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Answer Box

  • Total Transformation

    Thomas H. Freeman | Answer Box | April 2, 2016SnapDragon (Mia Katigbak) & GrandDada (Gerry Bamman) in the gym in the New Georges’ production of A Beautiful Day in November on the Banks of the Greatest of the Great Lakes.UV lighting effects transported characters from a gym to the Great Lakes In New Georges’ Obie Award-winning production of A Beautiful Day in November on the Banks of the Greatest of the Great Lakes, lighting designer Barbara Samuels and scenic designer Sara Walsh set out together to transport their characters and their audience from one world to a completely different place—without a physical scenery change. In Great Lakes, two characters on stage are transported from a gymnasium to a dock on the edge of the lake.  Read More...
  • A Creeping Pool of Blood

    Jay Duckworth | Answer Box | March 5, 2016The ending execution in The Pillowman at George Street Playhouse.The Pillowman calls for gore, just generally not at the last minuteWill Frears is an amazing director. He creates tender moments with soft images full of great beauty—and juxtaposes them with a gritty side that sounds a little like: “After we shoot him in the head I want him to fall and immediately I want a blood to pool around his head … Like, three feet of it.” Read More...
  • Bouncing into the Night

    George Hillow | Answer Box | January 30, 2016 A star drop in use for All’s Well That Ends Well at the Virginia Shakespeare Festival in Williamsburg, Va. Creating all the stars in the sky doesn’t take LEDs or fiber-opticsIf you produce enough theatre, sooner or later you’re going to want to use a star drop, and you’ll soon discover that buying or renting a fiber optic one is very costly and that building your own fiber optic drop is very time and labor intensive and also not inexpensive. A popular alternative is to hang multiple strands of white Christmas tree lights vertically behind a black scrim and in front of a black velour drape. The downfall with this technique is that the individual lights hang too regularly. Also, the wires themselves can reflect a bit of light and degrade the overall effect, and the brightness of the individual lights tends to have a boring sameness. But there’s a simple way to create an effective backdrop with very little expense (or labor). It just takes a little more space.  Read More...
  • How to Succeed with Trying LED Tape

    Chris Wood | Answer Box | January 2, 2016LED tape helped the budget for a rep set—but not without causing some issues of their own​How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is a musical set in the colorful fast-paced business world of the 1960s. Very early on in our design process for this production at the Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre, scenic designer Fred Duer and I (as the lighting designer) knew that it would be a challenge to indicate all of the necessary locations, especially as it was in repertory. Read More...
  • 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...
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