Rails

    Bryan Reesman | Answer Box | June 2, 2015 The lights for the signature train in On the Twentieth Century weren’t powered by coal. The Broadway revival of On The Twentieth Century has been chugging along full steam ahead thanks to the strong chemistry and performances of leads Kristin Chenoweth and Peter Gallagher and an impressive train set piece that dominates the stage. But while lighting designer Don Holder and his team help make the whole thing look as breezy as a train ride through the country, lighting the interior of the car was much trickier than it seems. An integral component in lighting the train interior was the use of DMX wireless through an RC4 transceiver. Read More...
  • 16(0) Candles

    Jay Duckworth | Answer Box | April 27, 2015 Getting creative with tools to give Hamilton a glow Working on a historical piece like Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton—set in the Revolutionary Period era—always brings challenges for the props team. On this show though, there was also one I just fell in love with.  Read More...
  • Pops (of Color) for Poppins

    Erik D. Diaz | Answer Box | April 2, 2015 Old theatre tricks give Mary Poppins’ “Jolly Holiday” a big splash of color Even though the stage version of Mary Poppins uses statues (instead of animated penguins) to bring a dreary London park into vibrant, colorful life in the song “Jolly Holiday,” I had no doubt that I needed to start that scene with a monochromatic look and then bring it magically into full color for a production of the musical at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. I eventually came to the conclusion that a translucent drop would be the best way to accomplish this—only done in reverse. The drop would have the black lining on the front face and all of the color on the back. This would allow me to start the scene in a black and white world, then instantly have that world filled in with vivid colors.  Read More...
  • Bed of Coals

    Jay Duckworth | Answer Box | March 2, 2015 How a propsmaker used glass to give life to a dying fire "What we are ultimately looking for is a hot fire that they are cooking over that slowly goes out so you see the burned coals,” said my director on a production of As You Like It. “Because the scene starts at night slowly moves to the morning … au-vista.” Read More...
  • Living Lighting

    Ryan Joyner | Answer Box | February 2, 2015 One team got creative to have an audio-controlled lighting effect—but gave lighting the final word  Last fall, the theatre department at Baylor produced One Third of a Nation, the Living Newspaper show about problems of housing in the U.S., complete with a character entitled “Loudspeaker,” who narrates the action. In our production we had her stationed on a 12-foot-high scenic unit with a broadcast-style microphone and a large VU meter. But despite its size, the needle on the VU meter was just too far from the audience to be seen. We decided we needed to make it glow—better still, we wanted to make the VU meter’s backlight pulse in relation to the microphone signal. Now we’re talking! But what if the lighting designer wants to be able to fade out that light for a true blackout? Well, that gets complicated… Read More...
  • Displaced Desert

    Natalie Robin | Answer Box | January 6, 2015 Immersive, site-specific lighting helped make an immediate In Darfur for the Women’s Action Movement Theatre When Kristen van Ginhoven, artistic director of the Berkshire-based Women’s Action Movement Theatre (WAM) planned her production of In Darfur, Winter Miller’s gut-wrenching exploration of the Darfuri genocide, she wanted the audience to feel the realities of the story in a way that was personal and immediate. I was recommended to her because of my experience in immersive, site specific work using non-traditional lighting equipment, and along with the rest of the design staff—sound and projections by Brad Berridge, costumes by Govane Lohbaur and scenery by Juliana von Haubrich—we geared up to introduce the Berkshire audience to the political realities of the Sudanese conflicts.  Read More...
  • Where There’s Smoke

    Jay Duckworth | Answer Box | December 2, 2014 In order to create fire for an Iron Age King Lear, we needed something stronger than silk "You’re obsessing again, we have the hand torches approved and ordered—just let it go.”  So said Dan Sullivan, director for The Public Theater’s production of King Lear for their 2014 Shakespeare in the Park summer season. But despite his request, this Disney princess decided not to Let It Go.   Read More...
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